Lesson Three: God With Us in Our Discouragement
Primary Scripture: Joshua 1:1–9; Haggai 1:1–15, 2:1–9
I saw a picture of sand this week. And it blew my mind.
The picture was in a book called A Grain of Sand, by Dr. Gary Greenburg. The grains of sand are magnified to 300 times their actual size. And the pictures are glorious! Go to http://sandgrains.com/Sand-Grains-Gallery.html to check them out.
What do you think? Did you ever imagine something as small as a grain of sand could hold such splendor?
If I’ve thought about grains of sand at all, it’s been when I was blinking them out of my eyes on a windy beach day or shaking small piles of them from my kids’ shoes after a happy hour in a sandbox. Sand has most often been an annoyance, not a source of hidden beauty. And really, the first word that comes to mind when I think of a single grain of sand is insignificant. A grain of sand is such a small thing, after all.
Which brings us to the book of Haggai in lesson three of God’s Promise. (You’ll have to bear with me. Nearly everything brings me back to the book of Haggai lately. Through my study for and since writing this Bible study, I have discovered and rediscovered such rich relevance in this little prophetic book. I keep returning to it.)
In lesson three, we explore how God’s promise to be with us can give us courage or encourage us when we might otherwise lose heart. In the story we find in Haggai, the people of God are in the midst of rebuilding the temple. We see in chapter one how the Lord stirs their spirits after years of inactivity, so they actually get to work on the house of the Lord (Haggai 1:14). But it doesn’t take long for discouragement to set in and for them to lose heart.
In Haggai 2:3, God names the source of their discouragement—“Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?” You see, the people are looking at their efforts and their efforts seem small and insignificant. The results they’re getting look like nothing to them.
What efforts have you been making lately that seem small or insignificant? What work has yielded results that look like nothing to you?
It is hard not to get discouraged, isn’t it? When most of our days are filled with “small things” like dishes, laundry, errands, cooking, cleaning, meeting, typing, calendaring, emailing. The tasks of our everyday lives—working, caretaking, homemaking—are so often mundane and repetitive, it is easy to lose heart, to begin to feel like our work is insignificant or, at best, simply small. Far from splendorous.
Or perhaps your work is and has been significant—important, vital, urgent. Perhaps you have been working for the alleviation of suffering, for justice or equality at a local or larger level. Maybe you have been working passionately for years . . . but the results feel like a tiny drop in a leaking bucket. It doesn’t feel like any progress has been made and your efforts have been in vain.
In the face of such discouragement, God says to God’s people (to us!), “work, for I am with you” (Haggai 2:4).
And then God underscores that promise by emphasizing what God, coming alongside our work, will do. “I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and dry land; and I will shake all the nations, . . . and I will fill this house with splendor” (Haggai 2:6–7).
God promises to be with us in our work, however small and insignificant it may seem to us, however mundane and repetitive. Though the results we see may disappoint us, God promises a latter splendor.
If today feels like it’s filled with small things, hold on to God’s promise in Zechariah, spoken to the same discouraged, temple-building people, that on the day the temple is completed, “Whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice” (Zechariah 4:10). Though your work and the results may seem small now, trust that there’s a day of rejoicing coming. Just think of the sand, so seemingly insignificant, and see the splendor it holds.
Amy Poling Sutherlun
Author of the 2018–2019 PW/Horizons Bible Study
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