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Posts Tagged ‘Discouragement’

Oh—you’ve never heard of yabbits? Not to worry. If I change the spelling and offer a few examples, you’ll instantly understand. Yabbits are the “Yeah, but . . .” statements that create havoc in our minds, much like rabbits create havoc in a backyard garden.

Who–ME?

For example:

  • YEAH, I know worry doesn’t help . . . BUT I can’t seem to shut it off.
  • YEAH, I know the Bible teaches that God is good . . . BUT what about all the evil in the world?
  • YEAH, I know I’m supposed to forgive . . . BUT this hurts!
  • YEAH, I know Romans 8:28 about all things working together for good . . . BUT I’m not seeing it in this situation, and it’s been going on a long time.
  • YEAH, I know some Christians seem to live in a bubble of joy . . . BUT I’m not feeling it!

These yabbits have names: Distrust, Disbelief, Disappointment, Discouragement, and Discontentment. They’re almost as challenging to keep out of our minds as rabbits are from our gardens.

Of course, the first line of defense against rabbits is a strong, deeply-implanted fence. For yabbits, that fence is scripture—promises and truths deeply implanted in our spirits, that can stand guard when those pesky Yeah-but statements come to devour our faith. Scriptures such as these:

For those times when DISTRUST wants to nibble at your faith, turn to Psalm 9:9-10.

Keep out the yabbits of DISBELIEF with Mark 9:24. [1]

When DISAPPOINTMENT tries to invade our thoughts, we need to remember such affirmations from God as Isaiah 55:8-9.

The yabbits of DISCOURAGEMENT can be turned away with 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

And last, DISCONTENTMENT can be kept at bay when we adopt Habakkuk’s attitude.

We’d also do well to follow Rev. Charles F. Deems’ (1820-1893) recommendation, as we take on these yabbits:

Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts.

Most people believe their doubts and doubt their beliefs.”

Of course, the scriptures mentioned above are just a few examples out of many. More scripture planks will create an even stronger fence.

Someone may ask, “How can we know our trust in scripture is well-placed?”

Whole books have been written about the reliability of scripture, but here’s a short, worthwhile article to introduce the topic: “Three Reasons Why the Bible Can Be Trusted.”

We can also bolster our faith with the testimonies of others who’ve embraced the power of scripture:

  • “Every year I live—in fact nearly every day—I seem to see more clearly how all the peace, happiness, and power of the Christian life hinges on one thing. That one thing is taking God at His word, believing He really means exactly what He says, and accepting the very words that reveal His goodness and grace.”—Frances Ridley Havergal, English poet and hymnwriter [2]
Frances Havergal (1836-1879)
  • “Take all of this Book that you can by reason and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man. It is the best Book which God has given to man.”—Abraham Lincoln [3]
  • “In the Bible I find a confidence mightier than the utmost evil.”—Helen Keller [4]
  • “The Bible is the book of my life. It’s the book I live with, the book I live by, the book I want to die by.”—N. T. Wright, Biblical scholar and Anglican bishop [5]
N. T. Wright (1950- ____)
  • “The Bible creates endurance. Its promises lift the heart and its panoramic insights strengthen the will.”—Pastor and author Timothy Keller with his wife Kathy [6]

Of course, the occasional reading of a scripture passage won’t suffice. That would be like trying to build a fence with slices of Swiss cheese–too flimsy and full of holes.

No, it’s Bible study and meditation that creates a sturdy fence.

Sound boring?  Hardly.

The Bible is worth all the other books

which have ever been printed.

–Patrick Henry

(1736-1799)

With faith, diligence, and a prayerful heart, every student of the Bible finds that Henry and countless others have been right. In fact, I’ve never met an earnest seeker of scripture-truth who later regretted the time they’d spent absorbing God’s Word.

And when we follow their example, the yabbits prove much less troublesome.

What Bible verse helps keep the yabbits out of your garden of faith? Please share in the comment section below!


Notes:

[1] The father speaking these words was admitting that doubts tainted his trust, yet Jesus still performed the miracle. We don’t have to be perfect pillars of faith for him to intervene for us!

[2] Quoted in Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman and edited by Jim Reimann, 127.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1070&context=owners_manual

[5] https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/inspiring-quotes/25-quotes-from-influential-christians-about-the-bible.html

[6] The Songs of Jesus, 310.

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Fixate on current events and become anxious.

Consider the bleak projections for the future and become fearful.

Dwell on your own struggles and become discouraged.

Focus on personal inadequacies and become doubtful.

Mull over regrets and become guilt-ridden.

Contemplate fading dreams and become despondent.

Permit negativity free reign and become depressed.

How easy it is to drift away from the truths that provide prosperity of soul.

We must choose to remember the following.

NO MATTER what we see happening, no matter the fear beginning to build, we can affirm: “For every visible reason for terror, there is an invisible and immensely more powerful reason for trust.” [1]

O Lord, God of our ancestors,

you alone are the God who is in heaven.

You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth.

You are powerful and mighty;

no one can stand against you!

–2 Chronicles 20:6 NLT

NO MATTER that we may not know the way forward; we do know the loving, all-powerful, and trustworthy Way Maker who has promised:

NO MATTER that life is a struggle right now, God will use it for good.  “There is coming a day [when] . . . We will have the glorious truth of our difficult ‘now’ laid out before us in a way that makes perfect sense, that will leave us panting a breathless ‘hallelujah’ for the process we’ve walked to get there.” [2]

“You do not realize now what I am doing,

but later you will understand.”

–John 13:7

NO MATTER how inadequate you feel because of failures, shortcomings, and doubts, you must remember:  “Weakness . . . is the very thing that qualifies you. Never mind your feelings of inadequacy; it is God’s work, not yours. 

“Simply make yourself available, and let go of any need to impress others, or prove yourself worthy, or achieve ‘success.’  What matters is that God has chosen you, and that God claims you as His own.” [3]

NO MATTER what you’ve done, “You no longer have to fear the consequences of your past, for your sovereign God promises that he will cause everything in your life to work together for your good and Christlikeness.” [4]

“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven. . .

. . . Blessed is the one whose sin

 the Lord will never count against them.”

–Romans 4:7-8

NO MATTER that your dreams may be fading; “the death of your dream [is] not the death of God’s dreams for [you].” [5]

NO MATTER that circumstances conspire to steal your joy, you can . . . “Begin to rejoice in the Lord and your bones will flourish like an herb, and your cheeks will glow with the bloom of health and freshness. Worry, fear, distrust, care-all are poisonous! Joy is balm and healing, and if you will but rejoice, God will give power.” [6]

“Do not be worried,

for the joy of the Lord

is your strength and your stronghold.”

Nehemiah 8:10 AMP

NO MATTER the uncertainties and challenges of life, we have an all-powerful, wise and caring Companion for the journey, who provides all we need to experience prosperity of soul.

Stanza #3 from “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” by Elisha A. Hoffman

[1] Elisabeth Elliot, These Bold Ashes, 11.

[2] F. Elaine Olson, Peace for the Journey, 101.

[3] Brother David Vryhof

[4] Kay Arthur, His Imprint, My Expression, 274 and Romans 8:28.

[5] Tasha June, Take Heart, 25.

[6] A. B. Simpson

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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!

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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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