Recovering from Discouragement

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

Joshua had just been given the job of trying to fill Moses’s shoes. Anyone want that job? Joshua was assigned the task of leading the Hebrew people into the Promised Land. This land was flowing with milk and honey, but it was also filled with giants and armies. The Lord tells Joshua to be strong and courageous, to not be afraid and not be discouraged. The reason? God will be with them wherever they go.

And this reveals a secret to bouncing back from discouragement.

Have you ever hit the wall of discouragement? Maybe work became overwhelming. Or someone spoke a harsh word to you. Or you got into a fight with your spouse or family member or friend. Something was supposed to go right and instead it went horribly wrong.

Discouragement is like the brick wall that you don’t see coming. You’re just cruising along, enjoying life, and then you slam right into it unknowingly. Discouragement feels like a weight around your neck. It is demotivating and de-energizing.

So how do we recover from discouragement?

Sure, there are all the normal bits of advice. Exercise. Get outside. Go do something fun. Other people try to combat discouragement by using their favorite escape. They escape into video games, food, alcohol, etc. But I have found that these are only temporary in their relief.

Next time you feel discouraged, I want you to try this. Go to God in prayer. Describe to Him the situation that is so discouraging. Lay it all out. Then conclude with something like this: “Father, I feel discouraged right now, but I know You are with me. I know that I am Your son/daughter and You love me. I know what You say about me is true. And right now I need encouragement. Would You send me some encouragement today/this week?

That’s it! Ask God to encourage you. Have you ever done this? I know it sounds too simple, but, I am telling you, it is powerful! I have done this over and over again and watched as God brought encouragement to me in the most unique ways. After asking God to provide encouragement for me, I’ll get a random email or Facebook message. I’ll get what seems like a random word of encouragement from a source I wouldn’t expect. And I believe you will too.

The Lord commands us, “Do not be discouraged,” because He wants to provide encouragement for us. He doesn’t want us seeking our own methods of soothing our wounded soul. He doesn’t want us trying to escape life. He wants us returning to Him in our need and trusting that He is our ultimate provider of everything…even encouragement.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 

James 1:2-5, 17

End of the Pandemic

I had a dream last night that I was boarding a plane with my family and no one in the airport or boarding the plane had a mask on. It was such a weird feeling yet so freeing. I’m not claiming this dream was prophetic, but it was encouraging. In fact, you don’t need to be prophetic to see that this pandemic is coming to an end. Many news outlets aren’t talking about it yet because they don’t want to give people false hope. But if you look at the numbers, it is clear.

I want to encourage you today! The COVID numbers right now in my state (Maryland) are back to where they were at the beginning of June 2020. You remember June, right? We had been trapped inside all spring but in June all the COVID numbers started dropping. Things started opening back up. We all came out of our hibernation. Not only were the numbers good in June, but they kept getting better into July. That is where all the numbers are trending right now, and it’s only the end of February. That’s really good news!

The positivity rate in Maryland is now below 3.5% and trending downward. Vaccinations are up and continue to grow. Think of it this way, if the numbers in March 2021 look like June 2020, then we can assume April this year will match July of 2020. And if our numbers are that low in April, imagine how good May will be. Imagine how low these numbers will be as we start the summer!

Students in Baltimore County Schools are starting hybrid learning in March and April. They are reintroducing the kids in phases, some at the beginning of March, some at the end, and some at the beginning of April. Hybrid means that two days a week some students will be in schools learning in person. Just the psychological boost this will create for children and parents alike will be massive. Kids will be allowed to be kids again, at least in part.

All of this paints the same picture. The end of the pandemic is upon us. It may take a few months to fully arrive, but the beginning of the end is here. More and more people will continue to be vaccinated, especially our most vulnerable populations. COVID will be reduced to what we always wanted it to be, a common virus that we occasionally experience like the flu. This is cause for massive celebration! Be encouraged friend. Get your hopes up!

I will exalt you, Lord,
    for you lifted me out of the depths
    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
    and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:1-5

You’ve Got a Friend in Me

While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”

1 Samuel 23:15-17

We all need friends like Jonathan. David was in trouble as Saul was hunting him down. Jonathan came to encourage David, and he did it in the best possible way. He helped David “find strength in God.” And the way Jonathan did this was to remind David of the promise God had spoken over David’s life.

Too often when friends are trying to comfort and encourage someone, they do it poorly. Here are some common mistakes that are made:

  1. Messiah complex: sometimes a friend tries to encourage someone by being the savior in the situation. They point people to themselves rather than to the Lord. They shell out their advice rather than help the person hear from the Lord.
  2. Minimizing: sometimes a friend tries to convince someone that it’s really not that bad. The intention here is good but too often it diminishes the real struggle that the person is having.
  3. Self-comparison: sometimes a friend tries to encourage another by comparing it to something they went through. Eventually the conversation turns away from the friend in need to the friend trying to help. It becomes all about a past situation that may have little to do with the current one.

But notice what Jonathan does. Jonathan doesn’t try to be the savior but instead points David to the One who can save. Jonathan doesn’t minimize the danger that David is in. Jonathan doesn’t tell a story of his own. Instead, he helps David find strength in the Lord. He helps David focus on the Lord rather than on his terrible situation. He reminds David of God’s promises to him. He reminds David of the prophetic words spoken over his life. He declares God’s words about the future even though those words seem impossible in the present.

Jonathan also didn’t try to compete with David. Jonathan was fine being in second place. He knew God’s plan for David and was not so arrogant as to fight against God’s plans. Jonathan humbly accepted the truth about what the future held for him. He wasn’t interested in competing with his friend; he just wanted to encourage him through this hard time.

We need friends like this. We need to become friends like this. Next time we encourage a friend going through a hard time, we need to think about how we can help them find strength in God (rather than in us). Let’s listen for the Holy Spirit and what He has to say about the person and their future. The word of the Lord is better than any advice we could give. Declare the truth about who God says they are, regardless of the situation they face. And if God has spoken a big destiny over their life, we shouldn’t be afraid to say it and we shouldn’t try to compete with it. We’re called to humbly encourage our friend. After all, this isn’t about us.