How to Deal with Discouragement 101
Have you ever had to explain discouragement to someone?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Discouragement is NOT one of those things that need an explanation. When you tell someone you feel discouraged, they get it. We’ve all been there.
You may remember me mentioning before that my parents have been in ministry for as long as I can remember. I wrote about it in my post, Setting the Stage for an Audience of One. Ministry can be disheartening and I've seen my parents walk through many seasons of discouragement. I've also seen them walk right out of them.
For years I’ve heard my dad say, “God does not bring discouragement. If you are feeling discouraged, you can be sure that those feelings are not from God, but from your enemy (my paraphrase).”
I've had to remind myself of this truth over and over again. The feelings of discouragement may not go away with my declaration, but my heart is settled and God is glorified. The feelings eventually catch up...the little liars.
This is how we live for One. By meditating on scripture, we are focusing our attention on Jesus and what He says about our situation. Like your closest friend, He is moved by compassion for you. We see examples of this through the life of David- the man after God’s own heart.
David Shows Us Where to Take Our Discouragement
In 1 Samuel 31, David gives us a glimpse of where he takes his discouragement.
And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. 1 Samuel 30:6, ESV
In this portion of scripture, David is facing unbelievable heartache. He has returned home to find that his family and the family of his men have been taken captive. They’ve lost it all. This is more than your typical case of discouragement. David is broken: Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep (vs 4).
David went to the Lord and the Bible says, David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (vs 6). At first, I wondered what exactly that phrase meant, then I remembered the Psalms. Have we not seen David over and over pour out his heart to God?
In one of my favorite verses, David invites us to do the same!
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. Psalm 62:8, ESV
As we pour out our hearts to God, we can also focus on what we know to be True.
To focus on Truth we have to know Truth. Check out the verses at this end of this post for further study.
How Do You Pray When You Are Discouraged?
When we are discouraged, it’s difficult to think clearly. And it’s definitely hard to pray. It’s like our brains refuse to let go of the confusion. All we see is the fog of despair.
In these moments we have a couple of options.
1) We can intentionally stop and push past the fog, not that the fog disappears, but we can look past it. Then we are able to look to the Truth and find hope through the discouragement. And God is faithful to intervene.
2) We can simply cry out. If you're in too deep and seeing past the fog is not an option, you cry out to God in your disappear. And God is, also, faithful to intervene.
There’s no special technique for praying when you are discouraged. The trick is to simply pray. Ask for help. Ask God to show you that He is true to His Word. Call out to God even if it comes out sounding messy and...well, like someone who’s confused. You are, aren’t you? Tell 'im.
Remember Psalm 62:8? God is a refuge for you.
Your foggy brain won’t tell you this, but discouragement doesn’t last forever.
In the meantime, try these six steps.
6 Practical Steps to Take When You Are Discouraged
1. Talk To God About Your Struggles
Okay, so I’ve already touched on this. But here we go again. Talk to God! I promise you with all the sincerity I have that He wants to hear from you. There's comfort in just knowing He's listening.
2. Focus On The Truth
When you are fighting discouragement (and it is a fight), you need a good dose of reality- Truth. Nothing feels real, so what is real? Think back to what we read about David. He encouraged himself in the Lord. That’s what you have to do.
One way you can encourage yourself in the Lord is to write Bible verses on index cards and plaster them all over your house! I do this. Don’t believe me? Come for a visit and you’ll see it!
3. Call An Encouraging Friend
Discouragement can be overwhelming. Don’t try to walk this path alone. Do you have friends who will gladly encourage you? CALL THEM.
4. Go For A Walk
Vitamin D is your friend. Get outside and move your body. Sometimes this is all it takes to come out of a funk. When you see that big world (that you do not control), you will be reminded of Who is in control.
5. Be Grateful
Write down at least three things you are grateful for. Slowing down and gazing past the fog to the good things in your life changes your perspective.
6. Look Back at God’s Provision
He’s done it before and He will do it again. Think back to the places God has brought you from. Remember His goodness. Is He not still good?
Just Hang On
Sometimes discouragement is a wave you have to ride out. But like a sailor caught in a storm, plant your feet on the solid foundation of the boat (in your case, the Truth), find yourself something to hold on to (the Word), and ride out the storm.
Discouragement will come. We have an enemy who will ensure it. But don't let his tactics of warfare take you captive. Choose to throw off his attack and dance in the freedom you’ve given.
So, I’m curious to know what do you do when you feel discouraged? And what has God taught you through seasons of discouragement?
Verses for Further Study:
Psalm 29:10-11 ESV: The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!
Psalm 147:4-5 ESV: He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
Colossians 1:16-17 ESV: For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Romans 15:13 ESV: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 3:20 ESV: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,