Seeing discouragement as an opportunity rather than an obstacle
A reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C
by Michael Carrera
Being discouraged is one of the most paralyzing human emotions that we can experience in life. Being discouraged not only stops us from doing the things we should be doing to better ourselves and help others, but it stunts creativity and stifles our God-given right and invitation to do all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Just a few weeks ago, the Gospel reading on Easter Sunday proclaimed that the Lord had risen from the dead and that the wisdom of the world could not withstand or derail the wisdom of God. The apostles and disciples of Jesus were filled with joy and encouraged to live and to fight another day because their friend, teacher, Lord, and Saviour had conquered death, and so along with His body, the power of His words had also been brought back to life. The good news and truth of Jesus’ resurrection set the apostles free to proclaim the Word to the ends of the earth. However, knowing the truth does not prevent discouragement but can be an antidote to overcoming discouragement.
We see this in the Gospel reading for this Sunday. Jesus tells the apostles that He will be leaving them shortly – “I shall only be with you a little longer” – and the apostles are dismayed (John 13:33). Jesus does not comfort them by saying, “Don’t worry, you won’t see Me for a few days, but then you will see Me again. I will sit with you and eat with you, and after 40 days I will go to My Father and shortly after send you the Holy Spirit. You will never again be troubled.” On the contrary, He tells them that they will look for Him and not see Him, almost foreshadowing a sense of discouragement that will come, but He gives them the antidote: the new commandment to “love one another just as I have loved you” (John 13:34). This truth can indeed set us free and inspire us to keep pushing forward. That is the antidote to discouragement, that when we cannot see Jesus and feel alone and anguished, we look for Jesus in each other and we love as Jesus taught us to love.
We have to look no further than the readings from Acts to see this commandment put to action. After almost being stoned to death in Antioch – likely very discouraging for St. Paul and St. Barnabas – they left for Derbe and continued to preach the good news before returning back through various regions including Antioch to “put fresh heart into the disciples encouraging them to persevere in faith, saying, ‘We must all experience many hardships before we enter the Kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22). St. Paul knew the truth and tried his best to live in the truth, and yet he understood that the truth would not be enough to inspire the disciples to believe and continue to fight the good fight. No, the truth will only set us free when we encourage one another with a fresh outlook, a new perspective, and a reminder that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that the eyes of faith have a clearer view when they see the love of Christ witnessed in others and the God-given victories of faith (Acts 14:27). We are all going to have bad days. But it is in the bad days that we look to those who are having good days, to pick us up with a word, gesture, or just a reminder that Jesus is everywhere and in everyone and that He has called us to love.
So where does this leave us? It leaves us with an invitation to look at discouragement as an opportunity to pause and seek council from others and from God. To pivot. The wisdom of God is not revealed in the straight paths of life but in the twists and turns where God can make our crooked path straight. Just look at the life of Christ. There is nothing more crooked than the Passion of our Lord. Why did it have to happen as it did? Could God not have chosen a straighter path? I assume He could have. But in doing so, would we be able to see and understand the reward of faith? That Jesus was crushed for our sins so that we can expand into His love? Better yet, would we be able to see a “new heaven and a new earth” and realize that while we await the joy of heaven, we are invited to create heaven here on earth and be a witness to the good news so that others will ask Jesus to dwell among them and “they will be His people and He will be their God” (Revelation 21:3b)?
The readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C, are
John 13:1, 31-33a, 34-35
Michael Carrera has a masters degree in exercise science and has authored and co-authored four books in the areas of fitness and spirituality. His latest book is called Soul Winner. Soul Loser. A Remarkable Story of Finding Meaning in the Wisdom of the Day. For more information visit www.freedombench.com or on Instagram: @freedombench