July 16, 2014

Discouraged

Oh, Lord, why do I feel so discouraged today? How can it be that the pendulum of my emotions swings so strongly from one direction to another? It is as if one day I feel so good, so up; and then the next day, I feel so sad, so lonely, and so afraid.

I don't want to feel this way. I don't want to be in a constant state of emotional flux. I want to be steady, to be calm, to be at peace (rest). I want my emotions to rest so that I can face each day with the same type of resolve (fortitude).

Discouragement has hit me hard today, and it is difficult for me to shake it off. And, what makes this feeling so difficult is that I don't have any indicator of what may have brought this on. It is not as if anything has changed in my life, it is not as if some unplanned or unforeseen event has taken place. No, my life is proceeding as it has now for many months. I am working through the details, the minutiae, and I am walking forward, walking in His way and His will. So why has discouragement hit me so hard this morning?

I cry out to the Lord today, and I look up. I wait for Him to answer me, and I trust in His provision. I know that whenever I look to His hand of mercy, I will remember then that His is my Savior and my God (Ps. 42:5).

Oh, how I hate being discouraged. I absolutely detest this feeling. When I feel discouraged, I feel as though my confidence has completely drained away. I feel as though I have lost my hope, my sense of certainty. Doubt has surfaced, and I have exchanged fearlessness for fearfulness.

Merriam-Webster defines the word discouraged (verb) as:
  • to make (someone) less determined, hopeful, or confident
  • to make (something) less likely to happen
  • to try to make people not want to do (something)
Synonyms of discouraged include:
  • chill, daunt, demoralize, dishearten, dismay, dispirit, frustrate, unman, unnerve, throw cold water on
Related words include:
  • browbeat, bully, cow, intimidate; depress, sadden, weigh; afflict, try; damp, dampen, deaden; distress, trouble; bother, irk, vex, worry; debilitate, enfeeble, undermine, weaken; frighten, horrify, scare
I think it is interesting that the word discouraged is state of being verb or a verb that describes a state of existence. To be discouraged says that something or some action has occurred that has resulted in a changed state, a different type of experience. I like to look at synonyms and related words for clarification -- often the related word list helps me to understand the significance of the word choice. As I look at these words, certain words jump out to me -- specifically words related to FEAR. I underlined all the words or related words that ascribe fear because fear is a big problem for me. My issue with fear stems from specific childhood experiences of trauma. Fear and these associated words contribute to my feelings of insecurity.

Insecurity
  • not confident about yourself or your ability to do things well : nervous and uncomfortable
  • not certain to continue or be successful for a long time
  • not locked or well protected
Of these three definitions, the third one I own -- the feeling of not being well-protected. Victims of abuse, any kind of abuse (specifically physical abuse) understand the need to be well-protected. Growing up and living during a time of riots, gang violence, school violence, etc., shaped my deep need for protection. I lived for a time in a place where it was unsafe to go to school. In our modern world, we struggle to understand school shootings, mass violence, and the indiscriminate murder of innocent victims (children). It is abhorrent to think about what motivates people to shoot children in school buildings or students on a college campus.

When I lived in IL (from age 9-16), the dominant and minority culture was in flux. Tension between black and white was escalating, and the violence overflowed in local communities outside of Chicago. My elementary school was located in a middle class white neighborhood. My junior high was in the middle of a poor, all-black neighborhood. My high school was in an affluent upper class white neighborhood. Chicago school officials made the unwise decision to desegregate the schools during this very volatile time. The result was school violence.

As a preteen and teenager, I not only witnessed violence (student-student, student-teacher, teacher-student), but I was also the victim of that violence. To protect myself from student violence, I learned to defend myself. I allowed my rage, my fear, my need for protection to drive me. I lived in a stress-filled bubble. I don't remember any time when I didn't have intestinal problems, headaches, and other ailments. There was no diagnosis for PTSD back then and the doctors never explored stress-related illness. For many years after my experiences, I was told that the symptoms I was suffering from were in my head (Yes, I actually had doctors tell my parents that I was making everything up -- the pain, the migraines, everything -- just to get attention). It was difficult for me to process those experiences, and it took many years, many sessions with good counselors and health-care professionals to help me understand what I had experienced, and how the lingering effects of those events still haunted me. I had to come to terms with the fact that even though I defended myself, held myself up, and fought off unwanted advances, I still suffered the effects from the trauma of living on the edge, of never feeling safe.

The interesting thing is that now after some thirty years distance, I still react to fear, to insecurity, in the same way. It is not as pronounced of course, and I don't suffer the physical symptoms anymore. Now it is more psychological and emotional -- certain thoughts and/or feelings trigger my need for security. I panic, I stress, I worry, I doubt -- these feelings, when I allow them to predominate my life -- will overwhelm me, and will cause me to feel discouraged.

How do you counteract discouragement?

As I have matured and grown in my relationship with the Lord, I have also experienced great healing and a restoration -- God has healed my mind, my body, and my soul -- my whole being. His marvelous grace has comforted me, and His presence has provided the security I so desperately need. I have everything I need to be at rest, to experience His peace, and to feel safe and secure. Yet...

Scripture is my source of daily renewal (Rom. 12:2). I look to His Word to remind myself of many things, but mostly, to remind myself that the Lord is in control of my life.

Isaiah 41:10:  Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Psalm 34:17-19: When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

1 Peter 1:6-9: In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I know that when I go to the Source of all Sufficiency, I find exactly what I need, in the moment, for the experience I am in. God is good, and His Mercy endures forever. He is always there to comfort me with the comfort of His Word.

Then, after I have read the Word, and confessed it with my mouth, I recite Jer. 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

It is hope that brings sweet peace to our troubled minds, it is hope that brings us confidence that there is a reason, a plan, a purpose to all our experiences. The key is of course that we choose the correct HOPE for our trust.

Ps. 146:3: Don't put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.

God is our HOPE, our Source of our TRUST. There is no other person or institution -- no man, no machine, no government -- for our our help and our hope. Only God is able to provide for each and every need, and it is only in Him that we find our blessed HOPE.

Romans 15:13: I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

So today, even though I feel discouraged, I find my hope in the Lord. I trust in Him, and I rest in His provision for me. I may feel insecure in this moment, I may feel afraid of the big unknown that is out there. I may worry, and I may doubt my own plans, my own way, my own abilities. Yet, my hope rests in Him for it is in Him that I find everything I need this day. God is good, so very good. All the time, He is GOOD.

1 comment:

DGH said...

Thanks for sharing re: discouragement. Very helpful....i see i'm the first to comment (!), but doubt i'm the first to be blessed by your words here. God bless you!!