Much Needed Encouragement

I read a blog today that was truly a blessing. With my new job, I hardly have time to sit down, let alone read online like I used to (that was definitely a perk at my last job!!). But today, for whatever reason, I was given time to read a couple of blogs. One really encouraged me to the core – it was perfect timing and it will be added to my journal (and probably to my “wall of faith” that I have on the wall in front of my desk. This is where I do my daily devotions and I purposely put up quotes, scriptures and prayers so that I cannot help but be reminded of God’s Truth and Faithfulness – For the Word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does ~ Ps. 33:4). Yeah, this will probably go right up there!

How I Almost Quit

(Author: John Piper)

Are you so discouraged you don’t know what to do next? I want to help you get through this. Maybe this will help.

The following quote is from my journal dated November 6, 1986. I had been at Bethlehem 6 years. If you have ever felt like this, remember this is 24 years ago and I am still here.

The point is: Beware of giving up too soon. Our emotions are not reliable guides.

Am I under attack by Satan to abandon my post at Bethlehem? Or is this the stirring of God to cause me to consider another ministry? Or is this God’s way of answering so many prayers recently that we must go a different way at BBC than building? I simply loathe the thought of leading the church through a building program. For two years I have met for hundreds of hours on committees. I have never written a poem about it. It is deadening to my soul. I am a thinker. A writer. A preacher. A poet and songwriter. At least these are the avenues of love and service where my heart flourishes. . . .

Can I be the pastor of a church moving through a building program? Yes, by dint of massive will power and some clear indications from God that this is the path of greatest joy in him long term. But now I feel very much without those indications. The last two years (the long range planning committee was started in August 1984) have left me feeling very empty.

The church is looking for a vision for the future—and I do not have it. The one vision that the staff zeroed in on during our retreat Monday and Tuesday of this week (namely, building a sanctuary) is so unattractive to me today that I do not see how I could provide the leadership and inspiration for it.

Does this mean that my time at BBC is over? Does it mean that there is a radical alternative unforeseen? Does it mean that I am simply in the pits today and unable to feel the beauty and power and joy and fruitfulness of an expanded facility and ministry?

O Lord, have mercy on me. I am so discouraged. I am so blank. I feel like there are opponents on every hand, even when I know that most of my people are for me. I am so blind to the future of the church. O Father, am I blind because it is not my future? Perhaps I shall not even live out the year, and you are sparing the church the added burden of a future I had made and could not complete? I do not doubt for a moment your goodness of power or omnipotence in my life or in the life of the church. I confess that the problem is mine. The weakness is in me. The blindness is in my eyes. The sin—O reveal to me my hidden faults!—is mine and mine the blame. Have mercy, Father. Have mercy on me. I must preach on Sunday, and I can scarcely lift my head.

 I definitely didn’t know about John Piper 24 years ago, but I first heard him preach at a Passion One Day conference 10 years ago and his message is still one that rings so deeply in my heart–it’s changed the way I see my time here on earth (definitely listen to the message!). Naively, I never would have thought John Piper would have such a journal entry — I know, know. Like I said, naive! I feel like my journals are filled with similar passages. They are also filled with incredible things too: answered prayer, promises, lessons from the Word and some drawings that just randomly come from the heart. Other than that, my pages are and have definitley been filled with many real moments like this one — mine can be a bit more raw…yikes!

No, I am not the Pastor of a church or embarking on something like what Bethlehem was on the cusp of…but maybe I am. Maybe you are. The enormity isn’t what matters. I just absolutely appreciate the vulnerability and weakness John shared with us publically that we might be mutually encouraged. That’s how I too often feel – weak and unsure. And somehow all these similar journal entries/petitions that are written in our lack of understanding somehow, in God’s economy, propel us forward, even when we don’t see it or sense it. Honestly, I had a heart to heart with the Lord yesterday and one of my greatest fears is that in a year from now my life wouldn’t look any different. I’m not sure what my vision is, other than to know Christ. That’s a tremendous start and a beautiful journey! But it’s hard to see the specificity of a vision and live it out in the midst of uncertainty. So, I am grateful for this honest and vulnerable entry by John Piper. God obviously came through. He will for me and I trust He will for you too, even when clarity seems the object of the faith lesson. We walk by blur and not by 20/20 vision! At least most times I feel like that’s the case.  With all sincerity, I pray God blesses you and encourages you to keep believing in who He is – especially in the blurred, unseen! 



2 thoughts on “Much Needed Encouragement

  1. Michelle! i don’t know how i never found your blog before, but i was looking at Letters to Catherine and saw the title “much needed encouragement” and thought, “yep! that’s me right now!” and hopped over…..or rather God directed me here 🙂 i love this post and Piper’s journal. all the uncertainty and questioning is way too familiar sometimes. thanks for sharing. my heart needed to hear it. and now that i’ve found you, i’m gonna have to visit your blog more often! take care 🙂

  2. What a great post. 🙂 Jack really likes John Piper. I am learning to follow him, he is SO DEEP! We are doing “God is the Gospel” Bible study in community group right now.

    Shelly, I pray for you every day, and I know that God has BIG plans for you and boy are we going to PAR-TAY when He reveals them!

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