7 Ways to Overcome Discouragement
Has this ever been you?
You step out in faith believing the Lord has led you to do something. It's scary and you've gone back to God like Moses saying, "Are you sure God? I'm not_________ enough. What if people think____________? You finally put your fears aside and decide to trust God and take step after step. There's a certain excitement from obedience and seeing God continue to lead you by His Word and provide encouragement. But then a brother or sister in Christ comes at you attacking and tearing you down. They judge your motives and say things about you that aren't true. They distort reality all the while using God's Word to put you in your place. It seems they have this level of perfection you failed to live up to. You feel crushed.
Have you ever wanted to throw in the towel and give up doing what God called you to do because of the push back or criticism you've experienced from people? I think this is a common reality. I've talked to person after person who is tempted to quit serving God because of the way other believers have treated them.
I've been there. A lot. Many times I've come to the end of where I thought possible to endure. I've thought many times, Why in the world am I doing this when people wish I wasn't? But then gently as our Lord does, He lifts my head and reminds me that it's not about me and it's not about them. It's about Him. And time and time again 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 proves true. "We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
And each time I have to walk through criticism, misconceptions and hurts dealt from other people, it's like iron sharpening iron and I can eventually look back and see personal growth. And again 2 Corinthians 4:10 proves true, "Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies."
Are you in a place you're being tempted to give up? You're not alone. There are so many godly people who have felt what you feel. Daniel, Joseph, Moses, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Abigail, Hannah, Mary and on and on. And just as God was with them, He is with you. Just as He showed up for them, He will show up for you.
The enemies goal is to distract you. If he can't distract you he'll discourage you. If he can't discourage you he'll try to get you to despair and give up all and defeat you in making an impact for Christ.
Don't give up. God will use even this for your good and His glory.
Each time the Lord allows me to go though the stressful time of dealing with criticism of other believers, these things have helped me. I hope they also help and encourage you.
7 Things for When you Feel Beat Up
1. Set your mind on the Lord. The circumstances and your own emotional hurts will tempt you to keep your eyes on the pain and the offense but keeping your eyes there will only be a downward spiral leading to bitterness. It takes intentionality to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and keep your attention on what's true about God. This will mean clinging to His Word and putting more confidence in Him and His work in your life than in what others think about you. Play the what's true game.
2. Examine your heart. Think about what you are holding onto and why you're holding so tightly to it? Is it a belief that you somehow have to control what other people think? Is it fear? It seems most things we hold tightly to and have a hard time surrendering are out of fear or control. Ask God to show you if there is something and if He does, surrender it to Him. Fight to keep Christ on the throne of your life and don't let your flesh take over. The enemy would like nothing more to keep you from living life surrendered to the Lord.
3. Pray for them. There was a time I was unjustly criticized and I got angry. I was so angry I just stormed off and neglected my responsibilities and went to vent to God about the person. I started praying for them things like, “God, you show them what you think!” “Show them how wrong they are… convict them!” But gently the Lord spoke to me to really pray for them, to pray the hardest things for me to pray and pray for their best interest. I didn’t want to pray for their good, I wanted God to get em! But eventually I did, not because I felt like it, but out of obedience. As I kept praying for this person and for God to give them an incredible ministry someday and other super hard things for me to pray, a crazy thing happened. My heart softened. The anger subsided and I was able to forgive them, even when the person didn’t ask for it. The next week this person actually said they were sorry.
4. Sort out good and bad. Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a great book called Changes that Heal that describes this really well. Basically it says we have a tendency to think in terms of all good or all bad. If we like something or someone we lean toward thinking it (or they) are all good and can do no wrong. Or if we don’t like something we tend to think nothing good could come from it. When we receive criticism we need to process with the Lord what’s good and true about what is being said and be able to separate that from what is not true.
5. Seek to understand even when people don't seek to understand you. Let's face it, trying to seek to understand where someone else is coming from sucks when they could care less to seek to understand you. But just because something doesn't feel good, that doesn't mean we don't do it. Sometimes the right thing is the hardest thing. And more and more I'm convinced that when we seek to understand, the ability to make peace is soooo much easier and the problem is quicker to get resolved.
6. Communicate. When we (or others) are criticized we need to communicate in a healthy way about the issue. We need to stick to one issue, share what we heard (or think we heard), what we felt and thought about it, our desires and what we’d like to see happen in the future. Here’s a great tool to help with this process.
(It is also very helpful to ask questions and reword what you think someone is saying to help clarify what you think someone is saying because the majority of conflicts are a result of miscommunication.)
7. Remember what’s true about you and “them”. We fail. And if you're anything like me, it's easy to demand mercy for our mistakes yet justice and wrath for others, forgetting that Jesus died for their mistakes too. If you put your trust in Christ, see yourself the way the Father sees you-through Jesus' perfection. We don't need to demand perfection from others (or them from us) because Jesus was our perfection. We are all at the same place, the foot of the cross, clinging to the righteousness of Christ credited to our account. When another believer is adamant on showing how you haven't measured up to their level of perfection you can let it go. It's true. You and I and "them" haven't measured up and that's why we need Jesus. Lean into that friend. You and me and them are all desperately dependent on Jesus.
Please don't give up friend. Please don't throw in the towel because someone has wronged you. God wants to show Himself great through you and in you and even in your situation.
The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?...
The one thing I ask of the Lord--
the thing I seek most--
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
so why should I be afraid?
Do not let me fall into their hands.
For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
with every breath they threaten me...
Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.
Wait (endure) patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
You might also enjoy:
5 Keys to an Unoffendable Heart
The Top 10 Challenges to Being an Emotionally Healthy Leader
Laura, the founder of Missional Women is married and has six kids, two of whom are adopted. Laura and her husband have been missionaries since 2002 and serve with Master Plan Ministries where she is the Women's Development Coordinator. Laura has authored 5 books, including an award winning 12 week Bible Study on First Samuel, Beholding Him, Becoming Missional, Reach; How to Use Your Social Media Influence for the Glory of God, A Devotional Journey through Judges, and Discover God's Calling for Your Life. Most recently her resource for Bible studies, The Connect Cards was released by Cru Press. You can find her on facebook, twitter, pinterest, youtube, instagram, periscope, blab and her author site.
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