When I was a wee lad learning how to play baseball I had up and down seasons in little league. In my first season we made it all the way to the championship only to fall to our rivals. In my last season of baseball I played for a team that almost lost every single game. When you are losing all the time, it’s hard to get discouraged. Playing a game day in an day out only to take one loss after the next is painful. You can start to question it all. You can wonder why you do what you do, but every once in a while you get a little glimmer of hope. You hit a double, you hit a home run, you get an RBI, you have a close game, and you may even win a close game. Somehow, it gives you just enough courage to get out there and play another day.
The news is depressing. I read the newspaper (actually, it’s an e-paper… so I don’t know if you would call it the same thing) and you don’t have to look very far to feel discouraged. Day after day people can be terrible to each other. As a church staff we attended a seminar hosted by one of the experts in our congregation on mandated reporting. We looked at three different case studies that made me sad, not because they were fake, but because with each story, I could place names. The sad truth is, we can be ugly to each other.
As a pastor who works with students, I can hear a lot of brokenness. Some weeks you can feel the discouragement in your bones. Some days you wonder why you get up only to take another beating the next day. I read a passage today that gave me hope:
“In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” – Isaiah 42:3b-4
I was reminded of a simple truth: our hope lies in someone else. Not on our faith or skills, but in the faithfulness of God’s servant; the One who actually has the power to do something about it, and is doing something about it, now. I was reminded that we are playing for the winning side and that the day to day discouragement is like looking at life through an empty toilet paper roll. I need to step back and see that lives indeed are being changed. Addicts set free. The fragmented are being made whole. Wounded hearts and souls are being mended. Marriages being restored. Everyday.
After lunch I walked in on my intern and a couple of the other guys on staff watching a youtube video. Zach Sobeich battled a rare kind of cancer since he was 14. Once he was told that he had a few months to live he began to write music to help his friends cope, but also to live life to the fullest. He passed away Monday. His story, make my daily complaints seem feeble. You can hear his story here:
He says, “I want to tell people that you don’t have to find our you’re dying to start living… you can make someone happy, just by smiling at them.” Hope lives.
It’s easy to get discouraged when I feel like it’s on me, but our hope is not built on ourselves; it’s built on the One who never “falters” and who never gets “discouraged”, ever. He is the One who will not quit until “he establishes justice on earth.” The Kingdom is advancing despite personal slumps and seasons of discouragement. Those seasons come and go, but the Kingdom will advance until one day it is fully realized. As Isaiah writes, “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” (Is. 42:9). God is inviting us to share and celebrate the little victories every minute, every hour, every day, because they are previews of the things to come.