What do you do when you feel discouraged?
(a) Devour a bowlful (nay, a gallon) of your favorite ice cream
(b) Take a long walk
(c) Unload on a friend
(d) Crank up your favorite praise and worship music
(e) Take a nap
(f) All of the above
(g) None of the above
Our means of dealing with discouragement varies because we’re all different. As for me, I’ll go for a walk to clear my brain. I may even treat myself to a Tim Horton’s iced cappuccino. But more often than not, I’ll pray something like, “God, you know how I’m feeling right now. Thank You that I’m not alone. You’re with me and will give me the wisdom and where-with-all to get through this situation. Keep my eyes focused on You and Your promises rather than on my cause for discouragement.” Then I “pull up my big girl pants” and forge ahead.
Different people do different things when discouragement strikes. Take a look at Elijah’s story in 1 Kings 19. He’d just experienced a landslide victory over the false god Baal. You’d think he’d feel like a world-conqueror now, but not so. His victory triggered a death threat from Queen Jezebel, and fear overwhelmed him. Personally, I think the guy was emotionally and physically spent from the battle with Baal’s false prophets; he couldn’t even think clearly at this point.
Elijah allowed Queen Jezebel’s threat to intimidate him. His discouragement level soared, and he ran away to who-knows-where. At one point he parted company with his servant and continued the journey alone. Verse 4 says, “Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.’”
Elijah’s discouragement topped the scale. What might he have done to prevent that from happening? Here are my thoughts…
- He might have refused to let Jezebel’s threat paralyze him by choosing to recall God’s mighty display of power in the battle against Baal.
- He might have kept company with his servant rather than isolating himself.
- He might have rested rather than traveling all day in the wilderness.
- He might have changed his prayer from “I’ve had enough, Lord. Take my life,” to “I’ve had enough, Lord. Please take over because I don’t feel I can go on.”
I realize it’s easy for me to analyze Elijah’s situation and say what he should or should not have done. While I don’t mean to pronounce judgment on him, I believe there are some good principles to learn from his experience. Like…when circumstances discourage us, let’s choose not to focus on them but on the character of God, the Overcomer. Let’s refuse to isolate ourselves. Let’s care for our well-being though proper rest, nutrition, and exercise (how often does discouragement set in because we’re run down?). And let’s tell God exactly how we feel but not stop there – let’s always turn our focus back to Him and His ability to see us through.
How about you? What do you do when you feel discouraged?
I think I over-analyze, and then I withdraw to my reading or blogging. I know when I go to the Bible and read the Psalms and journal my prayers, I usually feel encouraged, but sadly this isn’t my default action.
Good post! I’m enjoying reading your encouraging blog.
Thanks for your honesty, Aneta. We all respond to discouragement in different ways. Find what works most effectively for you and stick to it knowing that there might be exceptions.
Last fall I received a particularly discouraging letter. I was physically exhausted and just couldn’t deal with the content on my own. I phoned a friend, poured out my heart and cried, and then she prayed for me. Her words were just what I needed to hear on that occasion. Mostly, though, I get into the Word or go for walk and pray out loud.
Have a great day!