Conntecting the Dots

What Not To Do When Feeling Discouraged

What’s your tendency when feeling discouraged?

Do you dive into a pound of chocolate or a bag of potato chips? Maybe you go for a long walk or pour out your heart on paper in your journal. Perhaps you call a friend and tell her what’s happening in your life. Or maybe you withdraw and place yourself in solitary confinement.

I’ll be honest—I’ve done all of the above. Some of those methods work for me. They help me gain fresh perspective and clarity.

Some of them backfire. Take chips and chocolate, for instance. They taste good in the moment, but invariably I later regret indulging. Withdrawing from others and placing myself in solitary confinement doesn’t work well either.

Perhaps I should clarify that thought before going any further: Withdrawing from others for the sake of listening for God’s voice in light of  discouragement is a good thing. Perhaps discouragement is self-inflicted, and taking time to seek His guidance will show us where we need to change.

However, we might intentionally or unintentionally seek solitary confinement for the wrong reasons:

  • We believe others don’t care about our situation, so we need to figure it out on our own.
  • We subconsciously enjoy self-pity parties and find warped pleasure in wallowing in our misery.
  • We feel completely overwhelmed by our circumstances and don’t even know where to begin talking to someone about them.
  • We don’t want to bother anyone with our troubles because everyone has enough of their own.

Placing ourselves into solitary confinement for the wrong reasons when feeling discouraged puts us into a bad place emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Elijah made that mistake after Queen Jezebel issued a death threat (1 Kings 19:1-4). “Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 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. ..”

Why, I wonder, did Elijah leave his servant behind and wander into the wilderness alone when he needed a companion’s encouragement?  More than solitary confinement, he needed a helper, a friend, someone who could listen and perhaps offer a fresh perspective. Someone who could ensure he would drink enough water, eat properly, and get much-needed rest. Someone to pray with him and for him as he walked through the wilderness that day. Someone to speak truth into his life rather than allow him to focus on the negative. Instead, he chose to navigate his despair alone, and he ended up in a bad place emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Let’s take a lesson from Elijah’s life. Next time we feel discouraged, let’s not isolate ourselves from others unless we’re honestly seeking God’s input and need silent space to do so. Instead, let’s enlist others to pray for us. Let’s seek wise counsel. Let’s eat properly, get enough rest, and exercise our bodies so we can function well. Doing so will keep us heading the right direction and give us strength for the journey. Your thoughts?

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3 Responses to “What Not To Do When Feeling Discouraged”

  1. Stephanie

    I just read this in my devotions this morning! I’m definitely an “isolate-er”. I get so worried about what people will think of me if I say something stupid, or tell them how I really feel that I just avoid situations most of the time, especially if I’m already feeling sad or upset.

    But tomorrow I’m going to a new Bible study, and I think I’m looking forward to it even though I’m pretty nervous about it.

    • Grace

      Good for you, Stephanie, for being bold and going to the new Bible study. God created us for relationship with others, so living in isolation isn’t the best. Enjoy the study, Enjoy the friends you’ll make there. It’s possible that some of those women struggle with the same feelings you expressed. You’re not alone.


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