Therefore encourage one another and build each other up… -1 Thessalonians 5:11a
One of the things that I have often thought about is what a wuss I am compared to the early Christians. They were constantly thrown into jail, beaten and even crucified for what they believed. I am always whining to God about some situation or another that is tiny in comparison.
But last night in between fixing down servers, I kind of had one of those epiphany moments when I realized that what they had that I lack is a great social network of constant encouragement with their closest friends. (or, at least, they were better at listening to theirs than I am mine) The amount of time that Paul spent focusing on the Thessalonian church, on Timothy, and on the Roman church was tremendous. He got a lot of peace and joy out of seeing their faith and visiting with them, writing letters, and praying for them. More than anything, I think that really sustained Paul and helped him through many trials and difficult circumstances.
He didn’t ignore bad circumstances, burying his head in the sand pretending it didn’t exist. He also didn’t focus on bad circumstances either, letting it consume all of his attention. He struck a balance.
So often, I can’t strike that balance. If I hear a hundred good things, and one bad thing, I will spend hours, days, weeks agonizing over one little critique. I live as if I have to prove every critic wrong. I spend nights, weekends, long hours trying to prove that I am valuable, that I am intelligent, that I am worthwhile. I listen to the one or two strangers who will find something to nit pick in every circumstance, over the many friends and family who support me most.
No wonder I always feel so exhausted, drained and stressed. I need to let go of all the criticism, give it over to God, and just focus as much as I can on the good and amazing and truly wonderful things God is doing in my life. No, it’s not all going the way I would like, but you’ll find a lot more peace in the things that are going well than in trying to fix everything that is going badly.