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Dealing with Discouragement

Everybody goes through times of discouragement. As a whole, part of the human predicament is feeling insecure about our choices in life. Did I take the right job? Did I buy a house to soon, or too late? Should I start a family? We have the unfortunate task of living in the present, and even the wisest of us can make choices that lead us into places we really don't want to be in.

Maybe right now, you are feeling discouraged about where you are in your life. I know that I personally am.

I have a wonderful family, a beautiful daughter, and an amazing wife. But over the past few years, I have felt the burden of trying to pursue personal goals, and coming up short with the resources to do so.   All in all, I am an unskilled, uneducated, almost thirty year old man, who feels like he has no idea what he is doing in life. The more I talk to people, the more I realize I am not alone. As we grow older, life becomes more complicated. I have a family that relies on me. I am simply not free to fulfill my own desires, and while I am OK with that, it sometimes gets me down. There a few things I need to remind myself, so I don't completely lose my mind.

I am a citizen of heaven. 

There is a reason it is called the Kingdom of God, and not the Kingdom of Matt. So often, as a Christian, I affirm that God is sovereign, and yet I struggled to accept where I am in my life. Don't get me wrong, Christian Living is not a passive pursuit - one cannot simply stand by and do nothing and see God's Kingdom of love and forgiveness established on this earth, but I have to accept the fact, that God can still use me to promote his message in the world - whether there are letteres beside my name or not. At the end of my life, I will be judged on whether I followed the commands of Christ, not whether I made a ton of money, experienced personal "happiness", or graduated at the top of my class. Virtue cannot be paid for and it cannot be educated into a person from the outside. Real and true virtue is being Christlike. Am I being faithful to Christ? Am I loving the person God joined me to through marriage with all my heart? Am I raising my precious gift of a daughter to be a loving human being? Am I making disciples? Am I helping the poor?

That is the wonderful thing of being a citizen of this great thing called the Kingdom of God - once you're apart of it, you are a part of something truly timeless, immensely valuable, and wonderfully good. God has been reminding me of these things recently, and I am content to wait on him.

Listen to encouragement, and avoid foolish criticism. 

Simply put, there are miserable human beings on this planet, there are also loving people determined to care for me, and challenge me. The pride filled man that I am, sometimes wants to lump the latter in with the former. Wisdom tells the difference. I need encouragement, but I also need challenging. There are people that will hurt you - don't give them the time of day. There motives are destruction. There twisted, insecure hearts only know how to hurt you. But when someone is motivated by love for you, they are a gift from God. I try with all my heart to love the people God has brought into my life, and encourage the spiritual leaders in my path. Let people build into you - we were not designed to make it through this life alone. Be a gentle friend, and allow others to befriend you. When we get discouraged, we tend to isolate ourselves. Community with others is fulfilling. One of Christ's greatest gifts is the Church - when we are serving it, and allowing it to serve us, it can become a powerhouse in combating discouragement.  

Envy leads to emptiness. Faith leads to fruit.

I don't consider myself an envious person. If I have to be honest, my heart is grieved when I hear about a person on the verge of finishing their education. You could tell me you won a signed Jimi Hendrix guitar and the lottery on the same day, and I can say without lying, that I would be able to celebrate with you - there wouldn't be a speck of envy in my heart. Tell me you're published in an academic journal and I will go to sleep that night feeling like a failure. I am extremely disappointed in myself when I comes to my education. I am the only person in my family without a degree. Most of them have more than one. A big fear of mine is putting my family into more financial debt. The cost of education is out of control. And while I am trying to pursue an academic career, the pace at which it is happening is heartbreakingly slow. The longer it takes, the more people pass me by.

I'm learning (slowly) that the envy in my heart only side tracks me from actually accomplishing my goal. Part of the reason I didn't go back to school this year, was because I was tired of telling people I was still in school. For some strange reason, I stopped moving forward completely and convinced myself it was better than moving at all! Part of that was envy. I was tired of hearing about so and so applying to graduate school - I told myself it wasn't me and so why bother?

I really hate this part of me - it shows a huge lack of faith in my life. I am admitting it to you, so you can avoid the same mistake as me. When we step out in faith, certain things might come with lightning speed, while others might work their way out at a snails pace. Do I really believe that God is using the circumstances in my life for my good and His glory? Fast or slow, God wants us to learn in the process, and become a mature Christlike human being in the end anyways does he not? In the end, all that matters is that we have faith - I need to stop worrying about other people, and not get sidetracked by the successes of other. I need to let God, the author of my faith, write His own story for my life, and obey His calling on my heart.

So while I may be discouraged for today, I need to trust the there are better times ahead. Like so much in life - the joy is just beyond the sorrow.


JD said…
Agreed all the way down the line. It's easy to get down on ourselves, but for every person you see supposedly "pulling ahead" of you, there are probably at least two that are falling behind. I see a lot of credit being used to make it seem like folks are big shots, I've also met a lot of supposedly learned folks who are completely useless other than doing that one specific thing the've been trained for. Slow and steady wins the race. Jack of all trades, master of none. :)

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