Facing Discouragement?

     What is the root to all of this discouragement? It is affecting most people and will probably affect everyone at some point in time in life. I think part of the issue is social media. Most people only put the highlights and good of life on social media. They put the vacation pics, the cute family pics, the funny memes. Social media has become a highlight reel of people’s lives. It’s often the best moments of their life. Sometimes, a bad moment does sneak in. A moment of loss of a loved one, a moment of time when a family pet has passed away, when someone is missing, or a brief moment of a fully disclosed look into a dark moment in someone’s life. But the highlights outweigh the negatives in most people’s “feeds.” So then, you become discouraged because so and so has such a great life and you graduated together. Their marriage looks perfect and you are and your spouse are in a rough patch. Their kids always look so happy and clean and you can’t get past the mound of laundry and can never get just one decent picture of the family… just one… is that too much to ask? They are doing fancy, extravagant vacations and you are struggling to get by week to week let alone actually drive out of town, and even less of a chance to travel far out of state or country. Let’s set one thing straight, you should never compare your life to someone else’s by comparing their highlight reel to your whole life. It’s like when you watch a movie preview that looks really good but all the good parts are in the preview. It may look awesome, but when you go watch the full movie you are let down. That is what we tend to see on social media.
     Life does has seasons though. Seasons of good, seasons of bad. Seasons of easy times, seasons of hard times. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Chapter 3 goes on to describe different seasons. One of the most often overlooked are seasons of discouragement. Discouragement is a loss of confidence or enthusiasm. If you have been dealing with a lack of confidence that you just can’t seem to shake, you too are dealing with discouragement. While King Solomon (the author of Ecclesiastes) does not reference this season specifically in chapter 3, but when I talk to people it is a feeling that I hear about often. In full disclosure, it is probably the most often referenced season and feeling I hear from other pastors. Pastors in big churches, pastors in small churches. New pastors, old pastors. Young pastors… seasoned pastors, you get the gist. And you know what? I have faced it plenty of times too.

     Sometimes our discouragement is born out of a spirit of jealousy. This is where I feel the root of discouragement truly lies. We spend so much time seeing what others have and where they are in life and we wish we were where they are too. We wish our lives were as nice and polished as theirs. We wish our churches were doing as well as theirs, we wish our family was as good, our finances were as good, really, we just wish we were as good as them. You lookout and see how someone is being blessed, and you desire it so much. Why aren’t you being blessed like them? Is it because you are a bad person? Is it because God is punishing you? Is because God doesn’t like you? Is it because God doesn’t care?

     You read verses like Psalms 34:17-19The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. 19 The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.” Or Psalm 55:22 “Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall” You think to yourself when you those verses and other verse, is it because I am not good enough, I’m not godly enough, I’m not righteous enough. That is why God hasn’t blessed me like them. Then you go out and your try to do everything in your power and might to be perfect. And you know what happens? You mess up, you fail, you make a mistake. Even if you get back up each time, you know what the outcome will be. You are trying to achieve an impossible task on your own.

     Before moving on, I want to say one more thing. I want to say that sometimes when you look at other people and where they are and you are jealous of what they have or what they have achieved, if you knew the whole story, you might not be so quick to be jealous. What we don’t see is the sacrifices they made in school to get that degree. What we don’t see is the childhood trauma they went through that drove them to put family as the #1 priority in their life. We don’t see all of their past baggage, that God delivered them from that they use a fuel to drive them forward. They relate with people who were drug addicts, alcoholics, adulterers, those with little hope because they were once in the same position as them. If you are jealous of where they are now, would you trade your past for theirs? Maybe you would, but how has your past uniquely shaped you into who you are today?

     As I grow older, I see how small and large decisions both shaped me and changed me into who I am. I am who I am because of what has happened in the culmination of my life. The reason that our righteousness is not enough to deliver us, or to make us whole is because we are inherently flawed. If we want to become strong, we have to first become weak and allow God to lead and work through us. Isaiah 41:10 says “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” We are held up by his righteous hand, not by your own.

     When you are facing discouragement or jealousy remember that it is not your job or task to worry about where someone else is in life. It is not your job to compare. It is our job to look to God and trust him. When discouragement creeps into your life, lean to God and trust him. Your path is uniquely your own, and no one else’s. God has a plan for you, to use you your past experiences for good.

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