Yesterday’s sermon was the second part of a message on discouragement (here’s part one). Over the past few weeks as I prepared for these sermons I spent a lot of time thinking about trials, struggles, etc. and how they’re handled in people’s lives. One of the more common approaches people take is joining a group where individuals have experienced similar difficulties:
- Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous put people with similar addictions together.
- A friend of mine used to work with burn survivors and she said there were therapeutic benefits when they can be together.
- After my brother passed away I attended a group with my parents for people who had lost children.
- I’m not trying to be funny, but I’ve been to pastors’ retreats and in some ways they’re like a bunch of guys consoling each other regarding their similar difficulties in ministry.
As a note, I’m not saying these groups are bad, but it saddens me when they seek to help people through psychology or worldly approaches instead of the Gospel and principles found in Scripture.
I’ve noticed when people are struggling with discouragement, the last thing they seem to want is to be with others. This is really unfortunate – and in a way is giving the devil a victory in the situation – because when people are discouraged something they might need most is fellowship. I’m convinced one of the reasons the prophet Jeremiah struggled so much is because his ministry was so lonely; there was no support group for beat-up, rejected prophets. I think the same could be said of David when he fled from Saul or Elijah when he fled from Jezebel and asked God to take his life.
When we’re discouraged, we can be encouraged by the fact that we’re in good company; we’re in a “support group” you might say with Moses, David, Elijah, and Jeremiah. The groups I mentioned previously are usually led by individuals who have been through similar situations (the group I attended with my parents was led by a woman who had lost a child). The Christian support group is also led by a great facilitator, a Man very familiar with our experiences. Jesus is the Man of Sorrows Acquainted With Grief (Isa 53:3) and He is the Wonderful Counselor (Isa 9:6), able to relate to us and encourage us.