Let a Burning Heart Overcome DiscouragementBy Marby Iglesias
October 6, 2020
A few years ago, a large church planting network did a survey to church-planting wives around the country requesting they describe the main challenge in coming alongside their husband to start a new church. Do you know what it was? What most of these women from all different cities and backgrounds had in common is that they acknowledged how limited and inconsistent their time in the Word was. The greatest challenge! It was not discouragement, lack of funding, nor tensions in the marriage. It was a lack of intimacy with Christ and time in the Word with him. Discouragement will quickly follow once we have let our time with the Lord waiver; this is the greatest threat to ministry wives.
Two men in the New Testament were discouraged on the days following the death of Jesus. Luke 24 narrates their strife as they struggled to make sense of what had occurred: “And he (Jesus) said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.” (v. 13)
Very much like us, these disciples had seen God do some amazing things in the past. In the past, they had seen God work, but now they are discouraged. Ministry is so often oxymoronic: joy and despair, excitement and fear, answered prayer with overwhelming remaining need. We are walking a similar journey and discouragement is an ongoing battle for many of us.
Discouragement will tempt us to forget God’s promises (“I will never leave you nor forsake you” and “I will build my church”). It will also tempt us to forget his character, that he is good, loving, and sovereign. We are so very much like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. We are on our road to see Christ glorified through us but on the way, we will get sad, we will have fear. Jesus is walking beside them. Instead of giving them “new” information, he reminds them of the gospel. He returns to the Word and that is enough to turn their eyes toward heaven.
As ministry wives, there will be many more things to do those hours in a day. Our roles will be much more blurred than in an established church because there is much to do and little-to-no staff to delegate to. But when our eyes get on the particulars, on what is unfinished, on what we do not understand and we don’t linger on the Word of God, we will be led to discouragement and despair.
Jesus addresses their discouragement with a systematic theology class: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). In their despair, they didn’t need new revelation, they needed to remember God’s promise of redemption. The gospel is not only what they needed in their despair, it’s what you and I need to remember every single day. We are prone to forget, to wander, dreading the details of our trials. Rather, we should lean into the promises of God, choosing to remember what the gospel story is.
One thing that will revolutionize our Bible study time is when we don’t see Scripture as talking about us but as a story about God and for the glory of God. The smaller we see ourselves when we approach Scripture, the greater the attributes and promises of God will shine.
The Word meets us in our need, not because it gives us some “Yes, you can” verses, but because it reminds us “Yes, he did; it is complete.” The Emmaus disciples needed the gospel, so when they recount the occurrence, they ask, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).
Is your heart burning for Christ today? The Word has the power to burn our hearts afresh no matter our apathy or the circumstance. Our hearts need to burn every single day with his Word. Where the gospel is afresh and sweeter; where our relationship with Christ is closer than the day before. You can push through for a little bit from “miracle” to “miracle” like the disciples did, but we will only make it far if we are clenching on to his unwavering promises and the unshakeable truths in his Word.
Being in the Word is a daily need for our church members, but for those of us in ministry it is our lifeline and only safety net.
We need more than Bible verses used therapeutically; we need the gospel. Growing up at home we always kept those daily promises of different colors and we would grab one each morning before heading to school. That was sweet back then but that will not be enough. You need a thorough understanding of God and his Word. Not a second-hand knowledge from your husband or your mentors but a first-hand, “I have tasted and seen.” You are giving the gospel, sharing the gospel, serving in a church that is a beacon of light with the gospel, you need to be drenched in the gospel, and know the intricacies of how it applies to every single area of your life.
Our hearts need to burn more often, we need to be in awe of God every single day. This is the ultimate cure to discouragement and the greatest source of joy no matter what trial or uncertainty may lie ahead.