Sunrise after freezing fog at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Fight discouragement with truth

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?

Sunrise after freezing fog at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise after freezing fog at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

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.

My office window

A refuge you can trust

One of the hallmarks of Kansas weather is storms. And not just your run of the mill thunderstorms. I’m talking monster tornado-spinning storms with hail like softballs and 80 mile per hour winds. In May, June, July-ish, any storm has the capability of becoming something terrifying. So that’s why many homes around here are built with basements. Because during a tornado, the basement is the safest place to be. Tornadoes pretty much wipe out everything on ground level, which is why mobile homes are so dangerous. But honestly, if you get a really strong tornado, it will destroy everything in its path. You can’t stop it, so you just have to get somewhere safe until it blows over.

Life has storms like that too, in a figurative sense. There are circumstances and situations in life that you can’t control, and the best option is just to hunker down somewhere safe and wait until the storm is over before you raise your head again.

Everyone needs a safe place, a refuge. And those places look different to different people. For some it’s in the companionship of a friend. For others, it’s a more public place. For me, it’s my home. My home, my office especially, isn’t the safest place during a Kansas storm because it’s on the second level, but during the storms of life, there’s no where else I’d rather be.

My office window

My office window - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

But what about the times when the storms you’re facing are too big to escape? What happens when circumstances and situations in your life have isolated you to the point where you can’t reach a place of refuge? It happens. I think it happens more often than we are willing to admit.

Well, for those points in our walk with Christ, we have 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.

This is one of David’s Psalms written while people were trying to kill him. He had nowhere to run. He had no safe place to be. He just had to keep moving and keep hiding and keep hoping that some day it would stop. But if you read the story of David on the run, you’ll notice that he doesn’t ever really stop and feel sorry for himself. He keeps moving. He keeps busy and active and focused on what he knew to be true — that God was in control and God would eventually work everything out. And when the really hard days came, David took refuge in God.

So how do we do that? Well, what makes a refuge safe? What allows us to feel safe in our refuges?

The answer is trust.

I trust that my storm shelter is going to protect me from a tornado. I trust that my house is a safe place for me to relax and be myself. Those of you who find refuge in friendships, you trust your friends. A refuge is a place you trust that will keep you safe and protect you from the distress of a storm in your life.

Trust is a tricky thing, though, because trust has to be earned. And if it’s ever lost, it’s hard to earn it back again. So maybe we don’t trust God because we feel like He let us down.

But did He really?

It’s inconvenient to go to my storm shelter. There are bugs. And it’s dark. But when the weather man says a storm is coming, he tells me to go there.

In our lives, God knows when trouble is coming. He knows the big picture, the big story, the whole thing from beginning to end. What would make you trust Him more? Would you trust Him more if He allows the trouble to come into your life without helping you prepare for it?

No. If He allowed difficult circumstances into our lives without helping us get ready first, then that would be reason to mistrust Him. But He doesn’t do that. He gives us only so much that we can handle with His help to start out with, and then when the real trouble comes, we’re ready.

He pushes us. He challenges us to grow and get stronger. Yes, a refuge is a place to hide. But you can’t stay there forever. Notice that David says that God has been his refuge. Not that God is or that God was. Has been. It indicates that he’s not hiding anymore.

A refuge is a safe place, but it should also be a place where you recharge your batteries so you can go back out into the fray and face life with fresh energy.

I trust God. I have for a long time, and I can say that He’s never let me down. He challenges me daily, though, and challenges aren’t easy. But they’re necessary if I want to keep growing. And on the days where I just need to be, He’s there. He understands. He’s always ready to comfort and heal and help when life has overwhelmed me. But He loves me too much and has too many plans for me to let me stay there.

Written from my parents’ house

Well, I’m back in Wichita. Made it safely with only an hour delay in Houston because they couldn’t find the flight crew. I had a good laugh about that, guessing that the flight crew didn’t want to come north either. Although, for that matter, it was freezing in Houston too. Around 28F. Poor Texans were all walking around bundled up like snowmen looking bewildered. It was kind of funny.

Mom and Dad picked me up at the airport, and we got back to their house. And it was cold and snowy and icy and dark, and I didn’t think it was wise to continue on home. So, I just stayed here. I’ll probably go home early today. I’m concerned about my big old farmhouse and a couple of straight days with lows in the subzeros.

So I’m getting ready to head to work in a few moments. The verse of the day today is wonderful. Just saying. In the brief moments I have, I won’t be able to really do it justice. That and if I really get into it, I’m going to be a red-eyed crying mess before I get to work and that’s probably not a good idea.

What I love about the Psalms is that they are simple. They are easy to understand and they are beautiful, encapsulating so much emotion in true, real poetry.

So, I’m going to be lazy today and not even really go into my thoughts on this verse. I’m just going to put it down because I don’t think I can say anything about it that it doesn’t say for itself.

Psalm 59:16

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.

I don’t know about all of you, but I desperately needed this today.

May it be as much of a blessing to you as it is to me.