Hi Dear Readers,
I want to introduce you to my friend Susan Yates. She lives in the Northern Virginia area where I grew up and her husband pastors The Falls Church. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, author, speaker and a dear believer. She’s full of wisdom, so you’ll want to read on.
Susan was so gracious to write this encouraging post on overcoming discouragement. I know you’ll be encouraged:
Do you ever feel rocked by bad news? More-than-disappointed because things didn’t turn out the way you wanted? Has someone you relied on let you down? Did a relationship fail to develop as you had hoped, or the job you needed not come through? Have your small regrets grown into a big pile of discouragement? Has it been a miserable week, a long season of trials, or even just a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?”
If so, you are not alone. Disappointment is very real and all too common for each one of us. It can cause us to sink into the pit of discouragement and lose sight of the light. And as believers it’s easy to pile on the guilt that so often accompanies this. I shouldn’t feel this way. I should handle this better. I should trust Jesus more. Self-condemnation, though pervasive, is about as useful as piling big rocks on yourself when you’re already at the bottom of the pit.
When I was a little girl we often took vacations at the beach. I have a vivid memory of my Dad standing on the shore with his perfect newhairline hairstyle looking while we kids swam in the ocean. With hands on his hips, his baldhead gleaming in the sun and waves splashing his feet, he stood resolute as our lifeguard. We were his treasures and he was not about to let us get dragged out to sea by a rip current. At any moment he stood ready to dive in and yank us out of the deep water. He did not rescue us every time a wave knocked us flat – he knew we needed to right ourselves when that happened, but he was ever vigilant against unseen dangers.
In thinking about my grown-up disappointments I imagine the ocean. Choppy waves on the surface are normal. Winds come and go impacting the sea in a myriad of ways. You can be floating calmly one moment, then hit head-on by a huge wave the next minute. It’s both fun and scary. It’s a normal part of the life of the sea.
Disappointment is a normal part of our lives. Feeling deeply sad is not wrong. Jesus himself was grieved and anguished. He wept when Lazarus died even though he knew he would raise him. He suffered deep agony in the garden. Those he loved failed him. He understands our disappointments. He feels them with us. (Hebrews 2:14-16). We must not condemn ourselves for what is a God given emotion. (Rom 8:1).
These normal disappointments are like choppy waves on the ocean. They come and go. They hurt, but not for long. However if we let ourselves wallow too long in disappointment it becomes similar to succumbing to a dangerous rip current that can pull us further from shore into more treacherous water. You can’t see this current. You don’t know it’s coming until you realize it has taken you too far out. It can be subtle or it can come on suddenly and a child is not likely to recognize its danger. That’s why my Dad stood ready and alert. If we drifted too far, he waved us back and if he perceived we were in real danger he swam to grab us.
Recently I got caught in a rip current.
A project I had worked on for years was turned down. I was crushed. I felt personally rejected because my work had been rejected, and then on top of that I felt guilty for feeling so upset about it. This was not a matter of life and death. It was ‘just’ a rejection, but it hurt- a lot. Guilt and disappointment grew into a heavy blanket that weighed on me. I couldn’t move past it, and I wallowed in it for days. However, God saw my plight and He began to reveal to me that I was being “ripped” out into a dangerous place of deep discouragement. I had a choice to make. I could continue to chew over my disappointment and dwell on my discouragement or I could put my eyes back on Jesus.
Hebrews 12:2 came to mind. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
My feelings didn’t change immediately. I realized that I had exhausted myself trying to swim against the tide of self-pity. I needed Jesus to rescue me. So I made a simple choice to think about who He is instead of my own misery. I asked Him to rescue me. What did this look like? It meant repeating to myself throughout the day the character traits of God. He understands me; He loves me; He has a plan; He has been faithful in the past; He alone has the whole picture, etc. I have had to make this choice again and again, every day, and many times throughout the day.
As I’ve reflected on this experience, several things have helped me:
*Recognize that disappointment is a normal part of living in this world. All of us will experience it. (Even that person who looks like “she has it all together.” It’s a myth. She doesn’t.)
*Be alert to the dangers of moving from the normal waves of disappointment into the pull of a rip current- a dangerous trajectory which can take us far away from the safety of our Father. One of Satan’s greatest tools is that of discouragement. He uses it because it is so subtle.
*Resist becoming critical of a person who doesn’t understand how you feel, or respond in the way you want them to. Our enemy loves to nurture a critical spirit within our heart. God knows how you feel. (I almost threw a shoe at my husband because he said, ‘You’ll just have to trust Jesus.’ He wanted to comfort me but he just didn’t know how.)
*Restore your perspective. Go to a museum. Listen to praise music. Meet with someone and ask how God is working in his or her life. Hang out with folks who make you laugh. Do something for someone else.
*Ask God to reveal to you something new. One of the things God revealed to me was that I needed to ask myself, “Have I let my project become an idol?” Ouch. I could see my subtle drift in this direction.
*Spend time in the scriptures. God’s word is full of promises, full of power and never fails to speak to us if we let it. The Psalms are a great place to be as David is so honest.
*Make a list of the ways you have experienced God’s faithfulness in the past. This will build up your hope for the future.
*Remember that time heals. You may not feel better right away. Your circumstances might not change but you will change as you focus on God and allow Him to use this time in your life for your good and His glory.
*If you are experiencing discouragement that is deeper and longer lasting than the normal everyday stuff you would be wise to reach out for the support of others or a good counselor. Remember no pit is so deep that God is not deeper still.
The mental picture of my Dad on the beach intently watching over me ready to run to my rescue is a visible reminder of how much more my heavenly Father is watching over me and will come to my rescue.
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes who were too strong for me…He brought me out into a spacious place. He rescued me because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:16-19)