You have probably heard people saying you need to encourage yourself in the Lord. It’s great advice. After all, the man after God’s heart, David once strengthened himself in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6).
While David fought the wars for his ancestors’ enemies, the Amalekites ambushed Ziklag. David came back from war and found his city reduced to a pile of ashes. His two wives had been taken captive and his wealth plundered.
David cried. His mighty men cried. They all cried until they could cry no more. But David encouraged himself in the Lord and sought the face of the Lord.
If you have been going through pain and suffering, you’re probably familiar with this story. Many well-meaning Christians reminded you of Ziklag. They told you how much you need to strengthen yourself in the Lord.
But is that what God requires of you today? Does God really want you to encourage yourself as you face your present predicament?
If you have been around Christians for a longtime your quick answer is probably a resounding yes. You have a list of verses to back yourself up. Several of them are in the book of Joshua.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Let me shock you.
Sometimes God doesn’t want you to encourage yourself. It’s true, God wants you to find your strength in his power, glory, might and wisdom. But sometimes you ain’t the one to do it.
This was one of the painful lessons I learned in 2016.
The One Important Lesson I Learned About Suffering in 2016
My family has gone through a lot in 2016. Sickness. Debt. Death. We have been through all that at a time we thought we couldn’t take it anymore.
But in all these tragedies, I was quick to encourage myself in the Lord. Because in the past 14 years, Jesus Christ did a lot for me.
A few weeks ago, a wonderful friend of mine aptly summarized my life, “When I heard about your current problems I said, “Edmond’s God saw him through the worst and what he’s going through is yet another testimony.””
I was humbled when I heard this. And it was true. Again and again, I have witnessed God turning my worst nightmares into visions of hope and a testimony of Christ’s amazing grace.
I graduated from high school after losing my one and only surviving parent. Went to college when everyone thought it was a stupid idea. And as if that wasn’t enough, I was diagnosed with a heart problem after graduating from college.
Because of all this and more, every time I am with faced a trial or temptation, I’m quick to strengthen myself in the Lord. I remind myself of what the Lord has done in my life. Anyone who knew me from childhood knows it’s a lot.
When problems began to mount in my family, I tried to encourage myself in the Lord. Here is the weird part. God said don’t. He was right. I couldn’t.
In 2016, I learned that they’re some problems I can’t even encourage myself in the Lord.
5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Encourage Yourself In The Lord
1. God wanted others to encourage me
I agree with Martin Luther, “I didn’t learn my theology all at once. I had to ponder over it ever more deeply, and my spiritual trials were of help to me in this, for one does not learn anything without practice.” But theology is best done in community. Although I thought I could encourage myself in the Lord, I really wanted other believers to encourage me.
And they did. They didn’t encourage me through empty clichés but in deed. My rent was paid in time, my kids are both in school and we have food on our table. Believers across the globe, Europe, North America, Asia and even Africa walked along with my family. They encouraged us in the Lord.
2. God wanted me to know it’s okay to cry
I did not cry when my mother died. And I don’t remember crying when my father died. When I came to Christ, I was told faith is standing in front of pain and suffering and confidently sing, “It is well with my soul.”
But sometimes God wants us to sit down and weep. Crying instead of encouraging yourself in the Lord doesn’t mean you’re weak or faithless. They’re times we can see Christ’s salvation and deliverance clearer only through eyes soaked with tears.
3. God wanted to encourage me through his mysteries
When you encourage yourself in the Lord you depend on what the Lord did before and the word you heard before. Your encouragement is built on what you already know about God. But they’re times your strength is a mystery hidden in Christ.
But God wanted me to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. He wanted me to move from strength to strength. And this meant forgetting all the glorious things Christ did for me. It meant breaking the box I had placed God and allowing to simply become who he already is – God Almighty.
4. God wanted to encourage me through his living word.
It’s good to encourage yourself in the Lord. However, only through the gospel reveals is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. After all, faith comes through hearing the word of God. And importantly, the just live by faith.
Therefore, Paul once advised his young charge (2 Timothy 3:16), “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” In my struggles, God wanted to train me in righteousness. And he rebuked and corrected me.
5. God wanted to encourage me through his nature
I have been through the worst and God by his grace he saw me through. Several times, I have walked through the valley of shadow of death and the Lord has been with me. And honestly, I became arrogant and convinced I know how God delivers me in my struggles.
My words of encouragement put God in a box. But God wanted to encourage me through his omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence. This helped me to declare like the prophet (Isaiah 64:8), “But now, O Lord , you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”