The Sin of Being a Discourager
J. R. Miller
"So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you." 2 Corinthians 2:1
There are some people who always look at the dark side. They find all the shadows in life, and persist in walking in them. They make darkness for others wherever they may go—never brightness. These people do a great deal of harm in the world. They make all of life harder for those they influence. They make sorrow harder to bear, because they exaggerate it, and because they blot out all the stars of hope and comfort which God has set to shine in this world's night. They make burdens appear heavier because, by their discouraging philosophy, they leave the heart beneath the burden less strong and brave to endure. They make life's battles harder because by their ominous forebodings, they paralyze the arm that wields the sword. The whole effect of the life of these people—is to discourage others; to find unpleasant things and point them out; to discover dangers and tell about them; to look for difficulties and obstacles and proclaim them.
A thoughtful man was asked to contribute to the erection of a monument to one of these discouragers, and replied: "Not a penny. I am ready to contribute toward building monuments to those who make us hope—but I will not give a penny to those who live to make us despair." He was right. Men who make life harder for us, cannot be called benefactors. The true benefactors are those who show us light in our darkness, comfort in our sorrows, hope in our despair.
We all need to be strengthened and inspired for life's difficult experiences; never weakened and disheartened. If we meet others cast down and discouraged, it is our duty as their friends not to make their trials and cares seem as large as we can—but rather to point out to them the silver lining in their clouds, and to put new hope and courage in their hearts. If we find others in sorrow, it is our duty not to tell them merely how sorry we are for them, how we pity them—but coming close to them in love, to whisper in their ears the strong comforts of divine grace, to make them stronger to endure their sorrow. If we find others in the midst of difficulties and conflicts, faint and ready almost to yield—it is our duty not merely to bemoan with them the severity and hardness of their battles, and then to leave them to go on to sure defeat—but to inspire them to bravery and victory!
It is of vital importance that we learn this lesson—if we want to be true helpers of others in their lives. If we have only sadness to give to men and women—we have no right to go among them. It is only when we have something that will bless them and lift up their hearts and give them glimpses of bright and beautiful things to live for—that we are truly commissioned to go forth as evangels into the world.
It is better that we should not sing of sadness—if our song ends there. There are enough sad notes already floating in the world's air, moaning in men's ears. We should sing only and always of hope, joy, and cheer. Jeremiah had a right to weep, for he sat amid the crumbling ruins of his country's prosperity, looking upon the swift and resistless approach of woes which might have been averted. Jesus had a right to weep on the Mount of Olives, for His eye saw the terrible doom coming upon the people He loved, after doing all in His power to avert the doom which sin and unbelief were dragging down upon them.
But not many of us are called to live amid grief like that which broke the heart of Jeremiah. And as of Jesus, we know what a Preacher of hope He was wherever He went. Our mission must be to carry to men, not tidings of grief and doom—but joy and good news. People are saying to us: "Give us your hopes, your joys, your sunshine, your life, your uplifting truths; we have sorrows, tears, clouds, ills, chains, doubts enough of our own!"
This is the mission of Christianity in the world—to help men to be victorious, to whisper hope wherever there is despair, to give cheer wherever there is discouragement. It goes forth to open prisons, to loosen chains, and to free captives. Its symbol is not only a cross—that is one of its symbols, telling of the price of our redemption, telling of love that died—but its final symbol is an open grave, open and empty! We know what that means. It tells of life, not of death; of life victorious over death. We must not suppose that its promise is only for the final resurrection; it is for resurrection every day, every hour, over all death. It means unconquerable, unquenchable, indestructible, immortal life—at every point where death seems to have won a victory. Defeat anywhere is simply impossible, if we are in Christ and if Christ is in us. It is just as true of the Christ in us—as it was of the Christ who went down into Joseph's tomb, that He cannot be held captive by death.
It follows that there never can be a loss in a Christian's life, out of which a gain may not come, as a plant from a buried seed. There can never be a sorrow out of which a blessing may not be born. There can never be a discouragement which may not be made to yield some fruit of strength.
If, therefore, we are true and loyal messengers of Christ, we can never be prophets of gloom, disheartenment, and despair. We must ever be heralds of hope. We must always have good news to tell. There is a gospel which we have a right to proclaim to everyone, whatever his sorrow may be. In Christ there is always hope, a secret of victory, a power to transmute loss into gain, to change defeat to victory, to bring life from death. We are living worthily—only when we are living victoriously ourselves at every point, when we are inspiring and helping others to live victoriously, and when our lives are songs of hope and gladness, even though we sing out of tears and pain!