Help, I’m discouraged. What can I do?

Morning friend,

We did it. We launched our new Podcast, Relationship Truth: Unfiltered. I hope you have listened to the first few episodes and subscribed. This week I’m talking about what defines a relationship as healthy or unhealthy? To listen, click here.

I’d also love to hear from you regarding what topics would you like to see me talk about in this new podcast, and what questions would you like answered. We will also be inviting guests, like Pastor Chris Moles as well as having interviews with women who have been in the trenches of a destructive marriage and learned how to get safe, find greater sanity in the midst of the fog, and grow stronger in God. Please share your ideas and if you’d be interested in sharing your story, let us know.

Today’s Question: I am trying hard to follow God, I really am, but I feel like everything I do backfires. My husband’s been indifferent to me our whole marriage. My kids aren’t really following God and seem to side with him on just about everything. My pastor doesn’t feel I have grounds to leave and doesn’t want to get involved and I just can’t help but feel discouraged over my life, my family, and my faith. How do I keep from sinking into despair and trust God when everything is so hard and is going so wrong? 

Answer: You are not abnormal or weak or bad for feeling your feelings. Discouragement and disappointment are normal emotions we all experience even as Christians, but I’m so glad you are asking how you can make sure those debilitating emotions don’t get the best of you.

First, let me share four different reasons why we get discouraged and disappointed.

We get discouraged by people who let us down. For example, Job felt discouraged by his wife and friends. They didn’t get it. In the midst of his suffering and questioning God, his friends tried to be helpful but they ended up heaping more shame and blame on Job for his afflictions. We too can feel let down by our friends and family, our spouse, kids, and our pastor. They don’t understand what we’re going through or don’t offer to help as we wish they would. Our disappointment can turn to discouragement.

We get discouraged by life’s circumstances. Elijah, a prophet of God, became discouraged by life’s circumstances. Despite your persistent and fervent prayers, things haven’t turned out the way you hoped they would. Elijah too hoped that after all the miracles the Israelites saw performed on Mount Carmel, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel would repent and put God first but they did not. King Ahab and Jezebel were as stubborn and hard-hearted as always and Elijah felt discouraged, and exhausted, and told himself that his entire ministry was a waste (1 Kings 19).

We get discouraged with God. Jeremiah felt angry and disappointed with God when he believed God was against him. Because of that perspective, he temporarily lost hope in God (See Lamentations 3). The disciples too felt discouraged after Jesus was crucified before he rose from the dead. They said “We were hoping that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21) They couldn’t see the bigger picture and felt disappointed that Jesus did not fight for his kingdom.

We get discouraged with ourselves. Peter felt discouraged with himself when he realized that he wasn’t as courageous as he thought he was. Jesus had warned him that he would deny him but Peter’s pride kept him from seeing himself clearly (Matthew 26:31 and 74,75). We too can feel discouraged and even depressed when we fail to live up to our own or someone else’s expectations.

Discouragement happens, even to the strongest, bravest, and best people. What I want to share with you are five things you can do when you feel the black cloud of discouragement descending on your body, soul, and spirit. 

1. Be honest It does you no good to pretend you don’t feel what you feel.[Tweet “You can’t take action against a negative feeling until you first admit you have it.”] A strong Christian is not someone who never experiences negative feelings. It’s someone who has learned what to do with them when she has them and how to process them biblically and holistically. 

2. Prioritize taking care of your body. If your body isn’t working, your mind, emotions, and will are also weakened. I love how God tended to Elijah’s body first, before addressing anything else and provided ravens to feed him. Sometimes the circumstances of life drain us dry and we need to press pause, stop doing, and simply rest and refresh. Eat right. Exercise and make sure you are sleeping.  

3. Begin to notice and attend to your thought life.  Maturing as believers means we learn to think truthfully (Philippians 4:8) and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

All of us attempt to make sense of the things that happen in our lives. We try to figure out why they happen and what it all means. It’s crucial that we pay attention to what stories we are telling ourselves about ourselves, about others, about God, or a particular situation and whether or not those stories are actually true. For example, if you look at what Elijah was telling himself after he became discouraged, much of it was not true, yet because he thought it, it added to his misery (read 1 Kings 19). 

Jeremiah was also telling himself things about God that were not true but because his mind believed his version of reality instead of God’s, he lost his hope. Read through Lamentations 3. Notice in verse 21 Jeremiah begins to have a change of mind and heart. He says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.” When his thoughts changed his negative emotions also lifted even though his circumstances stayed the same.

4. Begin to train yourself to “see” life out of two lenses at the same time

When the apostle Paul counsels us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, (Romans 12:2), he is telling us that our mind needs to be trained to think differently than we have in the past. Part of this training is to learn to see both the temporal (life is hard) and the eternal (God has a purpose here) at the same time. 

Paul speaks honestly of his temporal pain when he says he is hard-pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. Yet, he did not become crushed, despairing, abandoned, or destroyed. Why not? Because he learned to firmly fix the eternal perspective on his spiritual eyes. He says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. …So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:8-18). 

Paul never minimized the pain of the temporal, yet discouragement didn’t win because he knew that God’s purposes were at work. (See Philippians 1:12-14 for another example).

5. Satan is tempting you to think God is not good but press in close to God

The truth is, life is hard, people do disappoint and hurt us and we don’t always understand God or his ways. The prophet Naham talks about a day of trouble and reminds us “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, he knows those who trust in him.” (Naham 1:7) If we’re not in close trusting relationship with God, life’s troubles can become unbearable. The psalmist cried out, “I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see God in the land of the living. (Psalm 27). 

One final tip. [Tweet “The best way to chase out a negative feeling is with another feeling.”] The Bible teaches us “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Gratitude is a powerful anecdote for discouragement. We may not be able to give God thanks for the difficult situation that we find ourselves in but you can learn to look for things you can be thankful for in the midst of it. Take time each day to look for the diamonds in the dirt. They are there. The Bible calls them the hidden treasures of darkness (Isaiah 45:3).

These strategies will not fix your marriage, your pastor, or your children, but they will change you, and at the end of the day, you are the only one you have any power to change.

Friend, when you are tempted to stay in discouragement, what have you done to pull yourself out?

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3 Comments

  1. JoAnn on June 15, 2022 at 10:10 am

    Excellent advice, Leslie. It does take some effort to turn our thoughts around, but when we “turn our eyes upon Jesus,” He changes us from the inside out.

    Note: in your next to last paragraph, the word you want is ANTIDOTE. Yes, “gratitude is a powerful antidote to discouragement.”

    • Leslie Vernick on June 15, 2022 at 7:11 pm

      Thanks for the edit. xoxo

  2. Sharon on June 17, 2022 at 10:17 am

    Such a good answer to a question so many of us struggle with. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I’ll be referring to this often!

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