What are we to do when facing discouragement? Yesterday I started with crying out to God and to a helpful friend. I think that is fundamental. But there are some other thoughts that are worth throwing into the mix as well.
3. Keep pressing on. Discouragement is all about losing the courage to persevere. It can be so hard to move forward when it feels futile, or you feel opposed. Our minds will always and quickly justify whatever our hearts desire. “I don’t want to compete” or “Maybe this is time to move on”, etc. Maybe. But typically it is better to first, inasmuch as it depends on you, do whatever you can to make things right. Perhaps this is a season of spiritual attack. Or perhaps you are personally drained. It probably isn’t the season of life to make big life-changing decisions. The alternative is to press forward, eyes on the Lord, trusting Him to bring you through or make it clear if you actually are in a cul-de-sac. As a default, when times are tough, press on. Just be wary of doing so in your own strength.
4. Look for the bigger picture. It is natural that during times of discouragement we tend to look inwards and take our eyes off the Lord. One way to pursue the bigger picture is…
5. Don’t surrender, but do retreat. Not in the military sense, but go on a retreat. Perhaps a day in the woods. Maybe head for the coast. Turn off the phone. You and God. Pray. Plead. Pause. Pursue Him in the midst of everything and ask Him to help you see clearly in a time when your vision feels clouded. Listen to great chunks of Bible. If you’re married, don’t always just retreat alone, but share together the ministry journey you are called to together. And in retreat, don’t simply dwell on your own corner of the great mission field. Take some time to consider the greater things that God is doing (after all, it isn’t all about you and me!)
6. As you look outwards, consider giving. Huh? Ministers are always giving. I know. But it might be worth finding someone totally disconnected and serving them in some way. Take time to pray for a ministry you are only vaguely connected to. Give a financial gift anonymously to something or someone that isn’t part of your own sphere of influence. Go cut an elderly neighbour’s lawn. Perhaps it is an act of faith, or just recalibrating the fact that you are a servant and it is blessed to give. Somehow preaching and ministry can easily get complex, so that our self-giving in our own sphere grows entangled and confused. But in giving we reflect our most giving God. It might help.
Whether we are discouraged or not, all of us stand at a fork in the road. One way is the way of trusting God, the other is the way of trusting self. In times of victory, or in times of failure; in times of great hope, or in times of discouragement, the paths remain the same. In response to His self-giving, let’s give ourselves first to Christ, and then let Him lead us carefully on.