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3 Ways to Stay Discouraged

by Lark Kelsey (guest author)
Have you been afraid or discouraged lately? What attempts did you make to find comfort and peace? For me, there are three tactics I try, but only a fourth one that works in the long run.

1. Ignore
When a problem starts eating away on my mind where do I turn? The Bible? No, silly! I look at my phone. That is sure to help, right? Scrolling through social media and checking the news puts my focus on something else for a minute. Or, if not my phone, sometimes I read a book, get a snack, take a nap, or throw myself into a totally unrelated project…anything to keep me from dealing with what is actually bothering me. A distracted mind is a stalling technique. It allows me to numb myself and procrastinate dealing with the pain. If I just put my head in the sand maybe it will all go away.

2. Control
Sometimes I have the opposite reaction and it is ALL I can think about. I frenetically pace back and forth going over the minute details in my mind or rant to my husband or friend. Stewing accomplishes nothing other than rehashing my fear or discouragement. I do not feel any better, but I am fooled temporarily by working to maintain the illusion of control.

3. Minimize
I am an optimistic person by nature, so I tend to see the glass as half full. Sometimes when fear and discouragement strike, I will try to just think happy thoughts. For petty annoyances this is sometimes helpful, but when I try to stuff emotions down the small things add up and I erupt like a pressure cooker.
When I am facing real fears and discouragements these three tactics fall short of true relief.

A Better Way
On the edge of the promised land, Joshua was facing real enemies. I wonder what emotions he had as he prepared to enter the land 40 years after his original scouting trip. 40 years is a long time to stew in disappointment with a group of people who wouldn’t listen to you in the first place.

God gives him these commands. Notice they are not suggestions:
Be strong and courageous. Remember my word. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged….

How could Joshua not feel fear and discouragement?
…For the Lord is with you wherever you go.

I was feeling down and alone the other day and I remembered the command: do not be discouraged. I wondered, “How in the world am I just supposed to not feel something?” As I thought about Joshua and how God’s presence gave him courage over fear, I realized God’s presence also gives us hope in discouragement. That initial feeling of fear or discouragement is a natural reaction to our circumstances and is like a warning on the car’s dash to get our attention. At that point we have a choice: are we going to feed that feeling by catastrophizing the situation, ignoring or minimizing it, or do we turn and rest in the Lord? When we focus our mind on the truth our emotions will follow. What we allow our mind to simmer on will determine what we feel. So, while it is true that emotions can take us by surprise, our overall emotional peace is determined by our mind.

I chose that day to remember that even though I felt alone, the truth is I am not alone. Even though I momentarily felt discouraged, reminding myself that He was with me reassured my heart that even if the whole world abandoned me, He would not.

When we stand confident that our God is with us amid our challenges, we glorify Him. If I glibly act like my problems are not that bad, I steal the opportunity to give him glory for triumphing over my circumstances. I can fret and wallow in my discouragement or I can relinquish the control I never really had. If I distract myself from my troubles, I am missing an opportunity to display his goodness. Once I choose to rest in the truth, I faithfully proclaim that his presence makes a difference.

Let us choose this day to be strong and courageous, facing our battles knowing that he is with us.