“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble” (Psalm 142:1-2).

Jill Briscoe describes a scene on the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the Norman conquest of England, that shows a bishop with his soldiers. A frightened soldier is running away from the battle towards the bishop’s tent. The tapestry shows the bishop using the sharp end of his staff to prod the soldier back to where he belongs. The caption reads, “The bishop encourages his soldier.” Briscoe admits that she has run away from the hard things in life and has felt the unmistakable prodding of the Good Shepherd’s crook. “This is how He ‘encourages’ me back into the midst of the battle to do my part.”

Sometimes we long for the comfort of the bishop’s tents when we face the battles that fill us with anxiety and fear or that exhaust and dishearten us. Sometimes we fear the consequences of what we’re called to do and want to shrink back, letting others take the heat. Moses was reluctant to obey God’s command to go back to Egypt and confront Pharaoh. The prophet Jeremiah reacted with similar apprehension when commanded to confront the authorities in Israel. He objected that he was only a child—a stance to which we can all relate when facing weighty challenges. Yet God told Jeremiah not to say he was too young, but to go and do what God had commanded. Jill Briscoe says we may be like Jeremiah, facing tough challenges, but that God’s compassions will never fail us. “They will be ‘new every morning,’” she says, “and great will be his faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). If things are right when we are on our knees, they will be right when we are on our feet.”

Adapted from The One Year Book of Encouragement