I called him one Sunday evening and told him that I really needed to talk. I admired my father-in-law and really wanted his advice. (He was a longtime minister and president of a small Bible college.) I was a young minister working with my first church and living in middle Tennessee. My in-laws lived about an hour away.
I don’t remember the circumstances. I don’t remember what was taking place at the time. I just remember that I was glad that I could talk with my father-in-law. He invited me to come to his office the next morning.
The next day, I sat down in his office and began talking. He listened intently and then asked me a few questions. One of the most helpful things he did was to remind me that I was not stuck or trapped and didn’t have to do this kind of work. He also reminded me of God’s love for me and his promises. There was no pressure from my father-in-law to handle all of this in a certain way. I found this to be very freeing.
If you have been a Christ-follower for any length of time, you probably know what it is to become discouraged. Discouragement is draining. It zaps you of any energy. Discouragement has a way of causing a person to lose hope.
I don’t become discouraged very often. Yet, I certainly know what it feels like and want to be aware of those situations in my life that are difficult and have the potential to become discouraging.
The following are some common issues that can become discouraging:
1. Loneliness and isolation. You may feel very lonely as a single or married person. You may feel lonely as a parent, not sure what to do regarding a situation with your child. You may feel lonely in your role as a minister, wishing there was someone who understood. Perhaps you are a graduate student. You have papers to write and books to read and you wonder if you will ever complete this work.
2. Financial stress. Perhaps you are in debt. You have a huge mortgage. You wonder what you were thinking when you bought your house. You wonder why you bought that new SUV. Perhaps you are facing a mountain of credit card debt, some of which may have come about due to impulsive buying.
3. Family issues. Perhaps you are deeply concerned about one of your children. This may be an adult child who has long been away from home but who still has your heart. You are concerned about some of his/her decisions. Or, perhaps you are concerned about your own marriage. Things just are not going well and you wonder whom you could talk with. Maybe one of your parents is dying. This is a deeply emotional time and you sometimes feel discouraged as you think about life without this person.
4. Church. You feel so disappointed. You feel let down over the behavior of a person you looked up to and admired. You feel betrayed and duped. You wonder how you will be able to trust anyone else.
5. Friends. You thought a certain family would stand by you as you went through a difficult time. Your child was in the hospital, and they never even called. Or perhaps your dad died and they never acknowledged your loss. Maybe you lost your job and some friends seemed to have pulled away from you instead of drawing near. Perhaps it has been difficult to make friends in the place where you live. You wish you could have close friends again.
The following are some suggestions that might be helpful when you feel discouraged:
1. Avoid spending too much time with negative, life-draining people when you are already discouraged. Often these people will only help to intensify your discouragement.
2. Look for godly counsel in someone who will both listen and yet offer some perspective.
3. Remember the calming assurance of God. Over and over he assures his people of his presence and provision. One example of this was his word to Joshua:
"No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you" (Joshua 1:5).
What have you found to be especially helpful when you are discouraged? What habits or practices have been particularly helpful?