Fear and discouragement are common. I learned a lesson on how to deal with it in an unexpected location- a huge rock in Waimea Bay.
I was paralyzed with irrational fear. There I was, standing on the edge of a boulder that jutted out into Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Hawaii. It was about a 25 foot drop to the water, and at my son's urging I had followed him and several other illiterate tourists up the rock. (I say illiterate because we had all ignored the large sign that read “Warning- do not climb or jump off of rock” on our way to the jump off point!). I had stood in line as one by one people jumped off the edge into the water. My son had done it several times already and had assured me it would be fun. When I got to the edge and looked down I was suddenly reminded of my rather intense fear of heights. In an instant I was transformed from a bold 45 year-old physician into a frightened 5 year old. I could not move. After several seconds I staggered back of few feet to gather myself. As I did I caught the eye of the man who was behind me in the line. He was a slender man who looked to be in his 70's. He shook his head pitifully at me and then joyfully jumped in the water.
He was followed by a little girl of about 8. She gave me a similar look and shake of the head before she took the plunge. Embarrassed that an elderly man and a little girl were unafraid I looked over the edge into the water. I quickly observed that neither they nor my son were floating dead in the water. Taking encouragement from those that had gone before me I took a deep breath and jumped.
My son was a liar. There was nothing fun about the experience. At all. In fact, the landing was painful. Yet, like everyone else, I had made it, and learned the lesson on overcoming fear and discouragement that the writer of Hebrews 12 wanted his readers to understand.
According to the writer of Hebrews 12, a source of encouragement and endurance in the race of life is the testimony of those who have gone before us. In chapter 11 he shared a lengthy list of heroes who through faith had accomplished great things and been delivered from incredible trials. He shared those stories to help us gain confidence that the God will guide and strengthen us in the same way.
He described those heroes as being so numerous as to be “a great cloud of witnesses.” So many witnesses, testifiers to the faithfulness of God, that we are surrounded in every direction, so many that as we consider their stories we cannot help but be encouraged.
I don't think that encouraging tales of faith heroes are limited to the names in chapter 11. Most of us have been blessed with people in our life who have gone before and faithfully completed the race. For me, my in-laws are those kind of heroes.
My father-in-law, Chuck, was an amazing man of faith. Not the “stand on a street corner preach the gospel” kind of faith, but the much more significant “faithfully use the gifts God has given me” kind of faith. He died at the age of 75, and by all rights should have died 25 years earlier when a massive heart attack left him unresponsive for over 7 minutes. God was not done with him then, and he lived that truth out with vigor for the rest of his days. He could always be counted on to serve, to fix, to build, and to be there when needed. Three days before he died he delivered shelves he had refurbished to my office. He was facing open heart surgery and he did not want the promised shelves to wait for his recovery so he plowed through the twinges of angina to fulfill his promise. That was Chuck Rehm.
The night before the surgery, which he did not survive, two pastors came to pray. One of them asked him how he was doing. His simple statement, “I am ready,” was and is a powerful statement of his faith. God had been faithful to Him his whole life and he trusted his whole life to God. He met his Maker without fear. he remained faithful to the end.
My mother-in-law, Shirley, is also remarkable. I don't know why I expected differently, but when she lost the true love of her life she did not quit. 8 years later she still serves as a volunteer counselor at the church and continues to be a prayer warrior. My children say that when you really need prayer, call Grandma.
Their sustaining faith is an encouragement to me, and they make up the most visible part of the great cloud of witnesses that surround me. God has sustained them throughout their lives and this encourages me to trust him in the same way.
They remind me of how important it is to maintain relationships with those who are going before, and to remember the stories of those who are gone. I am encouraged by the tangible proof in their stories that God is faithful.
Discouraged? You can make it. God is there and He has demonstrated His desire and willingness to help you in the lives of others who have been through similar circumstances. Reach out to those people and ask for help. If you need encouragement and do not know where to find it. Contact me through the blog. Or call me at the office 714-960-4500. I will call you back!
This is the second post of a series on Dealing with Discouragement. If you have been touched by these posts, please share them with a friend. If you would like to subscribe to this blog and receive future posts by email, click on the subscribe link. Beneath my photo upper right on a computer screen or scroll to the bottom on your mobile device.
Finally- there is a new Small Group Study Guide for my book! It is available for free on the "book" page. For a limited time I am offering the book free to any interested small group!