The Worst Thing in the World
Charles Naylor, 1941
What is the worst thing in the world? Some might say sickness, others poverty, others would say sin. But sickness and poverty can be endured without destroying one's happiness.
Sin is a terrible thing, but there is an ever-available remedy for it, and one need not have it upon his conscience any longer than it takes him to submit to God and believe in him for pardon.
There is another thing, however, that gets hold upon innocent souls, and, in fact, upon all sorts of people in all sorts of conditions. It brings dark clouds of gloom over them. It destroys their happiness. It drives away joy. It brings heaviness and distress. It has not one good thing about it. It has not one attractive quality. It has not one redeeming feature. It is bad, utterly bad. This evil thing is discouragement, and I do not think I err in calling it the worst thing in the world, for it robs all good things of their appearance of goodness, when they come under its blighting touch and it adds an ever-increasing weight to every evil.
Many people have given up the struggle against sin and the attempt to serve God through discouragement. It has robbed them of their courage, hope, and energy. It has limited their activities. It has made them sit down and fold their hands, and with a voice of sorrow say, "It is no use to try. I cannot be a success. I am nothing but a failure. I just make one failure after another." Then what heaviness settles down over the soul, what a sense of hopeless defeat, what a feeling of weakness which in time may lead to despair!
There are only a few souls who have enough optimism to go along through life with never a feeling of discouragement. To most of us, discouragement is not a stranger. It has come to sit beside us, and pour its doleful tale of woe into our ears on many occasions. It has cast dark shadows of gloom upon us. And I suppose we shall always be more or less subject to discouraging influences and their effects upon ourselves by our own actions. When discouragement comes it is so easy to increase it, and most of us are so prone to take the course that naturally increases it.
We do this in the first place by magnifying the difficulties, dangers, or evils that we have to meet in life. As we look at them and think over them, they become enlarged. They fill our horizon more and more. We say within ourselves, "Oh, this duty is so hard. This difficulty is so great. This danger is so threatening. These evils are so inescapable." The more we look them over, the worse they seem to become. The more we assert they are great, the more they seem to increase. The more we look at them, the more impossible it seems for us to surmount them and overcome them. People often magnify their troubles or their duties far beyond what they really are. This produces greater discouragement. As we continue to magnify these things, our ability to meet them seems to decrease.
As we magnify our difficulties—we naturally magnify our sense of weakness, our feeling of inability. The more we think about our weakness and inability, the less confidence we shall have in our ability, the less courage we shall have to attempt to do anything. And so this process goes on, alternately magnifying our difficulties, dangers, and duties—and minifying our own abilities. The farther we go in this process, the darker things become, the more gloomy we feel. We become disheartened, and perhaps wish we had never been born.
If we have given way to discouragement or if we have not given way to it, but are fighting against it—there are certain steps to take that assuredly will bring us to victory. Discouragement can be overcome, no matter how great it may be. No matter how long you have been in a discouraged condition, there is a way out. That way is one that you can take, which will lead you to success.
The first thing to do is to take a square look at things. I do not mean to look at them through your feelings, but look at the facts just as though it were somebody else's case you were looking at.
Look right at your difficulties—examine them carefully. Are they really as great as they seem? Are they as numerous as you suppose them to be? Are they really? Of course you feel they are. But dissect them. Get into their reality. Weigh them on a true balance, and be sure you keep your feelings off the scales.
Take a look at your duties. Does God require more of you than he ought to require? Does he expect more of you than he will give you grace to do? Of course not. Are the things that threaten you, as dangerous as they appear? Get things sized up just as they are. Stop magnifying things. Stop thinking how great they are. They are not nearly so bad as they appear.
Then take a look at God. See what a wonderful God you have. See the display of his power in the orderly processes of nature. The God whose voice sounds in the thunder, and whose footsteps shake the world, is a God who says to you, "I myself will help you."
What are the things that confront you? God's promises are true. He has said, "My grace is sufficient." Draw upon that grace. "Oh," you say, "if I just had grace," when there is a whole ocean of it to be had for the using! Begin to use your faith, to rouse your courage; get your will to follow into action. Begin to assert within yourself that you can succeed.
Look over the field of human beings that you know. Has anyone like you ever made a success? Has anyone like you ever risen above discouragement? Yes, thousands of such persons have. Well, what they have done, you can do. Begin to assert . . .
that you are a child of the King,
that God is your helper,
that his strength is your strength,
that no matter what circumstances you may face, God can overcome them,
that no matter what duties you may have, God's grace will be given you to enable you to perform them.
Begin to encourage yourself. Stop surrendering to your feelings. Be a man. Say, "I can, and I will."
Look at the things you have to encourage you. Turn your eyes away from the dark side, look at the bright glow of God's grace. Believe his promises. Your feelings do not matter. What does it matter if you do feel discouraged? Thousands of other people have felt just that way. Their sky has been overcast and their lives gloomy. They have felt just as you have felt, that it was no use to try any more. Then they have taken hold of themselves, they have summoned their courage, they have gone at things like men and women—and their darkness has been dissipated. They have risen above all their troubles; they have put their feet upon their gloomy feelings, and they have triumphed in God.
And so, discouraged soul, look away from the things that have discouraged you. Look at the things that will encourage and help you. And above all, put your trust in God, and say, "I can and I will." To be sure, you will have some conflicts, but the road to victory is open before you, and by doing what you can yourself and by trusting in God for the help you need—you can rise above your discouragement and know that you have overcome the worst thing in the world.