It’s easy to get discouraged in this life, and no less in this work that God has called us to. The constant pressures, difficult situations, uncertainties, and heartache of watching the struggles others are facing can wear a person down pretty fast. To be honest, I’ve been having a lot of those moments lately. Little discouragements here and there added to bigger discouragements or disappoints all pile up to a cloudy perspective even on our beautiful 100 degree days.
Every Thursday morning, Marta and I meet for a special time of prayer. Of course, we pray separately for various needs across the ministry and in our respective churches throughout the week, but Thursday mornings are special. This morning, as I was rushing across town to get to the office, I was thinking about our prayer time and about the heaviness in my heart, and I realized today needed to be a little different.
Sometimes, we need to make a conscious effort to praise the Lord for what He is or has been doing in our lives and ministries. Today we decided that our prayer time would be a time of praise. Rather than making a prayer list, we made a praise list, but it didn’t quite go as we planned.
We would write down a couple of items, and then one of us would kind of groan and say, “Did I tell you about this?” And our spirits would drop as we discussed a serious situation that has come up in the past few days. We’d forge on, write down a few other things for which we are truly grateful, and a text message would come, describing a horrible situation, which seems to be heading in all the wrong directions. We’d write a few more things, which led to discussion of some of the personal struggles that stem out of the choice to follow the Lord in this ministry. Then we’d get back to our list and try once again to focus on the abundance of things God has done for us. This pattern just kept repeating itself until finally Marta said, “It’s really hard to focus on praising when we keep getting ourselves down again.”
It might sound laughable. In fact, it sounds like something I might say if I were trying to lighten up a situation, but there was nothing funny in the statement. We both sat there in tears having just heard of children who have been abused and neglected, hurt emotionally, physically, and spiritually, children whose parents chose abusive partners over the wellbeing of their little ones, and a system that moves so slowly that weeks go by without solutions. Instead of bringing joy, our time so far had just made everything raw.
But then we finished our list, began to pray—and the room changed. Oh, not physically. The furniture didn’t move or anything. No, the spirit in the room changed because stepping into God’s presence and verbalizing our praise is a mighty weapon against discouragement. By the time we were finished, our hearts were much lighter. Prayer changes things, but so does praise! What were we praising Him for? Here are just a few of things from our list:
- Earlier this week, the Lord allowed me to reconnect with a single mom that we have ministered to in the past!!!
- We found out this morning that a spot may be opening up at a live-in facility for a single mom in desperate need of a safe home and a community that will point her toward Christ!!!
- Yesterday, we had 16 new members added to the Faceboook group, which always excites us!
- One of the women we have been working with has just had the adoption of her first child reversed and now has custody of her daughter.
- In reflecting on what God has done over the past few months, we looked back at the Green Bean Project and how God took this little ministry and channeled over $1700 to three missionaries and their works in other countries as well as providing $500 for the local single moms ministry!
- We looked back at how God led and provided in the planning and carrying out of the Forum on Fatherlessness. It was amazing!!!
- We reflected on the fact that God has given clear direction in the weekly Bible studies, so often making the topic of discussion exactly what was needed for some situation or another!
- We thanked Him for the joy of the study that Marta, Yvonne, and my mom and I have been doing each week. We have all learned so much and grown in the way we approach ministry.
- We praised Him that we still have an office and a real presence in this building. (I no longer have to move all of the ministry stuff from my bed to my desk to my floor and back again.) All of our bills are paid! We’ve made all of our reserves but one! And in the last couple of months, God has brought in a set of shelves, an office chair, and several unexpected gifts of office supplies!
- I praised Him for His provision for me. It’s been eleven months since I left my job and stepped out by faith. I had one month’s worth of living expenses saved up, but God has met every need for eleven months!
- God has burdened the hearts of two people to partner with the ministry!
- We praised Him for the volunteers who have helped in the clothing exchange, in gathering resources for developing courses, and in helping us transport various items that won’t fit in my Swift from one end of town to the other!
- We praised Him for the opportunity to walk alongside of a family helping a girl who had been cast off by her own family and to maintain the relationship when the Lord moved her to another part of the country.
SO MANY THINGS for which to praise Him! Sometimes it feels like we are making so little progress, like things are not moving as we would like—but God is always working. When we stop to praise Him, we realize how much He has done.
Are you feeling discouraged? How can you praise the Lord today?