When he was 16 years old, Edward Steichen bought his first camera. He was so excited about his purchase that he went out that afternoon and used up every single one of the 50 exposures in the film.
The next day, Steichen took the film to get developed. Upon receiving his photos, he began to notice that for every one of them, the camera had malfunctioned and the photo didn’t turn out correctly. His father told him it was a poor showing. Young Edward was so discouraged and was ready to give up on his dream of being a photographer.
Discouragement can be devastating. And if you’re like many people I know, one of the biggest challenges you face is staying encouraged in your day-to-day life. With family challenges, health problems, and outright loneliness facing us every day, many are left wondering where the joy is that God has promised them.
That’s probably just how the prophet Elijah felt in 1 Kings 19 when Israel was ruled by the evil king Ahab and his wife, Jezebel. Many in Israel had turned from God and began to worship the false god, Baal. But Elijah stayed faithful and Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to tell him she planned to kill him. Elijah was terrified and ran for his life.
As he fled, Elijah spoke to God, saying,
“It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (19:4)
Elijah wanted to die. He finally reached a cave where he spoke to God again, saying,
“I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (19:14)
He thought he was totally alone. But then God said something that completely changed Elijah’s situation,
“Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
In other words, God told Elijah, Get up and get going… things are really 7,000 times better than you think they are!
This is so often true in our lives as well, isn’t it? We too often become discouraged and distraught by our circumstances, only to find out that they aren’t as bad as our imaginations have led us to believe. People care about us more than we think they do. And most importantly, we have a God who loves us and we’ll be with Him forever no matter what happens with our health!
As young Edward Steichen’s mother flipped through photo after distorted photo, she came across a beautiful picture of Edward’s sister. She insisted it was such a good photo that it compensated for the 49 failures. Edward was so encouraged by his mother that he stuck with his hobby and became one of the world’s most renowned photographers.
Don’t let your thoughts lead you down the path of perpetual discouragement. Find encouragement every day by remembering people really do care about you and, most importantly, your true identity is in Christ who loves you and will be with you forever.