Be Not Discouraged
The past two weeks of class have probably been the most difficult I have ever experienced throughout my academic career. If you do not know very much about me personally, I am a junior at a large Christian university pursuing a degree in Biblical Studies with a minor in Biblical Languages. In looking at the classes I would be completing over the course of the next couple years, I understood, as many upperclassmen eventually do, that the classes I would begin to take would grow to be more difficult, requiring more of my time. I did not however, expect that difficulty to present itself within the first week of the new semester.
As I stared down at the quiz given to me by my Greek professor, no thought crossed my mind. I was drawing a complete blank on all I had been studying the previous night. The empty sheet of paper, a canvas of possibilities staring back at me, awaiting the nervously gripped pencil to regurgitate the information it so confidently scratched the previous day. But the point of the pencil lead remained, unsure of which direction to go, uncertain of which iotas to dot and which taus to cross.
As I continued my staring contest with the lines below the numbered questions, frustration came over me. How could I not remember the material? I spent so much time reviewing...only to leave me blankly staring at my pencil, hoping it would spring to life and grant me the A I thought I deserved. I could not even say "well that's Greek to me" because the information on the quiz should have been so easily comprehended by a student that had spent a full year learning the very language associated with that phrase! With all of its intricacies, noun-endings, verb tenses, and conjugations, a simple back to school review quiz should have been cake.
At that point I realized that nearly every person in the class was nearing the end of the quiz, and I had only managed to fill in about a third of the information. I did my best to fill in as much as I could, guessing on a good amount of it. I left the class discouraged, certain that I had totally bombed it.
As I sat in a row of seats with my friends at the gathering of all students for Convocation (chapel) I related to them how frustrated I was with the score I believed I would receive on the quiz I had taken the previous Monday. They "wept" appropriately in my weeping but I knew they were really just dealing with my complaints, which is still greatly appreciated as they deal with it a lot.
God always seems to intervene when we need it most. While I will not call my inability to fill in the answers to a ten point quiz tragic, my frustration does reveal a deeper-seated problem. In my frustration I now see how truly discouraged I was becoming. What appeared to be a bunch of seemingly small issues or moments of discouragement was really speaking to the extent with which I trust in God. We can attempt to chalk up frustration, restlessness, bitterness, and any multitude of character defects to our circumstances but in reality it reveals how much we truly put our faith in the plans of God.
The speaker at Chapel on Wednesday, one whom I have heard from many times and I would otherwise disregard, spoke truth and encouragement into my life when I needed it most. We can claim coincidence or even the fact that several other students are finding themselves overwhelmed with class, but I believe it to be God's use of His people to bless the body of believers. With God there are no coincidences, there are only moments where we can stop and recognize the grace and love He shows to us through the provision of exactly what we need.
In my frustration and discouragement I demonstrated my faithlessness in God's plans. When I beat myself up over such a small matter, I revealed my true feelings about the man that Jesus died for. In my faithlessness, God showed His faithfulness.
I do not know where you stand on the matter, but I do know that we are all human and we will experience times where we are discouraged. As I have sought all sorts of fulfillment in other places, understand that it is always the God that proves Himself to be faithful that leads me back to true sufficiency. I cannot claim happiness in grades, relationships, or material wealth, but I can genuinely find joy in Christ despite my discouragement. This is not a natural occurrence, it is only through Christ that we find that rejoicing amongst struggle and I do not believe I will ever be able to comprehend why it occurs.
We will never stop struggling, but we must daily be renewed by His faithfulness to us, proved by the love and grace He so freely provides to His children.