Life has seasons, much like the weather, but many times I swear life’s seasons are more like the weather in Kansas–unpredictable, volatile, harsh, though somehow still beautiful and abundant and vast. You’ve heard the saying that it never just rains, it pours? Whoever said that probably lived in Kansas. Because in Kansas it never just rains; it storms. Or we don’t have a dry spell; we have legendary drought. Sort of like we don’t just get ice and snow; we get blizzards and thundersnow and freezing fog. With the weather here, it’s never just one thing and it’s never small, never just a slight inconvenience.
Life is like that too. Maybe not in every circumstance but especially recently. There can’t just be one thing wrong. Six things have to go wrong at once. There can’t just be one person upset. Ten people have to be upset at once. We can’t even have one calamity at a time; literally everything expensive that can possibly break or need replacement has to break or need replacing simultaneously. And most of the time I’m pretty good at keeping my chin up. Most of the time I can stay focused and remember that God has everything under control. But the rest of the time I just keep marching like a good little soldier, not really feeling it, just trying to put one foot in front of the other and not think about everything that’s going wrong.
Maybe it’s the weather. February usually starts to be pretty depressing because the real heart of winter sets in, which can certainly turn your perspective dark if you let it. But that’s not my problem today. Winter doesn’t bother me, not really. In all honesty, I’m just tired and I’m weary and as much as I don’t want to admit it, deep down inside, I’m extraordinarily discouraged. And much like every other emotional issue I ever have, I rarely face it; I bury it. I pretend it’s not there, and I keep marching forward and hope some day it will go away.
But is that the way we’re supposed to face discouragement? Ignore it? Deny it? Is that the “good Christian” thing to do?
Today’s verse is Psalm 59:16.
But as for me, I will sing about your power.
Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
For you have been my refuge,
a place of safety when I am in distress.
Discouragement is a strange thing. It’s not ostentatious like fear. It’s not sickening like jealousy. It doesn’t burn like anger. It just sort of creeps up on me and quietly makes a nest in my heart and whispers lies in my ear until I get used to hearing them and start believing them. So when life events seem to confirm what Discouragement tells me, it’s easier to accept the lies, whether they’re true or not.
Discouragement is dangerous. It’s a paralytic. Other feelings can spur you to action, but discouragement slows you down, feeds on your insecurity, and mocks your efforts to fight back. It’s that voice in the back of your head that says: “Of course, you failed. You always do.”
Well, no more.
Discouragement has been hovering around me for a long time, and I’ve really just been putting it off. I’m really good at living in denial, but denial doesn’t work with discouragement. That’s what discouragement needs. Deny that it exists so it has time to sink its claws into you and drain your life and hope and dreams away.
So how do you fight it? How do you uproot the discouragement that’s so deeply entrenched in your heart? How do you combat the lies and the black whispers? I believe it starts with finding a safe place. Not literally exactly. More figuratively.
The chief lie that discouragement tells you is that you’re alone and that nobody cares about your problems. Discouragement requires isolation so that no one can set you straight. The best way to fight discouragement is to find someone you trust, someone you love, someone who loves you enough to help you challenge the lies that have convinced you that you’ll always fail. And the best person to help you do that is God.
Yes, you need a friend who can take you by the shoulders and shake some sense into you. You need a friend who can hug you after they’ve told you brutal truth. You need a friend to make you laugh. But the best source for strength to fight discouragement comes from God because no one knows you like He does–and He loves you anyway.
So when you feel discouraged, start by talking to God about it. Tell Him. Tell Him what you’re feeling. And then–praise Him. Even if (especially if) you don’t feel like it, just start listing the awesome things about Him. Tell Him your troubles, your cares, your worries, and leave them with Him while you take a moment and remember who He is.
That’s the first step. Get your life in focus again. Don’t deny that you’re discouraged. Take it to God and let Him help you see what is true and what’s not. Then, hold to what’s true.