Last week, I wrote about the three Ds that almost every Christian experiences at one time or another: Doubt, Discouragement, and Disillusionment. While these are sometimes not discernable from each other, I wrote about how each is uniquely manifested in individual hearts, and what to look for when identifying them.
Today, I’d like to talk about solutions: What should you do if you find that these things describe you? Well, the first thing to do, as always when we find we’re in trouble, is to pray. This is a great first step for a couple of reasons: First, doubt, discouragement, and disillusionment often result at least partly from prayerlessness, so that makes this a good first step for overcoming them. Secondly, prayer, partnered with the Word of God, should always be our first line of defense in any spiritual struggle.
When we begin to doubt our calling or God’s ability to meet the needs of our ministry, the first thing we must do is go back to His Word and read the accounts of His faithfulness to those who served Him. Read in the Old Testament about Moses’ doubt in the wilderness; Noah’s trust in the flood; Jonah’s anger at God’s call to Ninevah, and each of the respective outcomes. This is evidence that God is who He says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do. Next, read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ teachings and ministry, then go into the Acts of the Apostles and read about the risen Christ’s appearances; Paul’s wickedness toward the early believers; and the courage of the members of the early church. As you continue in the New Testament, you will see God’s grace poured out on those who trusted Him, and God’s strength given without measure to each one who asked. This is evidence that God is able to provide all you need to fulfill your ministry.
If you have succumbed to doubt and are already experiencing full-blown discouragement, you may need help in the form of another person. The Bible says that iron sharpens iron and that two are better than one. We all know that we can turn to God at any time and He will help, but sometimes we need “God in a bod.” A person who is indwelt by the Spirit of God can communicate truth to us in ways that our stubborn hearts may not have discerned by merely reading it. Let’s face it, friends. When we have given in to doubt, our hearts can be hard and unwilling to receive the help offered in the Word. A good friend will challenge our sinful attitudes, and help us to get back to a place of trusting God, even in the midst of our doubt. As an old game show used to say, if you can’t figure it out, phone a friend.
This brings me to the topic of accountability. That is not my favorite word for this kind of friendship, but it is the one most readily recognized when we are talking about overcoming wrong or sinful thinking. I prefer the word discipleship to accountability. Accountability implies safeguarding, restraining, and reporting. The accountability partner is the one you’ll have to confess to if you sin, and the one who checks in on you to see how you’re doing with a particular issue. A discipler is one who has an ongoing position of mentorship in your life as a whole, not just one area. She is the one who knows you in all areas of life, not just this one, and can take a holistic approach to helping you with your spiritual growth. The discipler is one you can call when you’re tempted to sin, who will pray for you and help you find the way of escape before you succumb. If you are struggling with discouragement, you need a discipler.
Disillusionment has to do with expectations. When we become disillusioned with our life or ministry, it is a sign that our expectations were not biblical. In fact, they may have been downright sinful. For example, as a biblical counselor and blogger, I hope that the work I do will make a difference in the lives of my counselees. I also love my family and want to be there for them. If I have several failures—my counselees continue to struggle and aren’t getting it; readership and response on my blog are low; and no matter how hard I work I can’t keep up with my responsibilities at home—then I may begin to feel disillusioned. I might tell myself, “I can’t do all these things. Ministry just isn’t what I thought it would be. Maybe I misunderstood the call.”
Now, go back and re-read that last paragraph. How many times did you see the words, I, me, or my? This is the first clue that my disillusionment is rooted in self-focus, self-centeredness, or self-promotion. If my focus was on Christ and His glory, I could never be disillusioned, because He alone can bring glory to Himself. He does use people to do that, but we have to understand, in humility, that it is He who ultimately is responsible for His own glory. Our role is to practice complete dependence on Him in our ministry. If my counselees aren’t getting it, I may be trying too hard to diagnose their heart condition in my own strength and intellect, instead of pointing them to Christ. If blog readership is low, why does that matter? Even if only one person is encouraged, isn’t God glorified in that? If I can’t keep up with my home, then I need to prayerfully realign my priorities. Disillusionment almost always comes from taking our focus off God and His glory, and shifting it, even a little bit, onto ourselves and our own glory.
So to sum up, doubt, discouragement and disillusionment are all things that can be overcome with prayer, time in the Word, and investment in an ongoing discipling relationship. The unifying element that will bring these all together is a focus on Christ and His glory. Shift your focus, hope, and expectation away from yourself and onto the Lord, and these three d’s will fade away into the shadows, as they are outshone by the glory of God!