Sound like a familiar, yet dreaded acquaintance? It's someone we have all met, but hope doesn't stay too long. Sometimes she out stays her welcome. Sometimes we hear her knocking at our door and we try our best not to answer it. Maybe if I ignore her she will go away. Let's hope so.
Truthfully we all have our fair share of time with discouragement. Maybe she is over visiting you now. Maybe she recently departed. Either way, she will probably come knocking at your door some time again, and maybe when you least expect it.
I have to admit, my method of handling this ill-mannered visitor is trying to avoid opening the door. I hear the knocking get louder and louder, but I find myself humming a song and then moving into boisterous singing as the banging at the door grows louder.
"If I don't think about all that is weighing me down maybe it won't actually affect me."
"If I don't dwell on it, it will go away."
"Think positive. Think positive."
(I saw the musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Saturday so I can whip that tune out easily!)
Finally the knocking at the door stops. I'm safe. Discouragement has left. I can heave a sigh of relief, collapse into the couch, and rest my eyes. But then I hear it. The sound of discouragement breathing in and out beside me. I open my eyes to see discouragement has found its way in, and has made herself quite comfortable on the couch beside me. And there I sit with discouragement. Now what do I do?
To be honest, I don't know how to deal with discouragement well. I try to ignore it and it doesn't go away. I try to think positive, but after the song is over discouragement is still looming. I am generally always in favor of dealing with things. If there is a conflict I would much rather deal with it rather than let it sit and fester. Easy? No, but it brings healing and restoration. But, how do I deal with discouragement?
Discouraged: verb: 1. To deprive of courage, hope, or confidence; dishearten; dispirit. 2. To obstruct by opposition or difficulty; hinder.
I think it is important to realize our feelings of discouragement has no bearing on God. He remains the same, but our feelings of courage, hope, and confidence may waver. We must understand that we have opposition, the devil. He wages war on our emotions and our minds. He wants to obstruct us. He wants to shift our focus onto our problems and disappointments and off of our all powerful God. I don't necessarily think discouragement makes us forget how strong and able God is, but it does make us lose sight of that fact.
For me, one of the most difficult aspects of discouragement is the overwhelming capacity of it. It feels like is begins with one thing, but then spreads to everything. It sucks you in. It overtakes you. One question leads to a thousand other questions, leaving you doubting it all. One speculation of "Will this work out," leads to, "Is all of this worth it?" And it happens so fast.
The more I think about it, the truer it becomes to me. Discouragement is really the enemy making us lose sight of God. We can't see Him. We can't see His purpose in it. We can't see Him working in it. We can't see what He can do with this mess of things. So the solution is to refocus.
Refocus on God. Take your focus off of the questions and problems and wonderings and refocus on Him. It may be a common expression among Christians, but it can't ever lose it's truth: But God. When our focus shifts, we can be thinking about all of the mishaps and mistakes and then we realize, but God can do anything. But God is with us. But God hasn't changed His mind. But God is working in it all. But God won't let me fall.
Refocus on God's track record. It always makes me feel so petty when I think about discouragement experienced in the Bible. Moses, Abraham, Joseph, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul..... did you think I forgot Job? That was discouragement. I often remind myself, you can't have a come back without a set back.
Refocus on what is true. I know, I know. I roll my eyes too when people tell me to find scripture to encourage me in discouraging times. But do it anyways.
As I write this article I can say I am working through this in real time. But in my experience God teaches us in real time. We learn principles and concepts through the Word and sermons and group studies, but it isn't until we face those said concepts in real time that we actually learn how to approach them, deal with them, and walk beyond them.
As hard for it is for me to say, yes, I am discouraged. As difficult as it is for me to admit that, I admit it! It doesn't mean I am giving up. It doesn't mean I have lost faith. It doesn't mean that I doubt God. It means I am feeling the opposition that is always there, and I need to feel God's hand. Opposition is always there. But because God's hand is always there too, holding us, protecting us, defending us, we simply don't always sense the reality of it. When we do sense the reality of the battle raging against us, it can be, well, discouraging.
Why do people have to disappoint me?
Why don't people care as much as I do?
Why don't people make the right choices?
Why do I have to sit back and watch people fail?
Why do people want to end their life?
Why can't things be easy for once?
This too will pass. Whatever the source of your discouragement, be encouraged. Find the encouragement you need whether that be a friend, a scripture to meditate on, a story from the Bible, a blog post ;)... Don't sit and sulk with this rude guest. Show discouragement the door. Reclaim your courage. Reclaim your hope. Reclaim your confidence. And refocus on the One who has said, "I care."