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Four Quick & Easy Discouragement Busters

Ever have “one of those days”— one where you seemed hammered in every direction by things that seemed expressly designed to discourage you?

Sure, we all have had those days, where our spirits took a beating.

So, how do you respond when you get blindsided by discouraging thoughts and situations?

Well, you don’t need silly cliches. (Anyone remember “Don’t Worry, Be Happy“?)

You don’t need a 238 page doctoral dissertation on the causes of discouragement and how to overcome them.

But….. what would come in handy would be a few easy to remember truths that you can use to immediately shore up your battered spirit.  Something direct, to the point, to turn your mind away from what’s trying to seize control of your thoughts, and set yourself back on the road to both positive thoughts and actions.

So, the next time you are attacked by discouragement, just pull out these four quick and easy discouragement busters and turn yourself around!

#1 God Loves You

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1)

This is the most simple, yet most important discouragement buster in the universe– to focus your mind on the incredible fact of God’s love for you. I’ve written before that there is no greater reality in the universe than Christ & His love.  Every pain, hurt, nuisance, and discouragement fades away if we simply focus on God’s love.

As we focus on God’s love for us, our natural response is to respond in love to God. Telling God “I love you!” has tremendous power to lift your spirit out of discouragement.

#2 You Are God’s Poem

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
The Greek word for “workmanship” here is poiema. Yes, it’s the original word from where we get our English word poem.  As a child of God, you are His workmanship, His masterpiece, His poem of strength and beauty that He is crafting for eternity.

When we are discouraged, we think that things don’t matter, that we don’t matter, and we often stop taking care of ourselves and stop taking care of others.  We cease from the good works that God created us to walk in.  But the truth is that we do matter to God, that we are special in His sight, and that we can bask in the light of His love and care.  With this focus we can regain the strength to once again treat ourselves and others around us like the poiema of God.

#3 God Will Reward You for Your Faithfulness

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42)

When we get discouraged, one thing that frequently happens is we lose hope and give up on doing good. We think, “What’s the use?” That’s why both Jesus and Paul remind us that no good work goes unrewarded. Even if it seems like we are getting nowhere, we can still be confident that God is seeing our acts of love, kindness, and courage, and that He will pay us in full.

When you get discouraged, keep trying, keep giving, keep loving, keep doing good, looking to God’s sure reward.

#4 Heaven Is Your Home

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:1-4)

No matter how bleak our situation, we can take heart that every letdown, every pain, hurt, illness, heartbreak, or even death, is only temporary. This world, with all its discouragement, truly is not our home. God will one day remove every imperfection that could ever cause us to be discouraged, and our joy with Him will be unbroken, forever.

God loves you; you are His poem; He will reward your faithfulness; Heaven is your home. Encourage your heart with these wonderful truths today.

How to NOT Figure Life Out

 quite puzzling by cayusa via flickr

Life is pretty mixed up at times.  It’s easy to conclude that the only solution to the anxiety and frustration we feel is to somehow “figure life out.”  Until we find THE ANSWER to the question life is posing us, we often find no rest for our souls.

I remember twenty years ago, when I was vexed with not knowing whether I should ask a particular young woman out for a date.  I wanted to BE SURE I was making the “right” decision.  But try as I might, I couldn’t seem to come to an answer that I thought was definitive.

After several months drug by (yes, I was a sad case), I showed my roommate at the time an extensive logic table I had drawn up, showing the various advantages and disadvantages of deciding to ask this woman out vs. not ask her out vs. delaying a decision.  He looked at me with his “What planet did you come from?” expression and said, “JUST ASK HER OUT!”

I had tried to resolve my frustration at not being able to figure life out by, uh, trying to figure life out.  Well, all that got me then, and all it ever gets me now, is just more frustration.  There are some things that just can’t be figured out about life.  Sometimes you just have to live it out.

Today I read a quote from the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke:

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves … Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.    — ”Letters to a Young Poet”

Ask yourself: Is the thing troubling me really something that I can answer today?  If not, let it go, and spend your life living instead of trying to figure life out.

Why Did You Doubt?

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:28-32)

Whenever Jesus asked a question, He had a pretty good reason behind it.

This question was no different.  Peter was in big time trouble; he almost drowned. Jesus decided to do a little “debrief” of the situation:

“Why did you doubt?”

The implication was fairly obvious:  Peter didn’t have an acceptable answer.  Peter was in the presence of the all-powerful Son of God.  He was absolutely safe.  His doubt was that he really wasn’t sure whether God really had His act together, wasn’t sure that God really knew what He was doing as far as his life was concerned, just maybe would let something slip or really didn’t care for him that much.

“Why did you doubt?”

Of course, it’s easy to say one of two things:  (1) Oh, I would have more faith I wouldn’t have doubted or (2) No one could have had faith under those circumstances.

I rather think that both of those answers miss the mark. 

“Why did you doubt?”

I’ve never had to trust Jesus while walking on water.  But I’ve doubted Him in plenty of things of much less importance.  Is the test going to come out ok?  Will we find the right church?  Can we make the right decision about this?  Can I heal the relationship with this person?

“Why did you doubt?”

As a matter of fact, I’m not sure of anytime that I’ve blown it, anytime that I’ve gotten myself in trouble when I haven’t doubted God’s goodness, God’s love, and God’s plan and power.  It is doubt that causes me to choose my own way instead of His way.

“Why did you doubt?”

Jesus is asking me that question.  O Lord, grant me the grace to trust You enough so that question becomes a thing of the past.

Moving Beyond “Little Faith”

Four times in the book of Matthew Christ uses the term “little faith” to challenge the disciples to grow deeper in their spiritual walk. Each time He spoke to a different aspect of their(and our) life of faith:

1. Learning that Anxiety is Unnecessary

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious… Matthew 6:30-31 ESV

The first “little faith” lesson in Matthew is in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is speaking to His followers, people who by faith had come to realize that He held the words of life.

His message is that anxiety is unnecessary. Isn’t it interesting that the largest section of the Sermon on the Mount(besides the Lord’s prayer) is devoted to anxiety? And even though we all know that passage well, how well do we apply it every day? Just as Jesus described, we worry about food, about clothing, about everything. We aren’t sure what the future will hold, and so we worry.

Jesus gives us 3 keys in the passage to defeat anxiety. First is to remember how valuable we are to the Father(v. 26). Only when we are convinced of God’s boundless love for His children can we ever be free of anxiety. Second is to remind ourselves that God knows our needs(v. 32); He knows better than we know, and He alone has the power to ensure that our needs are met. Lastly, Christ instructs us to focus our lives on the needs of the Kingdom rather than our own needs(v.33). God “has our back”—the knowledge that He will provide our needs can free us from anxiety and free us to plunge forward to accomplish great things for His kingdom.

2. Dismissing Fear When We Follow Jesus

And when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but He was asleep. And they went and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And He said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Matthew 8:23-26 ESV

There is so much treasure to be mined from these few verses that are so familiar to us. First notice the two-fold faith of the disciples: First, they followed Jesus; they had the faith to want to stay close to Him. Second, they had faith that He could do something about the storm and so they cried out to Him.

So far, so good. So where was their faith lacking? Their cry for help was not borne out of calm and trusting dependency, but out of sheer desperation. Fear had gripped them, fear that, like their anxiety, was unnecessary. Fear is lack of complete trust in God for the present, while anxiety is lack of trust for the future. Both anxiety and fear can weaken and paralyze us from moving, physically and spiritually.

How can we dismiss fear from our life? By realizing “what sort of Man is this, that even winds and sea obey him”(v.27). We must let the truth of Christ’s infinite power grip us, and be convicted that as long as we are in the boat with Him, we have nothing to fear from any storm in our life.

3. Defeating Doubt in our Life

And Peter answered Him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31 ESV

Compared to most of us (and the rest of the disciples), Peter had great faith, not “little faith”. He was the only one who got out of the boat, in fact he is the only man in history whose faith was great enough that he walked on water.

So where did he fail? Just where I do too—with doubt. I have faith, I believe that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do, but when the wind is fierce, I look at it, I look at the intensity of my problem, my battle, my lot in life, and I take my eyes off Jesus. Anytime we are looking at any problem in our lives more than we are looking at Christ, doubt will come. And when doubt comes, we sink.

The answer to defeating doubt and keeping our head above the water? You already know the answer—to keep our eyes on Jesus.

4. Looking at life from God’s perspective rather than man’s

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves saing, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive?” Matthew 16:5-9 ESV

How often I am guilty of exactly this—like Elisha’s servant in 2 Kings 6, my eyes see the immediate situation, the armies arrayed against me, and my eyes are not open to the armies of God. That is the situation the disciples found themselves in—it was not simply misunderstanding Christ’s metaphor, it was their entire world view that took in only their human perspective and not God’s perspective.

Again, they had “little faith”—if they had no faith, they would not have been listening to Jesus at all. Their “little faith” propelled them to be with Jesus and listen to Him, but they were still having trouble understanding Him because their perspective was still rooted in their old nature.

How do we change our perspective? Jesus told them one way, to remember what things God had already done for them. When we bring to mind God’s hand, both in our lives personally, in the lives of the saints whose biographies we can read, and through the Scriptures, our spiritual eyes are opened, strengthened, refocused to see God’s hand, and to both walk in His way and to bring vision to others around us.