THE ANTIDOTE TO DISCOURAGEMENT
If I were to ask you today, "How are you?", would you say, "Fine," with a less than convincing tone?
I agree with what a colleague of mine would tell you. An "I'm fine" response is often a cover up—a polite way of saying, "I don't want to share the reality of what I'm feeling and what's going on and/or I don't think you really want to hear it."
In the off-chance you were to respond to the How are you? question with, "I'm discouraged.", I want you to know as in so many things; you're not alone.
Discouragement is a normal human response to changed or delayed plans and circumstances that seem to create never-ending struggles. Discouragement happens at work, school, in our homes, and communities. It happens anywhere there are people.
And maybe discouragement has shoved it's way in to gain a foothold especially now when our daily routines have been turned upside down, our expectations altered, and our relationships strained.
Here's the warning for when we let this happen. Ongoing feelings of discouragement can lead us to give up. Give up on our dreams, our relationships, goals, and on God's purpose for our lives. Even if we feel like it we don't deep down in our innermost being want to do that. God doesn't want us to do it either.
Now, for the good news! We don't have to be just 'fine'. There's a way...an antidote to crawling out of the pit of discouragement.
The Antidote for Discouragement
God is ever true to His promises.
1 Cor. 1:9 WNT
Before we get to the answer to our discouragement, we need to begin with the premise that God is God (we are not) and that he is true to his promises. In other words, our forward momentum away from discouragement and toward hope begins with believing God.
You might as well decide now. Do you really believe God?
If so, here are three remedies you can and should apply to your life to help you move from discouragement to hope.
1. Tell God how you feel. In a word—PRAY
Unable to bear children, Hannah, (1 Samuel 1) was extremely discouraged.
Not being able to give your husband a child was a disgrace for a woman in those days. A childless woman was a huge social embarrassment for her husband. Not surprisingly, they came up with a way to resolve the problem. The custom was for the wife to give a servant girl to her husband so she could then have his children. The households needed children to work and to take care of them in their old age.
Not surprisingly then, Hannah's husband took a second wife.
Scripture says this wife had children, but Hannah did not. To top off an already devastating situation, the new wife made fun of Hannah and her childlessness. Hannah was reduced to tears and was so discouraged she couldn't eat. Oh, how I empathize with her humiliation, sense of defeat, sadness, anger, hurt, and lack of control all broiling up in her gut, chest, throat, and pouring out her eyes.
What did Hannah do? She prayed.
In fact, she prayed in deep anguish and crying bitterly as she spoke to the Lord.
Sometimes, when we can't hold it in or hold our head up and fake it till we make it any longer we will finally allow our life-changing, heart-hurting pain to flow.
I've had enough trial and loss in my life to know deep anguish and bitter tears shared with the Lord. I know about faking it, holding it in, wearing a mask and pretending everything is just fine, too. Psychologist and counselors follow scripture's lead and will tell you that stuffing your true feelings and frustrations in an attempt to be fine isn't the answer.
Jesus knew this before our doctors and so he tells us to Come. Feel your feelings and share your pain with him. Come to him first and often. Come.
In your times of discouragement what's the first thing you do? Do you go to God and share what you're feeling?
2. Find Encouragement
Hanna was at the Tabernacle when she began to pray. The priest, Eli, saw her lips moving as she was crying out but he didn't hear her. This was upsetting to him. He thought she was drunk! She told him she was praying and about her pain and sadness.
You know what Eli did? He encouraged and blessed her.
Hanna didn't go looking for propping up from the priest but the Lord took her to the right place to find and receive strength and encouragement. For you and me, there are faithful friends, coaches, and pastors we can find to encourage and guide us. And scripture is at our fingertips to help us hear, digest, and speak truth in love, and transform our aching hearts.
When you're discouraged about your relationships, work, circumstances, and dreams where and to whom do you go to for support, guidance, and blessing?
3. Leave It With God
After Hannah prayed, told her story to Eli and received his blessing and encouragement, she thanked the priest and got up and went to eat. Scripture says, And she was no longer sad.
What I know of God from his word, my own experience, and from coaching others is that when we submit our lives, our dreams, and our hopes to him in loving obedience leaving them with him to do work his good and loving will we can trust he will do just that. God is for us (Romans 8:31) and he is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9) to bring transformation to us and our situation at the perfect time.
What discouraging thoughts, beliefs, or circumstances have you been unwilling to let go of in your mind and life so God can work?
I hope when you're feeling discouraged you'll remember to pray, seek encouragement and blessing, and then leave it all with God who is true to his promises.