The Storm of Discouragement

The outlook seems bright and promising. Good things are happening, creativity is flowing, love and unity are fueling the hard work taking place, things are moving forward. And then… BOOM. A small complaint. A negative charge is added to the atmosphere.

It’s a little jolt, but you overcome it and keep on going. More hard work, more creativity, more love and passion poured out, more progress. Then BOOM… another jolt, a louder shock this time- a complaint with criticism. With a little more difficulty, you overcome that charge and AGAIN get back to work, back on the path, back to what you are called to do. You keep on going. Until…

BOOM- misunderstanding…

BOOM-more criticism…

BOOM-failure….

This time, you stop and start questioning yourself. Am I making a difference? Is this all worth it?

Unexpected news, rejection, repeated failure, misunderstanding, negativity, complaints and criticism. Little by little these things add to a threatening and dangerous storm of discouragement. And when this cloud of negative charge is unleashed, the resulting damage can be insecurity, isolation, and immobilization. Discouragement is a loss of perception that leads to a loss of joy.

At one point, we will all experience discouragement. Being a Christian does not make us immune from it. So, how can we fight against the perception of discouragement and prevent it from stealing the joy from day, stifling our passions, or causing us to lose our enthusiasm for our callings?

  1. Recognize and repeat the truth.

Satan is a master of deception and disguise. When things aren’t going his way, he feels threatened and will do everything in his power to do something about it. Not only does he whisper lies of fear, he also uses tools of discouragement. He wants the truth clouded by our perception. This makes it even more important, that we open our Bibles, immerse ourselves with the Truth, and let the Word of God cut through the discouragement and allow it to encourage us. We need to read and reread, tell and retell, until the Word shocks us back to life and move us forward in our calling.

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4

   2. Pray

Sometimes things will not make sense. There will be no reason for the reaction, the hurtful comments, and the misunderstood intentions, but you can react by bringing it to Jesus. Bring all it- your discouragement, your honest feelings, your weakness, your hurts, your repentance, and lay it at His feet. Let Him answer you with His loving kindness and receive His grace and peace. He wants to tell you that you are wonderfully and fearfully made and He has equipped you for every good work. Let him make you bold in His strength and power. And find your confidence in Him.

“On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul” Psalm 138:3

     3. Do not give up.

More than anything, Satan wants to see us back down, give up, and immobilized. That’s more the reason to get up, keep pushing forward, and embrace our callings. Going through difficult situations, especially negative ones, makes us stronger. Though they are often not pleasant, new boldness and power in Christ comes out of these times. God is always thinking about others, and you never know how what you are going through now will end up helping someone else in the future. Press on!

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NIV)

     4. Measure obedience rather than success you can see.

Keep your eyes on YOUR lane, your calling, not your neighbor’s. It is so easy to get distracted by what others are doing or by what others may be thinking or saying. You are not responsible for their thoughts or actions, only yours. Be obedient, trust that the Lord has a plan, and stay the course.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

      5. Be thankful.

Discouragement wants to steal your joy! So fight back with gratitude! Gratitude changes perspective. Recognizing the things we are grateful for takes a conscious effort. It might be difficult at first, but start small, make a list of everyday blessings, recall answered prayers, read stories of people who persisted and overcame adversity.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Philippians 4:4

      6. Be a catalyst of encouragement, not a carrier of discouragement.

Negativity is highly contagious and highly destructive. It creates a poor environment for growth and promotes isolation. Unfortunately, a negative word speaks louder than a positive word. A little comment here, a little complaint there. A little venting and a little dissatisfaction wouldn’t hurt anything or anyone, right? Wrong! Sadly, I know this because I have been on both sides of the negativity fence (the giving and receiving.) When words leave our lips they are power-filled and once they are said, we cannot take them back.

We need more people to be catalysts of encouragement. To be the voices against negativity. We need people to be brave enough to stop gossip, reroute a conversation going the wrong way, and speak life instead of death by combating with the Truth. When we encourage people, we let them know that they are not alone and we are cheering them on. More importantly, the Bible tells us that we are to spur each other and encourage each other so we can continue to do good deeds in Christ’s name.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24(NIV)

The fight against discouragement is a very real battle. One that doesn’t always fully resolve overnight with six steps. There is pain and hurt feelings to work though. But I truly believe if we bring it all to Jesus and we cover each other in prayers and with sincere encouragement, collectively we will be a force to reckon and we will be able to confidently walk in our callings in Jesus’ name.

discourgement

Lessons From a Gorse Bush

gorse3

I have sat down to write for days but everything I write seems meaningless compared to my lengthy prayer list.  A list filled with situations riddled with suffering, grief and pain. Intercessory prayers for people close to my heart who are experiencing the hard reality of life. Stark reminders that life is precious and difficult.

My heart is also heavy and broken for my fellow Americans. We share a human condition, a need for love and live within the borders of a country that claims liberty and justice for all. Yet unbelievable, indescribable crimes continue to be committed against innocent people. Sometimes there are no words, no easy answers. When the future seems scary and the state of our soul seems hopeless, when our hearts are perplexed, discouraged, and despaired, there is something we can do. We can respond and our response will define us.

There is a spiky, flowering evergreen bush native to the coastlines and wastelands of western Europe called a gorse plant. These plants are masters of adapting to their environment. They can withstand sun, drought and even fire. Fire which may initially burn the plant down but not destroy it. Their stalks quickly regenerate and the heat of fire can stimulate their hard seed pods to pop open and begin new life.

Like the gorse bush, we must fearlessly continue to thrive in the environment we have been rooted in. We do not stop growing or blossoming because our surroundings have become rocky, stormy or fiery. Our children, the next generation, are watching how we respond to difficulties. We are modeling (sometimes unknowingly) what to say, how to act, where to turn, and how to pray. With the Lord’s help, we must build in them a sense of confidence and courage in Christ. Confidence in no matter what is happening, God is still in control. We must cultivate a place where they can draw from, a place of fertile faith and new hope, so when the fires of uncertainty and tragedy come they might feel burned but never destroyed.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9 (ESV)

The conifer leaves of the gorse bush are spiky and spiny. Over time, the leaves harden into long, sharp thorns. Yet out of these hardy stalks and pointy thorns comes life. In springtime, fuzzy little buds start to appear and eventually bloom into glorious yellow bursts. Their fragrant blossoms smell of sweet coconut attracting bees and animals to its thorny retreat. The plant becomes a safe haven for birds and animals who find protection among the spikes.

It can be hard to see good in terrible situations but I urge you to look beyond the spikes and spines to find small specks of yellow hope. Do not let times of uncertainty and suffering harden our hearts. Instead of getting caught up in disagreements, let’s find things we have in common. Trade arguments for prayers and disagreements for love.

You may have had to walk through a period of grief and suffering, I would encourage you to be brave and think back to how you felt during the process. Use memories and forgotten feelings as a catalyst of sympathy and empathy. Ask the Lord for a compassionate heart. Be a doer and a helper. Sometimes that may mean sitting in silence, holding the hand of a grieving person, and praying for them when they cannot find the words to pray for themselves. Be a safe haven for people. Invite them to come and see the true Hope. The One who knows more about selfless suffering than any person could ever experience and know. The only One who can bring true peace to our hearts.

 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33  (ESV)

 

 

So, let our responses be sweet smelling among the tough, hard moments of life. Model, pray, love, and believe.  Be patient and do not lose hope. For our responses now will define us later and pave a way for the next generation.

 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Romans 8:24-25 (ESV)