Life is interesting, isn’t it? One moment all sunshine and flower filled days, and the next cold and icy, with storms rolling in. Living in New England we experience the truth of changing seasons. Through those seasons we all have goals, dreams and things we’re trying hard to accomplish. And in certain seasons of life, it can be difficult to keep moving forward. Especially in winter. When the days are cold and short and gray.
Overcoming criticism, tragedy, rejection, failure, misunderstanding, and negativity can be a battle. Little by little these things can easily create a looming storm cloud that follows you around, filling your days with discouragement. Enough to swallow you whole if you let it, making you feel useless, insecure and stuck. Unable to move forward. It’s jolting and can quickly make us lose focus of what our goal was in the first place.
Discouragement is a loss of perspective that leads to a loss of joy.
I think this is something we can all relate to, at one point or another. And being a Christian does not make us immune to it.
So, how can we fight against the storm of discouragement and prevent it from stealing the joy from our days, stifling our passions, and protect our enthusiasm for our callings?
- Recognize and repeat the truth.
Firstly, to combat lies and discouragement we need to immerse ourselves with the Truth, the Word of God. Only His truth can cut through the discouragement and allow it to encourage us. We need to read and reread, tell and retell, until the Word brings us back to life and moves us forward in our calling.
For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4
Sometimes (more often than we like) things will not make sense. There will be no reason for the reaction, the hurtful comments, and the misunderstood intentions, etc., but you can react by bringing it to Jesus. Bring all it- your discouragement, your honest feelings, your weakness, your hurts, your repentance, and lay it at His feet. Let Him answer you with His loving kindness and receive His grace and peace. He wants to tell you that you are wonderfully and fearfully made and He has equipped you for every good work. Let him make you bold in His strength and power. And find your confidence in Him.
“On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul,” Psalm 138:3
- Do not give up.
Our wily adversary, Satan, wants to see us back down and give up. But on the other hand our Heavenly Father wants us to persevere. He has called you. That’s all the more the reason to get up, keep pushing forward, and embrace our callings. Going through difficult situations, especially negative ones, really does make us stronger. New boldness and power in Christ comes out of these times. And even though you may not see it, you never know how or what you are going through will end up helping someone else persevere in the future. Press on!
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NIV)
- Measure obedience rather than success.
Keep your eyes on YOUR lane, your calling, not your neighbor’s. It is so easy to get distracted by what others are doing or by what others may be thinking or saying. You are not responsible for their thoughts or actions, only yours. Be obedient, trust that the Lord has a plan, and stay the course.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)
- Be thankful.
Discouragement wants to steal your joy! So fight back with gratitude! Gratitude changes perspective. Recognizing the things we are grateful for takes a conscious effort. It might be difficult at first, but start small, make a list of everyday blessings, recall answered prayers, read stories of people who persisted and overcame adversity.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
- Be a catalyst of encouragement, not a carrier of discouragement.
Negativity is highly contagious and highly destructive. Let me say that again, negativity is highly contagious and highly destructive. It creates a poor environment for growth and promotes isolation. Unfortunately, a negative word speaks louder than a positive word. A little comment here, a little complaint there. A little venting and a little dissatisfaction wouldn’t hurt anything or anyone, right? Wrong! Sadly, I know this because I have been on both sides of the negativity fence (the giving and receiving.) When words leave our lips they are power-filled and once they are said, we cannot take them back. Is that the environment we want to create for ourselves and our sisters?
We need more people to be catalysts of encouragement. To be the voices against negativity.
We need people to be brave enough to stop gossip, reroute a conversation going the wrong way, and speak life instead of death by combating with the Truth.
When we encourage people, we let them know that they are not alone and we are cheering them on. More importantly, the Bible tells us that we are to spur each other and encourage each other so we can continue to do good deeds in Christ’s name.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24(NIV)
The fight against discouragement is a very real battle. And it’s one that doesn’t always fully resolve overnight with six steps. This is simply meant to equip you to better combat the storm. At times, there is pain and hurt feelings to work though. And that’s okay.
But I truly believe if we bring it all to Jesus and we cover each other in prayer and give sincere encouragement, collectively we will be a force to be reckoned with!
So let’s take steps to encourage each other and ourselves to confidently walk in our callings in Jesus’ name.
written by Shanna
originally published on Embrace Enthusiasm
Edited for Sisterhood by B. Ayala