Have you mastered the plaster smile? It’s the one that we wear when our insides are not smiling but we don’t want to reveal our true emotions. Sometimes it’s just easier to stage a coverup, or so we think. It’s easy to hide discouragement, but it’s not a solution to pretend to be fine when we’re not.
In the Tapestry poem by Corrie ten Boom, one of the verses says this:
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.
Discouragement is like a dark thread in the fabric of life, but what should we do when it is beginning to feel like this dark thread is taking over the entire tapestry? Let’s look at some verses and ideas together.
1. Figure out the main issue. Problems are like weeds. If you don’t get to the root, little offshoots will keep popping up. The main issue is the root cause of discouragement. Ask yourself, “What is really bothering me?” Make it a matter of prayer because God really knows what’s going on.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Is it possible you may need help with this problem? Seek godly counsel, preferably from a professional Christian counselor.
- Is my issue a fear of something that hasn’t happened yet (the future)? This is an exhausting habit since we only have now. “Wherever you are, be all there.”
- Is my issue happening now, or something from the past? We can’t change the past, but we can change how we allow it to affect us now. Gloomy is an option. Hope is better.
Psalm 42:5 is a question to ask ourselves when we’re discouraged: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.”
Even when we have reasons for being in despair, we can direct our souls to “hope in God.” It takes committed effort, but while God helps you sort things out, don’t lose hope.
2. Commit these issues to prayer, morning, noon, and night. We’re not talking about simple one-liner prayers here. Listen to what it says in Psa. 55:15: “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.” This is not silent prayer. The phrase, “cry aloud” is the same Hebrew word used in Psa. 42:5 for “disquieted.” It also translates as a roar or to be troubled. When something has us so troubled that we’re murmuring and in mourning about it, we need to take that effort and make it count. Cry aloud to God. He will hear you!
3. Encourage yourself in the Lord. 1 Sam. 30:6 paints a vivid picture of King David during an extremely discouraging time: “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.”
Read the entire account of this story in 1 Sam. 30, but the point we’re studying here is that during a very dark time in his life, David had trained himself to turn to God, not away from God. I love what Bible commentator Matthew Henry said about David about this passage: “When he was at his wit’s end, he was not at his faith’s end.”
What does it mean to encourage ourselves in the Lord? It means that we’ll remind ourselves of how God has taken care of us before, and we can be confident that He can lift us up again. Unpleasant and dark times are contrasts to brighter days. Think of a tough situation that you thought would never work out, and then God worked it together for good. These are reminders of God’s goodness. No matter how hard things may be, they won’t always be this way.
Don’t you always appreciate the sun after a string of cloudy days? Life will rotate out of this discouragement zone. Don’t hang in there. Hang onto God and watch how He walks you through this cloudy season into a season of relief.
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