I have known the antagonism of discouragement.
In early adulthood I was a newcomer to marriage and ministry, and I knew a crippling type of discouragement tied to a crisis of identity. This discouragement of identity was the doorkeeper to depression that had its roots in a prevailing self-loathing that historically had been my companion since my first memories.
I have also known the discouragement that comes from a response to life circumstance, a type of discontented discouragement. This wearisome traveling companion has been with me while waiting on God for children, leaving a beloved church family for a new city, and most recently I wrestled with discouraging discontentment after having a baby.
Our church plant was two-months-old, our son was two-months-old, and we had known for two months that our teenage foster daughter would be forever ours. God had answered prayers in his perfect timing. However, I found myself weary, restless and aching. My son required rigorous medical treatment for his first six months, my daughter was still adjusting to our family, and my husband was working full-time at a seminary and pastoring a new church plant.
In the midst of this season, I felt removed from ministry and isolated from relationships. My discontentment perpetuated my discouragement and crowded out thankfulness.
I have also known the day in and day out discouragement. Recently, I sat across a table from eyes filled with unfathomable pain and listened to the evil that had stolen from my friend. As I drove away contemplating this conversation I got a call from a detective, letting me know that a man who had hurt my adopted daughter had been successfully charged. If he went to prison he would be the fifth man to serve prison time for hurting my daughter. My heart cried out “how long?”
These days are most assuredly evil. In these moments I can feel taunted by the havoc and horror of the suffering that sin and Satan ensues.
Discouragement may present itself differently in different seasons, but it will come.
So what can we do when it comes?
Guard against Satan’s accusation
Do not allow discouragement to cause you to question your identity.
If you have a habit of not extending grace to yourself, doubting your worth in Christ, harboring self-loathing and fearing you are a failure, Satan can easily hijack your discouragement to assist in an identity crisis. Discouragement is a mental and emotional state of being. Your worthiness, through Christ, has been sealed by the Holy Spirit and is an unshakable eternal covenantal truth.
Seek fresh vision
Ask God to give you fresh vision when you find yourself in discontented discouragement.
Seek him for insight on what faithfulness looks like for you presently. Bow in humble submission to the realities of your season and wrestle your way to thankfulness. Do not allow rebellion and impatience to author your discouragement.
Refuge in the gospel
The fitness of your hope and your routine practice of choosing refuge in the gospel is your greatest defense against the day in and day out discouragement.
When I started a new fitness routine that required a large tire jump (it’s what you think, a huge tire that you jump up on), it was awkward and I wasn’t steady when I just stepped up on it. Then I could jump up with some assistance as I gained strength and confidence. Then I began to do it on my own; this involved psyching myself out, taking deep breaths, and much concentration. Now my muscles just know what to do. I built up the strength and agility. When we don’t fear what is frightening a muscle becomes stronger as we rightly apply the hope of the gospel to every situation.
Rest in Christ’s sufficiency
Resting in the sufficiency of Christ dismantles our discouragement of identity.
Allow the inadequacy you feel to produce a hyperawareness of Christ’s sufficiency.
In the past I was horrified and traumatized by my inadequacy. I feared what my inadequacy meant. I interpreted it to mean that I was not enough, a failure, or not good enough. I felt weak and I thought that was proof that all my self-doubt was indeed true.
The Old Testament Law illustrated humanity’s inability to attain holiness. Their inadequacy to reach perfection created an impossible situation that found its only answer in Calvary’s cross.
May our inadequacy meet its divine purpose as we heartily accept our weakness and then hurriedly move on to dwell and rest on the sufficiency of our Savior. Allow your inadequacy to herald you to the marvelous mystery of Christ in you!