For the mom who had a rough day, who didn’t live up to her ideals, who blew it with her kids, who wasn’t what she should have been, who acted like the mother she vowed she’d never be,
For the college aged girl who is struggling to figure out life, who can’t change her circumstances, who is just beginning her journey but is already afraid, can’t see light at the end of the tunnel, wondering if life is supposed to be this hard,
For anyone who is feeling the weight of discouragement, the tension between the hurt you are feeling and the joy that you know you should have, I want to offer some hope that has helped me when discouragement seems to be the emotion of the day, week, month.
I know it seems that discouragement puts you in limbo, but it actually can serve a purpose. Discouragement can be a catalyst to drive you to God.
Here are a few things that have helped me:
1. See where you’re stuck. Often it’s on the wrong things.
My thoughts are “sticky” and often get stuck on the negative instead of thinking Truth. Satan sends condemning thoughts:
You’re house is such a mess. You’ve failed your kids. You’re so fat. You’ll never have it together.
Sometimes discouraging thoughts come from within: This will never change. She’ll always be a problem person. He’ll never change.
Grace says that I am not the sum total of what I did on my worst day. I am whole in Christ.
If I can change my situation in a godly way, then of course I should. But if I can’t, I need to make a choice. I can dwell on the negative and continue to spiral downward or I can take action and lasso my rouge thoughts. Take your thoughts to scripture and see if they line up with truth.
2. You Live Grounded.
Just like a boat has an anchor that keeps it from going adrift when storms come and the tides change, we need to be anchored in the truth about what we know about God. Grounded in grace, attached to the Vine, abiding in Him.
I’ve found this to be true especially in times of discouragement. Trials come, waves crash, and the water can be choking, but no matter how crazy the storm gets, we can only drift so far because we are secure in Christ.
Although my life may seem to be shifting out of control when I’m anchored in God’s word and my communion with Him is strong and focused, the storm almost doesn’t matter.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea: Though the waters thereof roar and be troubles, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” Ps. 46: 1-3
3. Live With Expectant Hope
Even when things are unplanned and unpleasant and I feel the weight of the disappointment, I have hope. Like the Psalmist in Psalm 42 who laments his problems, but then reminds himself “Why are thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God. For I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.”, we, too can lament our problems, but then realize that we also have hope.
Our primary hope is God.
We pursue many things feverishly. The psalmist said that he pursued God and desired God like a thirsty deer after the chase of the hunt pants for cold water.
Our trials can drive us to thirst for God or to despair.
In “down” times, I have to ask myself, “Why are you so sad? What’s been taken from you that you love so much?” In other words, “Sarah, what are you hoping in? Why are you living like God is dead and not on the throne?”
What’s the remedy for my cast down soul? Hope in God alone.
When everything else has been stripped away,
When the thing you worked your whole life for crumbles before your eyes,
When the worst thing you can imagine becomes your reality,
you will still have God and He can never be taken from you.
This life is a moment, but my relationship with God is for eternity, so whether I feel like it or not, I must hope in God alone.
4. Re-train and renew your mind to remember the truth.
We are inundated with media and messages and they can really weigh on our soul without us even knowing it. The nightly news, the politics on Facebook, wars, killing, the inhumanity and cruelty we see on a daily basis can really discourage us. Negativity breeds negativity in the mind. We need to be super careful what we feed it.
This is why meditating on scripture is crucial for me. I can’t read the Word and walk away from it, because it won’t “stick” in my mind. I have to put it in front of my face. My friend Joy writes a verse on her hand so she can see it while she works. Do what you have to do to remember God’s word.
5. Walk with hopeful expectation.
Even though things are not what I expected right now, I can have confidence in God. I know that God is with me, and is working this situation out for my good and His glory. Maybe I won’t get relief from my circumstances, but God is making me holy in the process of submitting to His will. He’s breaking my stubbornness and selfishness, showing me that my self-reliance was really living like an orphan when I had loving Heavenly Father. Not one detail of my life is out of control or overlooked.
I know we live in a feelings oriented culture where if you do something when you don’t feel like it, it’s termed unauthentic or hypocritical.
But the Christian is reminded to “train yourself to godliness.” 1 Tim. 4:7b
Just like I don’t always feel like washing my dishes or saving money or dieting, I do it because it’s right. And,
whether I feel like living under the authority of the Word of God or not on a particular day, I train myself to do it because it’s right.
In times of trouble, seek God’s face.
When we can’t change our circumstances we should seek to change our attitude.
Hang in there, friend. Your God is bigger than this and He won’t fail you.