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Posts Tagged ‘Discouragement’

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“Be careful what you think,

because your thoughts run your life.”

–Proverbs 4:23, NCV

 

That would explain why worrisome thoughts can turn into paralyzing fear, pessimism into debilitating discouragement, and sadness into utter hopelessness.

No one wants to dwell in such misery.

But if a person is facing difficult circumstances, and she allows her thoughts to run amok on auto-pilot, she’s likely to slide downward into hyper negativity.  Climbing out is difficult.

“Snap out of it!” someone will say. Not very helpful.

“Look for the silver lining,” advises another. Easier said than done when tragedy strikes–and lingers.

“Spend some time in reflection.” That’s what one web site recommends, offering sixteen questions for a person to consider. Most of us don’t have time for that much introspection, nor the inclination, when we’re hurting.

So, how can we climb out of a miserable pit of despair?

By replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, especially scripture.

You see, our brains cannot focus on two things at once. Prove it to yourself by counting to ten and reciting John 3:16 at the same time. You’ll find you’re either counting or reciting, not both simultaneously.

We can apply the same strategy to negative thinking. At the first moment we realize our thoughts are headed in the wrong direction, we can confess it and ask God to help us renew our minds:

“Lord, I don’t want to think about this anymore.  I know it’s counter productive and does absolutely no good. Help me to refocus on what is noble and right, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8).”                            

Then we start singing a favorite praise song, listing all the reasons we can trust God in this situation, or reciting an uplifting scripture.

For a start, the bulleted quotes below highlight some common threads of negative thinking.  Following each is a positive scripture as rebuttal:

  • “There is no way this situation is going to work out.”

 Oh? “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, italics added).

  • “I can’t stand another day of this.”

Oh, yes, I can stand. I can put on the full armor of God, so that in this day of trouble, I may be able to stand my ground” (Ephesians 6:13).

 Restoration will come. “Though you, [God], have made me see troubles…you will restore my life again…you will again bring me up” (Psalm 71:20).

  • “I am never going to succeed.”  

Not true.  God says [He] will accomplish all [his] purposes (Isaiah 46:10b, italics added).  What greater success could there be than to accomplish the purpose of Almighty God?

  • “I have no idea how to proceed. Maybe I should just quit. This is just too hard.”

 I can pray as the author of Hebrews did: “May the God of peace…equip me with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in me what is pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

  • “Sometimes I can’t seem to do anything right. How can God use me?” 

I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).

If the bulleted comments in bold print are our focus, our lives will surely head in a downward direction toward discouragement and hopelessness.

If, on the other hand, we focus on the promises and positive affirmations of scripture, we head in an upward direction toward wholeness, productivity, and joy.

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“He enables [us] to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19)–above the doubts and uncertainties.

Focus determines direction.

*     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *     *

What scripture promise or affirmation lifts you up when circumstances try to pull you down?  Add your favorites in the Comments below!

(Photo credits:  www.facebook.com/wonwithoutaword; http://www.zazzle.com.)

 

 

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With the Sunday morning congregation, she sang enthusiastically and with conviction in her voice:

“Our God is greater, our God is stronger,

God you are higher than any other.

Our God is Healer, Awesome in Power,

Our God! Our God!”*

She raised her hands, palms upward, offering her song as an expression of trust.

Other inspiring songs followed. By the time she sat down, her spirit already felt strengthened and uplifted. Then came the encouraging prayer time and an empowering sermon.

“Thank you, Lord,” she breathed while exiting the sanctuary. “My heart overflows with joy. You are the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid” (Psalm 27:1)?

Then came Monday morning, with its hectic commute to work, dozens of emails to process, a meeting that went too long and accomplished little, a disturbing phone conversation with a disgruntled caller, a notice from the boss asking for the impossible, etc., etc.

In a matter of hours the storehouse of strength was depleted, her joy gone. And on the way home that afternoon, she whispered, “God, I don’t understand. One day I’m on a mountaintop of faith, the next I’m crawling around in the mud of discouragement!”

How do I know the experience of this woman? Because I am she.

There are times I am no better than the Israelites of Moses’ time, allowing frustration, stress, and self-pity to nibble away at my faith.

Just three days after their miraculous rescue at the Red Sea, the Israelites lost their trust in God. (At least they lasted three days!)

Yes, they had witnessed the ten plagues that chipped away at Pharaoh’s resolve to keep his slaves at all costs.  Yes, they had watched as God parted the waters of the sea so they could walk across on dry land. And they saw all Pharaoh’s horses and chariot-driving horsemen drown.

After four hundred years of slavery, the Israelites walked away from the shores of the Red Sea, a free people. And they had done nothing to make it happen. God did it all.

But by the third day, they were tired and very thirsty. They had been traveling through the Desert of Shur and had found no water. Finally they came to Marah where water flowed. But it was too bitter to drink.

Discouragement quickly gave way to complaining. The people railed against their leader, Moses. “What are we supposed to drink?” they cried.

Note what they did not do. They did not cry out to God. But Moses did. God showed him a piece of wood to throw in the bitter waters, and the water became sweet (Exodus 15:22-25).

Scripture tells us this experience at Marah was a test (v.25). Perhaps God wanted to show them that their actions and reactions did not yet back up their words–words they sang when God rescued the Israelites at the Red Sea: “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them” (Exodus 14:13).

Might miserable Mondays be a type of test for me?  Are you facing a test?  And how do we pass such tests?  Listed below are possible strategies.  We can:

  1. Pour out our hearts to God in total honesty as David did: “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2).  Honesty with God puts us in a humble frame of mind so he can help us.
  1. Turn our thoughts to expressions of praise and assurance. Again, that’s what David did. “But I trust in your unfailing love,” David affirmed in the same psalm. “My heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me” (vs. 5-6).  We cannot help but strengthen our faith when we meditate on the beautiful attributes of our God.
  1. Reaffirm that our Heavenly Father loves to bring good out of every circumstance (Romans 8:28).   We can look for the good in our lives instead of focusing on the negative.
  1. Resolve to be obedient to God’s Word. What he told the Israelites at Marah is true for us, too: “Listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes…I am the Lord, who heals you (Exodus 15:26). He is the One who will heal us of discouragement, frustration, and stress–as we follow his instructions.
  1. Take encouragement from the very next stop in the Israelites’ journey: Elim. “There were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water (v. 27)” We can remind ourselves that our personal Elims may very well be just around the corner!

What strategies help when you are faced with frustration, stress, or discouragement?  Please share your ideas/experiences in the Comment section below!

* From the chorus of Chris Tomlin’s song, “Our God” (2010).

(Art credit:  www.pinterest.com.)

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