Discouragement finds us all, whether you’re leading a family of two or a company of thousands. The blues can sneak up gradually through a series of losses. One day, we realize we’ve lost the oompah in our loompah and we aren’t sure how to get it back.
Other times discouragement sweeps like a tsunami when events crash our world, leaving massive wreckage behind. Over the next month, I’d like to consider various causes of gloom starting today with loss.
When a person exits our lives, it is one of the most profound disturbances to our equilibrium that we can encounter. Whatever causes someone to become absent, be it death, divorce or estrangement, the hole they leave gapes blackly as we contemplate our future without them. Discouragement becomes a dark cloud around us.
Other significant setbacks like the loss of a job, a home, a church, or an important relationship can create the same despairing feelings. Within one month, I lost my teaching job due to decreased enrollment, and my mother died unexpectedly. A few months later, my dog died. The triple punch left me feeling dazed and purposeless for a time.
My husband once owned a highly successful, award-winning, small business under a national company. With very little warning, that corporation decided they no longer wanted to conduct that type of operation within our state and pulled the plug on all businesses like my husband’s. He felt the loss profoundly and grieved for all the people he put out of work along with the loss of his own livelihood.
Recently, a church I know announced it was disbanding due to low attendance, after 113 years of operation. I’m aware of several folks who spent the holidays completely alone, not because they are without family, but because they are estranged from them.
I don’t know your losses. My desire is to point you towards the One who does. Jesus experienced huge emotional injuries. Think about the tragic, gruesome murder of John the Baptist, his cousin, and the loss of relationship with his siblings and hometown friends whose unbelieve prevented him from doing any miracles there. Consider the unrelenting hatred of the Pharisees, who should have celebrated him instead of plotting his demise. How did he feel when Judas, who he did life with intimately for three years, betrayed him? What kind of abandonment did he feel when his disciples all deserted him after his arrest?
Jesus understands loss. He is moved by the sorrow of a widow who remembers the retirement plans she and her husband made before he became ill or the young parents standing in their nursery, mourning a miscarriage. He is compassionate for the unemployed and underemployed. He is moved by the sorrow of parents and children estranged from one another. He is always near to those crushed in spirit by the cruelties of life’s losses.
His heart is moved by your discouragement, but it is not His desire for you to build a permanent home in gloomy valleys. We must all walk through dark times of loss yet God promises that even in valleys filled with shadows cast by death and loss, He is with us, and He comforts us. (Psalm 23) He also tells us that his plans for our futures are to prosper us, not harm us. (Jeremiah 29:11)
How do we move through days of grief and loss into brighter times? Is it possible to experience light-hearted joy and that sense that all is right with the world again when a loss is permanent? Allow me to share some encouraging suggestions and to submit the idea that from God’s perspective, joy is always available to us. It’s one of the main reasons Jesus came to earth. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). Here’s a few ideas to consider in your journey back to joy.
Allow yourself to feel the pain from the loss. Loss often throws us into a crisis state of necessary activity. We plan funerals, new living arrangements, seek employment, keep court appointments, lawyer meetings, etc. The tendency is to shelve emotions. Do not leave those emotions untended on a shelf permanently. Discouragement and anger that are not felt and dealt with can turn into some serious depression. At some point, you must allow yourself to feel the grief and pain of your circumstance.
I once spoke with the mother of a 20-year old, wrong place, wrong time, murder victim. She couldn’t work, eat or sleep after the tragedy. When she saw no improvement in her emotional state, she cried out to God. Together they devised a plan in which she allowed herself to weep and feel her pain one hour each day. At the end of the hour, no matter how she felt she began to say aloud verses of hope and encouragement that enabled her to get up off the floor and proceed with her day in a somewhat successful fashion. After a few months, she found she didn’t need an hour and eventually didn’t need a specific time at all. She returned to her ministry, started another ministry and wrote several books.
Make time for your feelings before they make greater demands on your emotions farther down the road.
Spend time with other Christ followers who’ve experienced similar losses and moved on.
Some of the best encouragement I received during my dark days came from others who also abruptly lost jobs and parents. They understood. They affirmed my feelings and assured me I wouldn’t always feel that way. They pointed me towards God.
Ask God to bring specific Scriptures to you for this time and then hold on to them tightly.
I’ll often plaster sticky notes around with key verses. Making a list of significant Scripture and reading through it every day works well too, particularly if you say it aloud. Whatever kind of loss you’ve experienced; God says something strategic about it. It’s so worth it to do the work of finding those gems. For the best encouragement, the Bible is a one-of-a-kind, supernatural book whose words speak life in the face of death and hope into the chasm of despair.
Don’t allow a time of discouragement to become a lifestyle. Brighter days are ahead, although you cannot see them now. God is always in the business of new life and new opportunities.