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Fighting Discouragement

I love studying the Old Testament, and one of my favorite books is Jeremiah. There’s so much to learn from this sad prophet, and I’m especially impressed at the way he handled disappointment. Bless his heart, he had a LOT of it.

I like that Jeremiah was so raw and honest with his emotions, and I like that he dumped it all out before God. But I love that God, instead of striking him with lightning or touching him with leprosy or cursing him with a plague, God listened to him and understood his frustration.

To be real with God – what a great lesson that is for us.  Too often we have this idea that we have to paste on a smile and go along as though everything is fine, as though God doesn’t know what’s really going on!

I’m reminded of the relationship I have with my kids. When something is wrong with one them, I can usually tell it by the look on their face. Nothing is more frustrating than asking them what’s wrong and having them grunt “nothing” when I know better.

I wonder if God feels that way sometimes, and I wonder if He wishes we would just own our discouragement and let Him work through it with us. As we lay everything out before Him and begin to process it, there are some things we can do to keep from totally sinking into a pit.

First, let’s look at Spiritual Health.

Be honest with God and vent your frustration. Just remember that He IS God and while He’s patient, gracious, merciful, kind, understanding… He IS just, holy, omniscient and in control. And it’s possible to vent and still be reverent! Then step back and remember that this is working according to His purpose in our lives, and according to His overall plan.

I find it helps when I remind myself:

of God’s character,
of God’s promises,
and that this too shall pass and one day I’ll be able to look back with a little more clarity.

No matter how crazy things look to us, God is weaving them into His plan and maybe one day we’ll see how it all fits together!

Physical Health

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, Whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” ~1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Have you ever taken notice of how you react to discouragement or frustration? I usually think and think and think some more, replaying events in my mind, thinking of what I should have said or done, and wondering how to proceed.

Sometimes have a hard time falling asleep and an even harder time staying asleep. Exercise can be neglected as I fight fatigue and try to catch up on my rest. Sometimes I reach for the junk food, other times I skip meals. Something I’ve learned over the years is that discouragement can cause stress.

When I’m stressed I have to remember to care for my body, and I have to be purposeful about it. To be able to function at my best I sometimes have to make myself do the things that give my body a little TLC:

Exercise. You don’t have to start an intense workout program, but you CAN get out and move. Walking is the easiest thing to do and you can do it anytime and anywhere. It’s great to get your heart pumping and your blood flowing, and I find that the fresh air and change of scenery really help clear my head. Stretch as you’re able. Don’t get crazy, just do a couple of easy stretches: bend over and touch your toes, and then reach up toward the sky and gently reach from side to side. It’s surprising how good stretching will make you feel!

Eat right. We can all stand to make healthy changes: Cut down on the fat, sugar and caffeine. Eat more whole grain foods and more fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat healthier snacks and less junk food. Drink more water and less soda. I find I need a mid-day caffeine boost, try I not to drink anything caffeinated after 3pm because it affects my…

Rest. Get plenty of it. Do things that help you relax, and do them earlier than normal.(Ladies: start your routine AT LEAST 1 hour ahead. This will give you time to pick up whatever is in the floor, load the after-dinner dishes in the dishwasher, fold one last load of laundry, and lay out whatever needs to be laid out for the next morning. I think we’re all familiar with this routine.)Take a warm shower, find something to read, enjoy a warm drink, take long deep breaths. Turn off the television. Do everything you can to help your mind and body wind down.

After you turn off the light and lay down for the night, pray and ask the Lord to give you a good night’s rest. Ask Him to keep you healthy and strong so you can do what He’s called you to do.

I know this is all common sense stuff, but sometimes stress can render us senseless! It may take several nights/days to get into a good pattern, but these are good habits to develop and they really will help you be healthier and feel better!

Mental & Emotional Health

For as [a man] thinks within himself, so he is. ~Proverbs 23:7a (NASB)

Self talk. You’ve heard it; it’s the voice inside your head that builds you up or tears you down. It says things like:

“YES! I knew it would happen if I stuck with it!”

Or you may hear it say things like:

“It figures this would happen…”

“What did you expect?”

“You’ll ALWAYS …”

“You’ll NEVER …”

It reminds me of something Winnie the Pooh’s friend Eeyore once said, “Remember, nobody minds, nobody cares.”

Poor little Eeyore. Not only is his glass half-empty, it’s also cracked filled with dirty water!

I think most everybody says things like this to themselves from time to time, but some of us say them a LOT and negative thinking can be like brainwashing. Self-defeating words echo in our minds, and before long we find ourselves weighed down because we believe them.

Our beliefs are interesting things, and I’ve found them to be the lenses through which I view life. When I believe my life is happy (and it truly is), I tend to notice the good things that bring me joy. When I get down and think things in my  life are depressing, I notice all the things that are wrong and overlook the things that are good.

And since my thoughts can steer my emotions, negative thinking can send me spiraling downward. That’s NOT the kind of person I want to be, so I’ve developed some habits to try to stop those thoughts in their tracks:

  • Remember that whatever the situation is, it’s temporary. Some of my favorite words in scripture are, “And it came to pass …”
  • Ask: Is there anything good in this situation?
  • Ask: What can I learn from this?
  • Try to separate feelings from facts. Regardless of how I feel, I know God is still in control and using the discouraging situation to shape me. I still need to guard my mind and make sure I’m filling my head with the right stuff.

Some of the best stuff to fill my head with is scripture. Over the years I’ve memorized verses that are encouraging, and my very favorite verse is Romans 15:13 because it reminds me that all the good feelings come AFTER I decide to trust God with the situation.  (I love that verse so much I made it a permanent fixture on my website. It’s over there on the left side of the screen below my photo.)

When I’m having a senior/blonde moment and can’t remember anything that’s applicable, I pull up an online Bible such as and do a search on a particular word (being careful to read and understand the context). Sometimes I search contemporary versions like New Living Translation and The Message for more modern language, which is what I did for another favorite verse on thinking:

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. ~Romans 12:2 (MSG)

Fix your thoughts on the things of God: His word, His character, His promises, His plan for your life. It’s always for your best!

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be professional advice, especially for clinical depression. Some mental health issues have a chemical imbalance and can present serious problems. This is a personal testimony as well as observation that the WHOLE person, mind-body-spirit, is affected by thoughts.

Relational Health

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day [of the Lord] approaching. ~Hebrews 10:25

It might seem strange that I’d include relational health in this series, but it’s a perfect fit. A lot of times you’ll hear preachers/speakers compare our bodies to a three-legged stool, and they’ll mention the first three areas of health. But I think we should picture ourselves as a four-legged table because our relationships are critical and can have as much influence in our lives as the other three areas!

I don’t know about you, but when I get discouraged I want to hibernate. I don’t want to have to put on a happy face and be sociable, I just want to stay home and be by myself. I’m not much of a wallow-er (although I do my fair share of it, to be sure), but to be honest there are times that I just want to put on my sweats, get a big bowl of popcorn and watch a movie. BY MYSELF. And so sometimes I do that, but I’ve learned that I can’t make it a habit because if I don’t have an outlet to refocus my energy, all my time and energy gets wasted! Can I get an AMEN from anybody??

I HAVE to get a break from ME and the whiny voice that develops in my mind when I’m home alone. I need to hear about other people’s lives and adventures and struggles. I want to be engaged in a conversation where we both feel heard and understood. Just being with somebody else can give me the boost I need because they can often point out things that help me have a better perspective and get back on track.

I’ve needed to get back on track lately, so I’ve had some fabulous “God-incidences” (which are not co-incidences). One of the biggest was a blog post from my friend Hester, a young pastor’s wife who lives in Boise, Idaho. We connected through a writer’s critique group from a conference we both attended, so we haven’t met face-to-face. But we’ve learned that you don’t necessarily need that to be friends. She is one of the most supportive and encouraging people I know, and she sends the most helpful, positive and uplifting comments to my articles. Be sure to check out her blog, Hester’s Heart. She’s cute and precious, and you’ll love her inspirational posts!

On Saturday July 9th, I was working in my office and one of her blog posts popped up on my email. I had been writing and re-writing THIS post, but nothing was coming together so I decided to take a break and read her post. And it blew me away. I immediately emailed her back and asked her permission to use it.

So with her blessing, I want to share with you “Hinnegar Hill.”

From Hester: Be blessed today by this short story of Christian fellowship. It illustrates what it means to be the body of Christ and how we are to encourage others in the journey of faith. It is from a book by Rueben Welch, “We Really Do Need Each Other” and was shared with me in junior high by my youth leaders. This story still impacts me today.

At school a few years ago there was a summer school course in “Group and Interpersonal Relations.” About a dozen people took the class and at the end of it they decided they wanted to do something together as kind of a closing to the class. You know, they had come to know each other, share with each other, and really be personal to each other, and break down walls and so forth – so they decided to get together and take a hike up to Hennigar Hill.

Now, Hennigar Hill is about three miles up the side of the mountain behind the campus and it takes about an hour and a half for anyone to make the hike.

So they set the day and made the sandwiches, made the chocolate, brought the cold drinks, and the back packs, and they got all gathered up for the safari, . . . and they started up the mountain – together.

But is wasn’t before long until the strong, stalwart ones were up in front and the other ones were back in the middle and way back at the end of the line was a girl named Jane – who was, you might say, out of shape.

At the front was Don – a big, strong, former paratrooper. He and some others – the strong ones- were up in the front and the weak ones were back in the back, and way in the back was Jane. And Don said – it was he who told me this story – he looked back a couple of switchbacks and saw Jane and the Lord told him that he had just better go back and walk with her. That’s kind of hard on him because he has a need to be first.

But he went down and started walking with Jane and the people in the level above called down, “Come on up. It’s great up here.” And Jane yelled, “I don’t think I can make it.”

And they hollered, “Yeah, you can. Try harder, come on up.” And every time they called to her down went her own sense of worth, down went her own sense of value – “I can’t make it.” “Oh, yeah you can. Come on.”

So the strong went on ahead and the weak hung behind, and here was Jane, and she never made it to the top.

Now, look what you have. You have a group – we know each other, we like each other, we want to do this together, let’s go to Hennigar Hill together. But before long, you have divided the strong and the weak, the haves and the have-nots, and the ables and the unables. So what started out as a group has now become a fragmented collection.”

And so the strong say, “You can do it.” And the weak say, “No, I can’t.” And the strong say, “Try harder” – which is a big help. That’s a big help. But Jane didn’t make it.

Thankfully, that’s not the last chapter. They must have learned their lessons because they decided that was no way to end the fellowship of that class. They got together and decided to do it again.

But they made some new rules – it was everybody go or nobody go, and they were all going- together.

So they set the day, and made the sandwiches, made the chocolate, brought the cold drinks, and the backpacks and they got all gathered up for the safari.

It took them four hours to make it to the top, and the water was all gone, the cold drinks were all gone, the sandwiches were all gone, the chocolate was all gone, and the backpacks were empty, but they all made it, together.

You know something – we’re all just people who need each other. We’re all learning and we’ve all got a long journey ahead of us. We’ve got to go together, and if it takes us until Jesus comes, we better stay together and we better help each other.

Thanks, Hester. I’m so thankful for your encouragement as we hike through life!

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