Do you get discouraged? What makes you discouraged? What do you do when you are discouraged? The answers for most of us to these questions are connected. If I get discouraged when I fail at something, my solution might be to try harder. For some it might mean giving up. If I get discouraged when life is out of control, I might respond by trying to organize things and bring things back into some type of order. If I am discouraged because I am overwhelmed, I might retreat into coping behaviors. If I am discouraged by negative opinions of others, I might lash out in anger or seek out people who will encourage me.
The responses we have would be wide and varied. I wonder if there are any principles that could help us the next time we face some level of discouragement. I did some looking recently at what the Scriptures say about discouragement. Check it out below:
See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 1:21)
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. (Joshua 8:1)
David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. (1 Chronicles 28:20)
He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. (2 Chronicles 20:15)
2 Chronicles 20:17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’ ”
There are more but you get the idea. Whenever I do this, I look to see if there is a theme or common thread that runs through statements like this. In this particular case, I see two.
1. The instruction to not be discouraged is almost always tied to God’s presence. People are told to not be discouraged because God is “with” them. His presence makes a difference. What does that look like? How does God’s presence help with discouragement? I wonder if it is because discouragement is so closely tied to unmet expectations. Things are not turning out the way I thought. My goals are not being met. People are not thinking of me what I wanted them to. Discouragement comes when my focus is on those unmet expectations. If I do that, I can either work harder to overcome, shut down and give up altogether, or somewhere in between.
When I realize that God is with me and that he is not absent it changes things. When I shift my focus to what he is like and that his opinion of me is not determined by whether or not my expectations are accomplished,
2. The instruction to not be discouraged is tied to God’s power. We hear over and over that the reason a person does not need to be discouraged is because God has it under control. His power is at work. It is his task. It is almost like God continues to tell people that they need to remember that they DON’T have things under control but God does. Much of our discouragement seems to come when we take responsibility for things. We own the results of everything we are trying to do, even when we simply don’t have any control over it. No matter what I do, I am never the only one who dictates whether something is successful or not. I can never force people to see me a certain way. Instead, God invites people to simply be faithful, do what he tells them to do, and then let God do his thing.
I wonder if we did this more frequently if our bouts of discouragement might be shortened and lessened? Now, when I get discouraged, I reminder myself. God is with me AND God has got this. Take a deep breath and relax. I wish it were always easy, but it’s not. But I choose to believe what God has said. May you do the same.
This is my first week back after being gone from my job at Hope Chapel for 10 weeks on a Sabbatical. During that time, I was able to:
This whole Sabbatical idea was new for me. I am a “doer” and I don’t slow down easily. As I went into the Sabbatical I had many questions. Would I get bored? What would I feel? What would I learn? I had plans for different things but no idea on how they would all play out. How would God speak? Would he even speak? Then there were the more insidious thoughts and questions. How will I make sure I don’t waste this time? What will people think of me taking this Sabbatical? What can I do to prove that I did all that I was supposed to do? Whew . . . I think there is a reason most Sabbaticals are supposed to last at least 2 months. It takes a while simply to process a lot of this stuff.
While there is way too much to address in one blog, let me share with you some of things that God impressed on me while I was away.
There is more, and I am sure that I will be unpacking a lot of what I learned in the months ahead. For now though, I am supremely grateful for this time. I appreciate my church that allowed me this privilege and I am most all thankful that God continues to pursue me from his love for me.
C'mon, it will be fun! The famous last words that are uttered before any new endeavor. We use them all the time.
To our 6 year old: “Let’s ride that roller coaster. It will be fun.”
To our wife: “Let’s take that 10 mile hike on vacation. It will be fun.”
To our friends: “It’s only 95 degrees out. Let’s go golfing. It will be fun.”
Sometimes we are right. And sometimes, we are way off. Most of us have stories of both.
In January of this year, my wife and I decided, along with my son and daughter-in-law, to try our hand at flipping a house. After all, how hard could it be? You buy it cheap. You fix it up. You sell it. Sure it will be work. But let’s do it . . . it will be fun! It has now been 5 months and like most things, we were right – mostly.
The process of stripping a house down to the bare bones, of enduring the dirt, dust, insects, rodents and nasty things you don’t want to touch without rubber gloves and a face mask was illuminating.
Having to design new systems and rooms to take advantage of limited space was an exercise in creative engineering.
There was the drudgery of working at the house week after week, with seemingly little progress. There was the joy of suddenly seeing things come together just like we planned. There was the frustration of the unexpected, the unseen things that complicated almost every little job. There was the satisfaction of seeing a difficult part of the job turn out well. And through all of it, the enjoyment of working to accomplish a task alongside people you love.
We are at the end of the process, and people keep asking if we are going to do it again. Honestly, I don’t know. I want to finish this one well, and then take a look back and evaluate.
Regardless of what we do, I am left thinking how much this process of flipping a house reflects life. There are frustrations and excitement. Joys and disappointments. A sense of accomplishment and sometimes just plain old fatigue. We learn new things and practice old skills. We teach and learn from each other and enjoy doing life together. We accomplish tasks and enjoy moments. What makes it worth while is not simply achieving the end goal, but being fully immersed in the process.
I believe that is what Jesus meant when he said that he is working in us to act according to his good pleasure. He is never finished with us. He is always working. He is building something amazing. And all he asks is for us to cooperate with him and enjoy the process. Sometimes it is fun. Sometimes not. It will always be worth it.
Weldon Lemke has been leading Hope Chapel since 2009 with a passion to see people come to know God and grow to maturity in Him.