I've faced a lot of discouragement the last few years, but I feel so content. I hope that the following thoughts might help others facing discouragement.
Father God loves me so much
I spent months bedridden with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. This included taking 20 minutes to manouvre to the bathroom, and an almost impossible trip down or up the stairs. The whole time I was in excruciating pain, and keep dislocating joints. The thing that kept me going, was how much God loved me. At times, I could feel his love welling up inside me, other times, it was just through meditating on scriptures about his love. This truth was my anchor through the storm, and my lifeline to hold on to, whilst the waves buffeted and almost drowned me. I'm now content to have extreme chronic pain and mobility issues knowing Dad loves me so much (Jer 31:3).
I am clothed with Jesus' righteousness
During this time, the devil stirred up some gossip & slander that really hurt my wife and I. In my weakened state, I tried my best to biblically deal with this, but sadly it didn't get resolved. On some occasions I was having difficult meetings with people whilst my ribs were dislocating, and other times people were refusing to even talk to me. Without anyone wanting to set the record straight, I had no-one to go to except Christ - the one who sets our record straight! I'd tried Matt 18:15 and Rom 12:18, now all I could do was rest in what God thought of me because of Christ's righteousness. Whenever the devil repeated to me what others had said, I imaged God saying, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?" (Zech. 3:2 NIV). I'm now content to hear the gossip (and even laugh about it), whilst knowing that what God thinks is more important.
I'm Stronger in Weakness
I'd often preached about not relying in own strength, but now in my weakened physical state, I needed more strength from God than ever, and realised how self dependant I'd been. As I mined the Scriptures, and cried out to God for strength each day, I began to learn how being weak was a massive advantage. Similarly, as our church unsuccessfully asked for help and support, I realised that we were actually stronger by not receiving man's help. I'm now content to be weak in my health and ministry (2 Cor 12:6-10).
My Identity is in Christ
I thought that I believed this, but there's something about being in a wheelchair and being pushed around your estate that impacts this. There's plenty of times I've had to stand up for my family and let people know I'll physically defend my family if I have to - but now, it was common knowledge that I couldn't do that anymore. This shook me, and it became clear that part of my identity was in being strong. To make matters worse, my wife was 8 months pregnant, and I couldn't protect her, and she couldn't even push my wheelchair. From this place I had nowhere to turn except who I was in Christ. Whereas Paul voluntarily considered his identity markers rubbish (Phil 3:3-12), I'd had mine stripped away (involuntarily) so that I had nowhere to get identity, other than in Christ, and knowing him in his suffering. I'm now content to have a weaker public identity, but a greater identity in Christ as one of Dad's kids.
So why do I still speak out on issues?
So why Duncan if you're content, do you post stuff about what's wrong with our theological tribe? Because, whilst content with my life and ministry, I'm not content with the practices of our theological tribe. So, I want to use my voice to help others who might be going through what I went through, or who might even be putting others through the same things. And, from the feedback I get, it appears to be quite a few!