Dealing With Discouragement
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:5
Open your newsfeed or your news source at any time these last few weeks and what we uncover feels heavy and hard. I know for me, I thought we had reached the other side of the pandemic, but Covid is still raging on, while earthquakes and evils in the world are wreaking havoc.
I guess we hoped that things would go back to “life as usual” but “life as usual” is just not the same – nor will it ever be. We continue to make our way through uncharted territory. Those who have walked through grief recovery call this the “new normal.” In my own journey through loss, I remember this new phase as messy and disorienting. It felt like I was learning to walk again. And many days left me feeling discouraged.
So what do we do with discouragement? What do we do when our soul feels heavy and life feels disappointing? How do we allow ourselves to feel this devastating emotion, yet to move through it, to learn from it?
The first step is found in the question posed by the psalmist above:
Turning inward and asking why we are feeling discouraged allows for honest and insightful reflection. We need to take time to chase that “why” all the way down to uncover its root cause. I did this recently by bringing my “why” question before God in prayer. What I uncovered was that I was discouraged about a new phase of my life that I entered into – right in the middle of the pandemic. To translate my feeling into words: I felt I was receiving more correction than encouragement in this uncharted territory in my life. For someone wired for positivity, this left me feeling defeated.
In spite of those feelings, however, I slowly began to gain insight into my discouragement. I was able to see everything in a different light. Through it all, I began to uncover how to combat those feelings of defeat and despair. You see, Jesus understands our feelings of defeat and despair on a very personal level, and we need look no further than to Him to help us when we are down.
Jesus is always there to help us with the why. And He is there to help us sort out our feelings, no matter how messy they seem.
Now that we have looked inward to ask why we are discouraged, we will focus on how we can look to God in the midst of discouragement.
Our next question in the midst of discouragement is to ask: Where?
Where is my hope?
Chasing that question down may lead us to discover what we have placed in the gap between our expectations and reality. Perhaps it is a hope in our own capabilities, a hope in other people to help us, a hope in the economy, or even a hope in an outcome to fix our situation or bring us happiness. In my case, I had placed my hope in trying to master my new role as a stepmom on my own.
My misplaced hope in things of this world left me missing the reality of a hope in Jesus that transcends any earthly accomplishment or disappointment.
One of my favorite Jesus encounters is in the gospel of John 20, verse15. Jesus finds Mary at the tomb after His resurrection. She doesn’t yet know it is Him and is weeping because His body is missing. He asks her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” And at that moment, Mary discovers that Jesus has risen. What amazing hope to replace her discouragement!
Still, feelings of discouragement may take some time to resolve. Mine certainly have. Yet in the midst of this season, I have been reminded over and over of God’s faithfulness to His followers. I have watched people place their faith in Jesus during a church service, I have received much needed words of encouragement from friends and family, and I have come across memories of prayers prayed long ago that God answered in His timing. He is faithful.
So bring your discouragement before the Lord. Wrestle and ask why. Honestly assess where your hope lies. And fix your eyes, regardless of how you feel, on Jesus. Look for how He responds.