Unstrung Harps

12 Psalm 137:1-3 “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps”

 Discouragement. It stops us in our tracks. It locks us in limbo. It deafens us to hope. Israel was well acquainted with it. After four hundred years of cruel Egyptian bondage, the nation was so steeped in discouragement that when God sent Moses to them with the promise of deliverance, they refused to listen (Exodus 6:9). Their discouragement was so painfully loud that it silenced any other message….. 

Years later, when the Israelites once again found themselves enslaved in a foreign land, their discouragement became so severe that they “hung their harps” on the poplar trees. They would allow no joy, no pleasure, no hope of changed circumstances, sing its song. They literally chose not to listen. 

None of us can escape discouragement. We would not be human if we didn’t encounter discouraging situations. The question is not whether we meet discouragement, but how long we keep its company. 

For some of us, discouragement acts like a natural default mechanism. As soon as disappointing circumstances rise, we flip on a “surround sound system” of pessimism. It takes less energy and a lot less risk of future disappointment. However, in all the gloomy clamor, we miss the whispers of hope. Whispers assuring us help is on the way. Whispers reminding us God remains in charge. 

In spite of Israel’s paralyzing discouragement, God kept his promises. He delivered them from Egypt and again from Babylon. His faithfulness did not depend on their feedback. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). God’s unwavering faithfulness provides a starting place for us to snap the grip of discouragement. 

When writers suffer from writer’s block they often break through by starting to write- about anything and everything-they just write. It eventually “primes the pump” until the words they’re searching for begin to flow. Meditating on God’s faithfulness has a similar effect in helping us break through the block of discouragement. As we specify his goodness in the small details of our lives, as we reflect on answered prayer, as we begin to be thankful…and more thankful…the pump of faith is primed. Hope returns and what was overwhelming shrinks. 

So if discouragement is getting the best of you, don’t hang up your harp. In faith, string that harp and start to sing.

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