I hate it when I’m digging through old boxes in an attic or a basement and my hand comes across a bunch of cobwebs. You never know if a spider is nearby, or how many cobwebs there are, or where they extend to. If you touch one with one hand, you usually start waving that hand around to try to get the cobweb off and, inevitably, the other hand comes over to help, and it only gets worse! The cobwebs stick to your hands and arms, and as you try to shake them off they just stick to you all the more.
Sometimes life can feel like a series of cobwebs. You are going about your business when you come across some yucky junk that sticks to you and is just gross. So you try to throw it off and it just sticks more. The more you try to get rid of it, the more it sticks to you, and you end up feeling even more gross.
In those times, I find it difficult to make any headway in my mental, emotional, or spiritual life. As much as I try to see things from another perspective, or to stay focused on the bigger picture, it seems impossible to get rid of those feelings. You pray and you wait on God, but the picture doesn’t get any clearer and you feel more gross than when it all began.
It’s important not to lose heart and give in completely to discouragement. The enemy, and your flesh, would love to throw a pity party and to remember all the reasons why you knew this would happen, and why you knew things would turn out like this, and why you should’ve given up a long time ago. The reality is much different.
Times of mental, emotional and spiritual discouragement and fog are normal experiences in the Christian life. In fact, all people will experience these times. God promises, that in those times, He has never left us and He has never forsaken us. He still hears our prayers and He is working out His perfect plan. He can definitely be trusted.
These experiences are usually temporary. We don’t know how long they are going to last, but we can be confident they won’t last forever. “Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Knowing that there is an end in sight, regardless of how it looks or how we feel should be a source of encouragement to us.
James encourages us to “consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds..because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance and perseverance when it’s finished it’s work presents us mature and complete – lacking nothing.” (my paraphrase). Trials don’t feel or look like pure joy, but we are commanded to consider them pure joy because of what they produce in us. After all, God’s number one concern is forming Christ in us – to the praise of His glory. We know that He is building patient endurance and unfailing trust in us until we reach maturity.
Focusing on lousy circumstances or the feelings that life elicits in us sometimes is not going to improve or redeem our situation. Rather, making the decision to focus on God – even when that focus will not necessarily lead to making those feelings go away immediately-and to consider it pure joy, will allow us to see the hand of God at work and give us the chance to choose to participate with Him in His character formation of us.