By Jerry N. Duncan, Ph.D., ABPP
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The roll call of the faithful in Hebrews 11 is designed to inspire us and give us hope. Comparing our difficulties with theirs gives us some perspective when the problems of life feel overwhelming. There are some pretty terrible and overwhelming struggles described there.
I heard a story told of Satan holding an auction to sell off all his old tools. They are spread out on a table with price tags on each one. One “tool” does not have a price on it, so he is asked why. His response is, “Oh, that tool is the reason I am selling everything else. It is discouragement. I have found it to be so effective that I do not need anything else.”
Discouragement can be an incredibly powerful deterrent to our recognizing God’s love and commitment to us. C.S. Lewis in “The Screwtape Letters” describes the strategies of disillusionment and discouragement in the context of a senior/mentor demon by the name of Screwtape, telling his apprentice, Wormwood, how powerful those two emotional responses can be in throwing a new believer off track. It works on “old believers,” too.
Although discouragement is normal, it is not necessary for us to be stuck with it indefinitely. The antidote to the feeling of discouragement is hope. Scripture and our own experience teach us that there is hope. Bad circumstances are normal while we live here on earth.
But God provides us with all the tools we need to think correctly about our circumstances and to deal with them responsibly. He provides His personal presence and other believers to assist us when we are unable to handle it alone.
There also is a roll call of misfits spread throughout scripture. It is a list of individuals that had obvious and glaring faults and “handicaps” that did not seem to limit God from using them powerfully. Rick Warren in “The Purpose Driven Life” identifies this list in hopes of encouraging those of us who are “sick with discouragement and fear” that there is still hope.
He writes, “If you’re not involved in any service or ministry, what excuse have you been using? Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was co-dependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric, to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits, but God used each of them in his service. He will use you, too, if you stop making excuses.”
I really do not know which of these two lists would be better to be on: the roll call of the faithful or the roll call of the misfits. I do not know that it really matters which one we are on.
I do believe it matters how we choose to think about how much God loves us and needs us in spite of our perceived and feared limitations.