Soldiers that volunteer for the selection course of the SAS are amongst the best the army has to offer – this even before they try out. The course lasts three weeks. Hundreds begin. Less than twenty make it. Why is it so hard? One reason is encouragement. Or rather the lack of encouragement.
When you go through the selection process for the SAS one thing you never receive is – encouragement. The SAS wants those with tough minds as well as tough bodies and hearts. Thus the entire course is about discouraging rather than encouraging. All participants who undergo selection are aware that the battle in the mind is the hardest. The staff encourage them to quit, to give up, to ‘pull the pin’. You are told you are NOT good enough so why bother. All this when you are close to breaking point, starving and physically exhausted. In this way the wheat is separated from the chaff and only the strong survive. Those are the ones the SAS wants. They don’t want the quitters.
In the real battlefield no one will be encouraging them. No one. Rather they will be tortured if caught. A far cry from encouragement. Thus the conditioning is for their own good. To toughen them up.
In the Christian life we see the exact same process occurring. The enemy doesn’t encourage us. He does everything in fact to discourage us. As Christians are hacked to pieces in Somalia for their faith or people give in to the temptations of the earth; the weak willed give up. When the sun comes out the plants perish (Mt 13:6). In contrast, however, when the going gets tough the tough get going. They dig in. It’s at such times our foundations are important. If we are built on anything but solid footings – we will fall. No one encouraged Christ as he hung on the cross, his cry of “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” highlights this.
No comforting hand was holding his in the desert alone for forty days. No one that is except Satan’s cunning illusions. Paul was alone when he bobbed like a cork at night at sea, clinging for his dear life on drift wood. At times such as these, fear, doubt and discouraging voices are all one hears. This is when the mentality ‘tough’ prevail.
Of course God is there, however; we need to believe He is in our darkest moments when the enemy discourages us the most. At those times the discouraged realise – “blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.