Tempted by Discouragement
I discovered something really great about blogging. You can go back and read things that you wrote in years past, and find that those words you wrote in the past can bring you fresh encouragement today.
I have been battling the temptation to be a bit discouraged in ministry lately. Nothing too major – just some plans that have not worked out the way I wanted them to. Sometimes leading a biblical counseling ministry feels like swimming upstream. It is not as widely received as it could be, and in my area, biblical counselors are few and far between. There are behind-the-scenes challenges of running a nonprofit organization that can be daunting and frustrating at times.
When I am tempted to become discouraged, I can choose to trust that this is true for me:
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
It is true for you as well. Your temptation to be discouraged probably looks different than mine, but the sufficiency of God’s Word applies to whatever you are facing.
In 2013, I wrote a blog about being a counselor “swimming upstream”:
My circumstances were quite different then. Many things have changed. The counseling ministry I direct has become a 501c3. I go to a different church now. I have had great opportunities to speak, write, and serve in ways that I never saw coming at the time I wrote that blog.
So what do I have to be discouraged about? The truth is – nothing, really. The 2013 blog post reminded me that I am not guaranteed to get my way when I make plans, and that ministry life is hard. And that the hard stuff is for my good, and God’s glory. I am going to quote myself here, because it is a reminder that I can escape the temptation to be discouraged:
“When I am discouraged about the upstream swim ahead of me, I remind
myself of God’s faithfulness provided in The Gospel. We do not have to rely on
our determination, stamina, or will. We can rely on Him Who saves.”
My Own Heart Leads Me to Temptation
So why do we get discouraged, or at least tempted to be, when there is so much to be grateful for? I find that if I take a look at the discouraging circumstances in my life more deeply, I realize it is my own heart that leads me into temptation. I encourage you to take a look at your own heart, too. Here are some matters of the heart that I have found helpful to consider:
*What (or who) are you trying to control? Circumstances? People? Outcomes?
*How much thought life do you spend on worry and frustration rather than gratitude?
*What are you wanting, but not getting? Your own way? Or, God’s way?
*What plans are not unfolding in the way you had expected or hoped for?
*Who are you disappointed in, and why? Yourself? Others?
*Have you forgotten God’s faithfulness?
*What do you turn to for comfort when things are not going well? Worldly comforts? Or, Jesus?
*What are you afraid of? Failure? That God might fail you?
*What gives you hope? My own efforts, or God’s finished work on our behalf?
Your responses to those questions reveal what is in your heart. If your responses show fear, distrust, and unbelief then you know that you must align your heart with the gospel. Discouragement does not honor Jesus, because He commands us not to be. Just before His disciples’ most discouraging circumstance – His death – He said “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). Rather than being afraid, He wants their hearts to be comforted by His promises rather than by what they were seeing. The same is true for us today. Looking vertically to God and His goodness rather than horizontally to our circumstances changes our hearts!
There is Hope
If you are swimming upstream in your circumstances, there is hope. In fact, we can do better than “just keep swimming.” We can endure our circumstances with patience, joy, peace, and trust because we have the fruit of the Spirit in us. Discouragement quenches the Spirit, and that is a matter of the heart. We can repent of our unbelief and distrust today, and escape the temptation of discouragement. Join me?
Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.