Four Ways to Overcome Discouragement
Note: The main points of this post were taken from a sermon by Jerald Witmer. I write them now, not because I have them down pat, but because I have immense need of them in my life.
It was going to be one of those perfect kind of days. I made some energetic scratches in my planner. Lunch – leftovers. Supper—leftovers. Sorry, family, no cooking today. I was going to get caught up on writing. I whisked the kitchen into shape, stacking clean cups, piling clean plates, and shoving them all into the cupboard. I grabbed the broom for a kitchen-floor touch-up, eager to get to my computer. And then. I. Remembered. I had invited some visitors to come for supper. I couldn’t serve leftovers to visitors! And my house would now have to be company-ready! I felt myself begin the slide on the Downward Spiral.
I have become far too acquainted with The Downward Spiral. My children misbehave again, my husband ignores my perceived needs, or someone makes a loaded comment, and I begin the descent from happy mamma to Mamma Bear. My thoughts run wild, making the problem bigger and bigger.
Discouragement is a natural reaction to difficult circumstances. When the twelve spies searched out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13, 14), instead of viewing their challenges through the lens of faith, ten of them became discouraged with the magnitude of the job ahead of them.
Discouragement exaggerates your problems. In the minds of the ten spies, the Canaanites dwarfed the Israelites to the size of grasshoppers.
Discouragement is contagious. Just as sickness spreads from the ill to the healthy, it’s easier to catch discouragement than optimism. Even though Joshua and Caleb insisted the land was conquerable, most Israelites fell into the discouragement trap.
Discouragement causes us to criticize others, especially leaders. After the children of Israel heard the spies’ discouraging report, they turned on Moses and Aaron and complained against them. It’s easy—and natural—to see the weaknesses in an existing plan or in someone’s leadership, but it’s much harder to come up with working solutions. Look at politics for all the examples you could wish for.
Discouragement, left unchecked, can have eternal consequences. The Israelites who became discouraged never made it to the Promised Land.
To overcome discouragement, choose to trust and believe God’s promises.
The three things I get most discouraged about are:
(1) when my housework piles up,
(2) when my children persist in naughtiness or foolishness in spite of efforts to train them, and
(3) when a neighbor continues to make bad choices, a youth seems to be struggling in their spiritual life, or Christians can’t get along.
I wrote down a list of promises for each of the areas where I get discouraged. Here are a few.
1) My housework
· Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.
· Isaiah 40:29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
· Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
2) My children
· Isaiah 54:13 All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.
· James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.
3) Unrepentant sinners or struggling saints
· 1 Cor 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always bounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
· James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
· John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.
Another way to deal with discouragement is to tell yourself the truth. Many times, the reason I’m discouraged is because I’ve thought about the problem until it’s much larger in my mind than in real life. Guessing at another’s motives will not solve anything.
When you’re discouraged, find someone else to encourage. Bake your husband’s favorite cookies, tell a friend how they’ve encouraged you, visit a neighbor.
And last of all, when you’re discouraged, give thanks.
That day I remembered I had invited visitors? As I returned to my planner, I saw the verse, “In everything give thanks.” I took a deep breath, summoned strength and gave it a try. “Thank you, God, that I already have enough lettuce cut up from last night for a salad, and that I already have dressing made. All I need to do is add toppings.” Ok, that wasn’t too hard. “Thank you, God, that I already have a large amount of chicken thawed. It will be great to use for oven-fried chicken.” Hey, my menu was starting to come together. What would go with oven-fried chicken and salad? Baked rice, of course! “Thank you, God, that I have a lot of leftover coffee. I can use it to make 1-2-3 coffee bars.” And there was a large bowl of watermelon already cut from the night before as well. Having company for supper suddenly didn’t seem like the drudgery it had just moments before. This was a huge victory for me since I had been struggling so much with being negative and wallowing in feelings of self-pity.
God does not wish for us to stay in the dumps. It takes faith and supernatural strength sometimes to make that first step heavenward instead of taking a slide on the Downward Spiral. But it is worth it. Just ask my husband and children.