Thomas Edison was a hyperactive child, prone to distraction, he was deemed 'difficult' by his teacher. His mother quickly pulled him from school and taught him at home. At age 11, he showed a voracious appetite for knowledge, reading books on a wide range of subjects. In this wide-open curriculum Edison developed a process for self-education and learning independently that would serve him throughout his life. At age 12, Edison convinced his parents to let him sell newspapers to passengers along the Grand Trunk Railroad line. Exploiting his access to the news bulletins teletyped to the station office each day, Edison began publishing his own small newspaper, called the Grand Trunk Herald. The up-to-date articles were a hit with passengers. This was the first of what would become a long string of entrepreneurial ventures where he saw a need and capitalized on the opportunity.
Edison is most closely associated with the invention of the light bulb, although he held over 1000 patents for his different inventions. The idea of the light bulb had existed for some time but had not come to fruition. It is claimed that there were over 20 inventors of incandescent lamps prior to Edison’s version. What made Edison successful was his positive attitude, he didn’t give up. He knew he was on to something and was determined to find a solution. He is commonly quoted as saying; “ I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Even though Edison didn’t get on well at school - his hyperactivity would probably be labelled today as ADHD - his mother didn’t give up on him, taking him out of school and educating him herself. Thomas learned to become resilient from his mother’s encouragement and determined attitude.
Recently I have been reading about the return of the Jews from exile in Babylonia. This was a choice taken on by only a few spirited Jews who were willing to endure the hardships of returning to a devastated homeland and rebuilding the temple, the city and their lives. Most were now content with successful businesses and living good lives in Babylon. They were unwilling to make the uncomfortable journey into the unknown. The temple was rebuilt under Ezra’s guidance and the walls of the city of Jerusalem under Nehemiah. These were dangerous tasks and the people often came under attack from neighbouring provinces who did not want Jerusalem to be rebuilt. The rebuilding of the temple was stopped for 20 years because of constant assault. The discouraged Jews needed the prophesies of Haggai and Zechariah to motivate them to finish what they set out to do. It’s easy to become discouraged - things go wrong, people let us down, work gets tough, we don’t get the pay rise or recognition we feel we deserve; pain and ill health threaten to overwhelm us. It is easy to become de-motivated, disheartened, gloomy and depressed when things become difficult and don’t go the way we would like them to. We may become angry with our circumstances and project that anger onto our loved ones, our friends, colleagues or the unsuspecting lady at the supermarket checkout. Discouragement is hard to bear, at times excruciatingly painful. Mental Health services are overwhelmed with people who feel discouraged with their circumstances. There is no easy way out of discouragement, like the rebuilding of the Temple it is hard slog, one brick at a time, and the way will be different for every individual.
It took Edison numerous attempts to bring light out of the darkness. It took the Jews 4 years and 3 months to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. When it feels like we are walking in the darkest valley that is when the Lord’s presence can be felt the most strongly. The only hope we have as Christians is that the Lord is there with us in our discouragement. He has told us He will never leave us nor forsake us. Sometimes He uses other people to encourage us, just like Haggai and Zephaniah were used to encourage their own people. I once heard of a GP who refused to meet a patient’s demands for anti-depressant medication, prescribing instead that she go and find 3 people worse off than herself and help them. Whatever our circumstances we all need the kindness and wisdom of trusted people around us who can encourage us in our despair when we enter the darkest valleys. Why not determine today to be one of those people who encourage others? We may find that not only do we help other people to find light in the darkness but we are also able to climb out of the depths of our own dark valleys.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)