“Why am I so fruitless?” I wondered. “Does nothing I do turn out right? Am I destined to a life of work, work, work with no reward?” Memories of other recent set-backs provided fresh fodder for my pessimism.
Initially, the discouragement centered on a single area of writing. Before long, it encompassed other areas of writing as well: support I didn’t have, books I hadn’t sold, technology that had glitched, hours spent that hadn’t brought profit, things yet to be penned, and the lack of time to pen them. As I groused over these things, the cloud negativity, being the equal opportunist it is, spread over other areas of my life. No longer did I feel fruitless merely in writing, I felt fruitless and frustrated in my other ministries and business endeavors as well. In spite of the good that I could have just as easily focused on, I was mindful of the deficiencies instead. In a matter of minutes, my morning had turned sour. I had hardly done more than slip on slippers and stumbled down the hall before my emotions were crumpled beneath the bruises of my own mental pummeling. My day had barely begun, and I was already defeated.
Putting my discouragement on pause to follow through with my morning custom of starting my day in the Word, I opened the Scriptures and began to read. As God is so inclined to do, He spoke straight to the issue at hand. Proverbs 24:10 leapt off the page. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”
At first, I just wanted to agree. “Yep. My strength sure is small.”
Then, either the coffee kicked in gear or my spirit man decided to bow up to my flesh. I shoved the agreement with the adversary aside. “No! My strength is NOT small. I am a child of God!”
These downtrodden thoughts were whispers of my enemy. A thief was at work. I had let him get the upper hand. He’d provided the barest provocation before I had permitted my thoughts to become saturated with negativity. I had helped him with his plot against me. Such is way of the adversary.
Adversity arises both externally and internally when the fulling of a promise and the fulfilling of our purpose are directly ahead. Scripture says when there is an open door for the work of God, there are many adversaries. I had an adversary, and his lies were a pretty good indication I was on the right track. I was getting close to something he didn’t want me to achieve. I was nearing a door he didn’t want me to walk through.
While the revelation of what was going on lifted my spirits, there were still the nagging effects of the not-so-wonderful issues that my mind had been drawn to. I could acknowledge that great things were ahead. I could conclude that the enemy of my life didn’t want me to attain those achievements. But what about the issues themselves? Then it clicked. To deal with the issues, I needed strength. Weakness is powerless to modify issues or to bring about change. Weakness looks at the situation and feels overwhelmed. It gives up. Or, as Proverbs says, it faints in the day of adversity. I did not want to faint in the face of my adversary, and I did not desire to have little strength. I wanted to stand in the day of trial, and not just stand with feeble legs beneath me, but stand with armor on, chin lifted, weapon in hand, and victory shouts upon my lips.
To garner strength, I looked to God’s Word for direction. “The joy of the Lord is my strength,” it declared. Since I am strengthened with the joy of the Lord, rejoicing in Him is a great starting place to increase my strength. The possibilities for delighting in the Lord are endless. Regardless of particular technique, the common elements are worship and connection. The theme is relationship. When I set my attention up on the greatness of God, whether it is singing loudly to a worship song playing on Pandora, or writing a poem that speaks from my soul, or dancing with arms lifted and head flung back beneath the glow of sunlight in my backyard, or holding the Word against my chest as I inhale the assurance of God’s promises, or pouring out my soul with prayerful tears, I am strengthened from those moments of delighting in Jesus.
While it is true that situations do not always shift suddenly, perspective can. After only a few moments of recalibrating spiritually, I noticed the good that had been there all along— a new comment on an old blog post, an emailed request for my newsletter, fresh interaction on a Facebook book launch, and encouraging texts from fellow laborers in the Kingdom. Amid what had appeared to be barren fields were the successes that had arisen from my efforts, things that the enemy had not wanted me to see, things that would have inspired me and motivated me to keep going. They were testimonies that I was strong, that I already had and would continue to be able to do all things through Christ’s strength in me. My efforts, my life, and my future were not at all the wasteland the enemy had wanted me to see. Though weeds existed, there was a garden of flowers showcasing the beauty of God’s abilities working through my weaknesses. There was fruit, not because of great skill on my part, but as an outgrowth of God’s proficiency. It is His strength in me provided the open door and pushes me toward it. His strength plants the seed then brings forth the bounty. Because He is strong, so am I. I will not faint amid adversity. I’ve got His strength in me, and He strong enough for anything, even those mulligrubs that show up in the morning.