Christians hold two passports. We are citizens of this world, but also of the next. Thus there is always tension in this life. Indeed, there is an ongoing struggle, a spiritual war which we daily find ourselves in. Those who take their faith seriously and seek to make a difference for Christ and his Kingdom will know firsthand of the many struggles, and will have their share of battle scars.
Those who are fighting the good fight very much need encouragement along the way. That is why it is so vital that we actively and continuously encourage one another. I have written up the importance of this elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2007/08/15/in-praise-of-praise/
But we can also be involved in self-encouragement. We need to be able to stir ourselves up, especially if external encouragement seems to be in short supply. And I suppose we all have different ways in which we can do this. I have mine. For what it is worth, let me share a few of these with you.
First, a bit of personal disclosure and self-revelation. I am involved in a sort of prophetic ministry with CultureWatch. As such, I may have a bit of a prophetic personality, if such a thing exists. The prophets of old tended to be somewhat lonely, melancholic, withdrawn and isolated. Think of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. I may be a bit like that.
Such people, especially when they are on the front lines and facing the heat of battle on a regular basis, can easily get depressed and bummed out. They may easily want to throw in the towel and give it all away. So they certainly need a lot of encouragement and praise.
One way to keep one’s self buoyed up of course is the usual set of spiritual disciplines: spending time with God, prayer, reading Scripture, fellowshipping with other believers, and so on. But aside from that, let me share with you a few things I do when down and discouraged. They might prove to be helpful for you as well.
One thing that has often strengthened me for the battle and picked up my spirits is to read – or now, watch – Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. It always reminds me of the battle we are in, how high the stakes are, and the need to persevere and to keep on keeping on. It is stirring stuff, and always revives my spirit and stirs my soul.
Even listening to the music from the film’s soundtrack can be a powerful antidote to discouragement and weariness. I especially like the closing song of the last film, Into the West, performed by Annie Lennox. Of course neither Peter Jackson, the film’s creator, nor Lennox are Christians, but there almost seems to be an anointing to the song.
It was certainly popular in non-religious circles. It won an Oscar, (along with 10 others for the final film) in 2004. (Only two other films, “Titanic” and “Ben-Hur,” won that many Oscars.) Simply playing that song in tough times will lift my spirits – and often drive me to tears! There are various places where it can be found in video form. Here is one:
(OK, so call me a soppy old fool, but watching and listening to this again has just once more turned on the water works!)
Indeed, I have been so impressed by Tolkien’s trilogy (he was of course a Christian), that I have put together an audio-video PowerPoint presentation which I usually share with my students at the end of a week or semester of teaching. It is based on quotes from both The Lord of the Rings and Scripture. I don’t know if my students derive much benefit from it, but it always stirs me powerfully, and again usually reduces me to tears as well.
Another thing that encourages me greatly in heavy times is to recall how God is in the business of raising up mighty leaders when things seem the darkest. God will always rally the troops, even in the most difficult and bleakest of days.
Consider the Cold War for example. Atheistic Communism was intent on conquering all of Europe, and eventually the entire world. Anyone who still has any delusions about the true nature of Communism should read The Black Book of Communism.
This is a movement that in the name of creating a godless utopia on earth slaughtered 100 million people. It was evil incarnate, and needed to be stopped. Fortunately for all of us, God raised up a triumvirate of leaders to meet the challenge. These of course were US President Ronald Reagan, English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II.
These three warriors were the means by which the horrid Iron Curtain was finally brought down. Just when it seemed that times could not get much worse, these three remarkable leaders were, I believe, providentially raised up to save the world from a new dark ages. And they succeeded wonderfully.
When I was just recently visiting with my family in the US, I asked my aging father if I might take just one of his photos back home with me. He graciously agreed. It is a picture of Thatcher and Reagan walking together, deep in serious conversation one cool winter day at Camp David in 1986.
I find it to be such a moving picture of two great leaders the entire free world owes so much to (along with the Pope). I now have that photo proudly displayed under my computer monitor, to regularly encourage me and stimulate me to keep going, even when it seems like things are getting increasingly out of control. For those interested, the picture can be seen here: 1.bp.blogspot.com/_RaRg5_v_Eus/SaY_crWugZI/AAAAAAAACi4/FTn77Lgg9qA/s400/ThatcherReagan.jpg
Speaking of encouragement and recent past world events, also of great interest is the moving eulogy delivered by Thatcher at Reagan’s funeral: www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=110366
These are the eloquent and uplifting words of one very great woman delivered to one very great man.
We all need encouragement and uplifting as we seek to make progress as a pilgrim in this world. I have shared a few ways in which I receive that. You might like to share some ways in which you find refreshment and consolation for the journey. Feel free to post them here for the benefit and edification of others.