Is being down and discouraged the same as not having faith?
This is a question that I have been pondering on for quite some time now. I cannot say that I have THE answer, but I have to say that the Lord has answered me regarding this question. I received my answer after looking at two critical moments in the life of the Lord Jesus - that's where the Holy Spirit took me, and that's where He taught me.
A garden is a place of life. A place of fruit. A place of hope. Yet, on the evening of the last Passover the Lord Jesus would have with His disciples, the garden was filled with a great turmoil. It witnessed a great struggle. If felt the agony of each drop of sweat that poured out from Jesus. Did Jesus need encouragement? Yes. Was He lacking faith? No. This was a moment where He was not on a mountain top, rather in a deep and dark valley. Did the Father care? Yes. How do we know this? He sent an angel to minister (read: encourage) His Son for the path that lay ahead: 'then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him." (Luke 22:43).
The angel came down to where Jesus was and strengthened Him because He needed strengthening. He was not lacking faith, He was going thru the greatest struggle any soil has had to witness or ever will witness: the will of the Father and the will of the Son...not My will, but Yours be done (Luke 22:42). Jesus needed encouragement for what lay ahead, because what lay ahead was a darker valley than the one He was on.
What type of view do you think Jesus had when He was hanging from the cross? His eyes beheld: soldiers who scourged and spit on Him, fellow countrymen who mocked Him, rulers who seethed with hate towards Him, friends who had abandoned Him in His our of greatest need. The very reason for which He was hanging on a tree, was the source of such pain, sorrow, and agony. This was no mountain-top experience, this was the valley of the shadow of death - if not death itself. And in His infinite mercy, the Father sends encouragement to Jesus. How? Thru a thief. Heaven rejoices when ONE sinner repents ("there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." Luke 15:7). One sinner, a thief, repented in the midst of Jesus' valley experience...should this not have given encouragement to Jesus? I say yes. But don't take my word for it, take His: "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43).
He received encouragement in the midst of His trial when He witnessed a fruit blossom before His very eyes - the very reason why He was being offered up. Because without death, there is no remission of sins; without His death, the thief's sins would not have been blotted out. The thief's repentance encouraged Him to endure the cross for the joy that was set before Him: that He would be with the thief in Paradise that very same day.
So is it wrong to need encouragement? And is needing encouragement the same as being in disbelief? No, and no. We need encouragement...especially when we are walking in the valleys, when we are down, when we are discouraged.
Let us pray that when we are down and needing encouragement, we have brothers and sisters who will not throw darts at us, rather will come down to where we are and strengthen us, just like the angel did with the Lord in the Garden; let us pray that when we grow weary in the work of the Kingdom, that we witness fruit that will encourage us to look ahead to the Joy set in heaven, like the thief was to the Lord Jesus when He was on the Cross. More importantly, let us pray that we be those friends who will encourage those who need encouragement and strengthen those who need strengthening. And above all, let us ask for forgiveness for the many times we, I, have shot darts at friends who were discouraged instead of lifting them up and encouraging them.