I have learned from experience and unwelcomed life changes recently that discouragement is a portal into a false realm of the twisted perception of self-worth and purpose, even causing one to ask the meaning of their existence. When life as you knew it suddenly seems to have left you behind, stranded on the side of the road of life, it takes a supernatural resolve to pull yourself up and get back on the road. Only those who have a grasp of the eternal picture can successfully resume the journey.
All of us want to feel as if our lives matter, that our existence counts for something, that our mere presence means something to someone. But like an illusionist making a plane disappear, discouragement and depression act as a magician’s cloak rendering us invisible. It’s a sad place to be and a horrible place to stay. Activities you once enjoyed with others bring little joy now; people who played such big roles in your life have left you behind like an old photo of something from times past. And your mind becomes your worst enemy as it replays over and over memories going back decades of things that will never be again, tricking you into accepting a false narrative of your significance and contribution to your realm of influence.
Some will attempt to get involved in causes, take up social activism, donate time to local nonprofit groups, all while wondering if anyone is watching, if anyone notices. Our motivation is one less about making a difference and more about being praised so that we can reclaim some self-worth. The irony in this is that the only one who sees all, the only one we truly need to serve, is the one who already has the highest opinion of us. We give, we donate, we help out-all to be seen and accepted in an attempt at our own self-redemption, completely disregarding the fact that God in his love and mercy already redeemed us, already sees us, already has our names tattooed in the palm of his hand.
There is a passage in scripture where the just are receiving their reward for deeds done on earth. The master tells them to enter into their rest because they clothed the naked, fed the hungry, visited the sick and imprisoned, all the while unaware that these unseen things they did for the least, were done and received by a God who valued them highly even at what felt like the lowest times. Another passage in Matthew 6 says that we should not blow a horn to announce the good deeds we are doing for the praise of others, but that instead we should not allow our left hand know what our right hand is up to. Things done seemingly in secret are never hidden from God and he will reward us in grand fashion. Our deeds and the motives behind them, good or bad, are never hidden from an all-knowing God.
Let’s be real-sometimes life stinks. Some make mistakes but seem to get a pass while others make bad decisions or lead less than perfect lives and pay heavily for it. There appears to be a very inequitable sense of fairness when we compare our lives to others. We work hard but still lose our jobs; we eat right and exercise but still receive that negative medical report; we love well but end up alone. The eternal question with no answer is why bad things happen to good people, and why bad people get all the breaks in life. We wonder what atrocities we committed to be punished so; if this were true, if we were beat up for every mistake, who among us would survive God’s wrath. As Job discovered in the Old Testament story, some questions will never be answered on Earth. We will never be able to get everyone’s approval and unlike the movie, we don’t have any magical remote control that allows us to go back in time and change things for better outcomes. All any of us have is today. Today will soon be yesterday. Will you be okay with what you did yesterday? Can you make today better? There is a profound sense of worth in living externally, seeing others and their needs, finding purpose in being a solution, even when no one is watching. Living everyday discouraged, pining for things to be the way they were, knowing they never will be, is a tragic existence. The heart will forever hold precious the memories of things that were, but has an enormous and unlimited capacity to receive and store new treasures going forward. If you must, hold onto the good of the past with your left hand while reaching for new opportunities with your right. Healing and purpose will come only when you rise up from the ashes. Those who know you best will be witnesses to how your handle life’s critical moments. There are always people watching!