I heard an interesting story yesterday and decided I should share it...
One day the devil decided to have a yard sale. Demons from all over came for the chance to buy his tools. They ohhed and ahhed as they looked at the tables full of reasonably priced items. They saw anger, murder, gossip, and lust all shiny on display.
However in a beaten up box in on the edge of the last table marked four times higher than the rest was a tiny tool called discouragement. The demons handled the well-worn unimpressive tool with looks of bewilderment on their faces. "Why is this one so valuable?" one finally dared to ask the devil.
He sneered and responded "People have gotten so smart that they know greed, pride, or all the others come from me. They are able to fight them easier because they are so identifiable but this little treasure" he lovingly picked up and caressed the tool "very few realize it comes from me. And often by the time they do it's too late" he laughed evilly.
Nothing stops us in our tracks more quickly than discouragement. It is usually accompanied by doubt and hopelessness. It tricks us in to thinking that things will "always be this bad". When we are feeling discouraged we should remember James 1: 2-4:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
(Those of you familiar with Adventures in Odyssey might remember this verse from the episode Count It All Joy.) Our trials are used to shape us into the person God needs us to be. It should bring us joy (not happiness that's a very different thing) when we experience hard times. While those times may make us feel that God has forgotten us their very existence proves that He is there. Much like a potter waiting at the door of a kiln for his masterpiece to be ready. God is waiting for us to past the test and overcome so He can use us for His kingdom.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. -Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)