“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8.

How are you? At this moment, how are you doing? Perhaps you are on the mountaintop or maybe you find yourself in the valley. Maybe you have been in the valley for some time. I think it is safe to say that discouragement comes to the best of us. One of the hard parts of the Christian walk is always being encouraged. That’s because what encourages us can leak out amidst the trials and storms of this life. It can be a telephone that doesn’t ring or something we expected that didn’t happen. Even the smallest things can trigger discouragement. 

So often we are tempted to cover up our discouragement because we don’t want others to think we are weak. We don’t want people to think of us as unspiritual. Yet when we read through the Psalms, we hear the desperate cries of many a discouraged man. Psalm 102:1-5 says “Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh.” The psalmist is discouraged. This psalm ends with the writer crying out, “but you are the same, and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.” (Psalm 102:27-28). 

There are many examples throughout the Bible of great men and women of God who experienced discouragement. We talked about one of those on Sunday in the story of Lazarus and Mary. Mary was discouraged. Mary loved Jesus, but she was sick with discouragement. Her brother was dead. John 11:32 says, “Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” You can sense the struggle and the discouragement. That’s how many of us feel when our prayers go unanswered. We are discouraged. 

But how does Mary feel after Lazarus is raised from the dead, when she sees what Jesus was planning all along. The answer is John chapter 12. Jesus is having dinner with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Martha serves the meal.  Lazarus is at the table with Jesus. And what does Mary do? She takes an expensive vial of perfume and pours it on Jesus’ feet, and wipes his feet with her hair (John 12:3). She worships Jesus. Why?  Because she now sees — what He did was better than they had asked. Because she now sees — Jesus loved them.

Maybe your unanswered prayer is giving you doubt, struggle, or unbelief. So use this story to help you fight the fight of faith. Because it’s not that your prayer is unanswered. It’s just like with Mary and Martha —Jesus loves you. Jesus is answering your prayer and Jesus is bringing you something even better than you are asking.

1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What were your initial thoughts when you heard the story of Lazarus and Mary?
  2. In your life, where do you experience the most discouragement?
  3. Is discouragement a by product of putting our hope in the wrong things? Why or why not?
  4. What does God normally use when encouraging His people?