If you’re around me long enough, you’ll find out I often use sports (specifically football) analogies. I coached high school football for 30 years (I’m not that old, I just started really young!). My kids have always been involved in sports. My two oldest boys played college football at the highest level and son number 3 is currently playing sprint football at West Point. I too played football in college, though not to the level my boys have achieved. I was a good high school football player, but I didn’t really fit any mold at the college level. I played in college, but it took a lot of work and effort on my part. When I first started playing at WSU I was a running back until I hurt my knee. It’s a little discouraging to get injured, but I worked my way back and then hurt the other knee. At that point I was given the choice, get operated on, or switch positions. I chose the latter and soon became the smallest offensive lineman at WSU. I worked my butt off and ate every chance I got (which was really fun at first) in order to gain weight. Eventually, my senior year, I worked my way to actually earning a starting position (now the smallest lineman in the Pac 10). But it didn’t last long; soon I ended up relinquishing my starting position (it’s a long story) to a huge sophomore kid. I was discouraged.
When I read in the bible the stories of Joseph and David and how they tried to stay faithful to the Lord, only to find themselves in prison or running for their life, I often wonder how discouraged they must have felt. We know some of David’s feelings because he expresses them throughout the Psalms. The bible is full of stories of discouragement. My guess is you all know people, or you yourself, who are feeling discouraged right now. And we know sometimes discouragement can reach lows that lead to making really bad decisions. For me, like my own football story, the most discouraging times are those times when you’ve faced down an obstacle. You pray, you work, you do everything you can to overcome that obstacle, only to have a new obstacle thrown in your path; or worse, the same obstacle rears its ugly head again. For me, that leads to discouragement.
This journey with Justus has felt like that at times. And let me preface by saying, we are so thankful for the progress he’s made. I went to our church today for the first time in 6 weeks. As I was collecting hugs, I was reminded of how grateful my family should be for the prayer support and practical support we received from all over the world. Also, I know we shouldn’t be discouraged because we knew this was going to happen. But it’s hard to prevent getting discouraged. Justus had a couple of really good days and nights. It really felt like we had turned a corner, so much so I made the decision to move back home to Lakewood. The day after I left, Justus started to run into trouble again. Some of the same issues we thought we had figured out started up again. Today his heart rate has been up almost all day and his oxygen saturation hasn’t been as high as it should be. I’m discouraged because I’m not there. But I know Alyse and Jason find themselves discouraged which carries with it the added burden of bringing on guilt for feeling discouraged… after all, look what God has just brought them through. It’s reminds me of the story in 1 Kings 18 & 19. The prophet Elijah has this incredible “Super Bowl” moment, killing all the prophets of Baal only to run and hide when the king’s wife threatens his life. It’s hard, but we must remember in the darkness what the Lord has revealed in the light.
So please pray for Justus as he continues to fight through these withdrawals. And pray for his family as we are forced to stand by and watch him fighting this battle. But please, in general, pray against a spirit of discouragement. Entire nations have been brought to a halt because of discouragement. The enemy often comes at us by using discouragement. If you’re anything like me, there are times in your spiritual journey when you feel like you’ve made progress and suddenly find yourself back dealing with the same issue… again! In marriage, so often couples will get discouraged because something they are dealing with will keep returning, over and over again. It get’s very discouraging. I’ve tried not to make these posts about a lot of advice, but if I could just offer two thoughts when it comes to discouragement. I’ve thought about it all day today for me, for my family… oh and by the way for you too!
There are a ton of practical tools people will offer to help with discouragement. I agree with most of them. Things like exercise and eating right and sunshine and sleep… all of those things help with discouragement. In fact, on a practical note, encouragement arrived today at the hospital when some reinforcements showed up tonight – and that’s always encouraging. But remember my worldview says the real battle isn’t about things of the flesh (it doesn’t mean they aren’t real and aren’t important); the real battle is a spiritual one. Therefore the real battle against discouragement is fought spiritually. So my two thoughts are simple, we need a fresh perspective of God’s word (the bible) and we need a fresh perspective of God (prayer). Obviously we’ve been talking non-stop about prayer and I would encourage you to continue to seek a fresh perspective of God in your prayer time. If you haven’t been inclined to read the bible, and there are plenty of things that keep us from doing that (let’s be honest, most of them are excuses), would you consider doing that now? If you don’t know where to start, then because of this journey you’ve been on with us, why don’t you start with Psalms. It gives great perspective of our relationship with God.
Let God’s word and God’s voice encourage you – even if you are discouraged. And tonight as you pray, please pray against the spirit of discouragement for Alyse and Jason. But before you get up off your knees, please pray against discouragement for #TeamJustus. I know some of you have been discouraged. I’m going to pray against that. And I’m going to pray that prayer and God’s word will give you a fresh perspective of God. I decided to include a video I know many of you have already watched, but it fit what I was feeling. It’s Justus singing, “Lord I need you!” I hope it encourages you tonight!