Have you ever felt battered by your circumstances? Maybe you’re struggling with something in your life right now that is causing you to feel discouraged. Our circumstances can be taxing for us in many ways. We can struggle with physical pain or sickness, relational problems, financial struggles, grief, the list goes on… and when we face hard times, it is easy to get discouraged. Sometimes very discouraged!
To be honest, discouragement is something that I have recently struggled with. It has been much longer since I have written on my blog than I ever intended it to be. I apologize for this. The truth is, that the last three months have been a whirlwind for me of busyness, transition, and sickness. During the last several months my wife was really struggling with the final months of her pregnancy. She pent a lot of time on bedrest. Since we have three other children, this put me into a season of extreme busyness in order to balance my work as a pastor and caring for my family. I am so thankful for the support of our loving church family! Then, on January 21, 2020 we welcomed our daughter Hannah Grace Macaluso into the world. As soon as we came home from the hospital our entire family became sick with a cold and yes, our newborn got it too. After two weeks, we were over the cold but then immediately got the flu, and yes, our newborn got it too. In some ways January and February of 2020 were a blur for me, and in some ways I’m content to leave it that way, but I have to share that in the midst of all I was going through, I must admit that I began to feel very discouraged.
Now, before I get into how I dealt with my discouragement, I have to say that I know with certainty that there are many folks who have life much harder than I did the last few months. I know plenty of folks personally who had it harder than me. In no way am I trying to paint myself as a victim, but instead, I’m just honestly sharing what I have been through. Here’s the thing, there’s no scale for how much suffering you need to endure before you face discouragement. We are all different. I know that my recent struggles made me more sensitive to the struggles that others around me are dealing with. As Paul wrote in Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” With every trial I face, I sense God making me a little better equipped to live out that verse.
So, I want to share with you my journey of overcoming the discouragement I faced. Perhaps if you or someone you know is dealing with discouragement this can be of some help to you.
What is discouragement? Its meaning is: A loss of confidence or enthusiasm, downheartedness, dispiritedness, disheartened, a lack of courage.
Those words, downheartedness, dispiritedness, disheartened were exactly how I was feeling as I held my new born all night long so I could constantly monitor her breathing (my wife and I took turns doing this) while her body fought the flu. I remember the beginning of my turning point. I knew I didn’t like the way I felt. I knew I wanted to change but it was easier said than done. As I sat up all night holding my newborn, I listened to a sermon by Pastor Greg Laurie on YouTube. One of the things I was reminded of in that sermon was that many people in the Bible faced discouragement. I began to think of the stories of Job, Moses, Joshua, Elijah, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah the 12 disciples (immediately after Jesus’s crucifixion), the Apostle Paul… I began to look up these stories in the Bible and I was reminded of God’s faithfulness, provision, and deliverance and I was convicted that I could wallow in my discouragement, or I could look to Jesus for help. That was my turning point. It was as if Jesus was calling me into closer fellowship with Him. I wrote down this quote from Greg Laurie’s sermon, “You’re never gonna know Jesus as deeply as you can until He comes to you in the middle of a storm.” I have been through plenty of other storms in my life, including the death of my brother, a car accident that took a chunk of my hearing, deaths of other family members, and being the first one to the sight of a terrible car accident my mom was in.
“You’re never gonna know Jesus as deeply as you can until He comes to you in the middle of a storm.” ~ Greg Laurie
I find I learn a lot when I go through a difficult time, at least, I do if I’m willing to learn! One of the things that I was reminded of during my discouragement was that ministry is not dependent on me and what I can do. I was reminded of how helpless I am and of how much I need Jesus. I wrote down this quote: “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at Jesus, you’ll be at rest.” ~ Corrie Ten Boom.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I value my relationship with God through Jesus Christ and I make it a priority to spend time in prayer and Bible reading/study as a way to spend time with God who loves me and died on a cross for me and rose again and lives inside of me. I’d like to say that my recent struggles made me instantly want to spend more time with Jesus and that I automatically spent more time in God’s Word. Unfortunately, I actually allowed the constant busyness I faced along with the discouragement I struggled with to decrease the time I spent with God. I was so sick myself that I didn’t feel like reading. I was also frustrated in my prayer life because I had prayed asking God to keep my newborn healthy when all of the rest of us had the flu and He didn’t give me the answer that I wanted. It’s funny that looking back I realized that the less time I spent in fellowship with God the more discouraged I became. So that night with my newborn in my arms I thanked Jesus for coming to me in the middle of my storm and made a commitment between Jesus and myself that I was going to intentionally focus time on my relationship with Him. As I did this, over the course of the next several days, my discouragement gradually faded, and my relationship with Jesus Christ was strengthened.
Here are the things I did to build into my relationship with Jesus in the order that I put them into practice:
- Listen to Christian Songs that speak to your heart about the goodness and grace of God.
Psalm 71:14 says, “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.” It’s amazing how focusing on praising God through music puts your focus on Him and takes it off of yourself.
- Spend serious time in God’s Word.
I had allowed my schedule (or lack of schedule) to seriously diminish my time in God’s Word. I want to be careful here, because spending time in God’s Word is a wonderful discipline that I believe every follower of Jesus needs to cultivate, but we also have to be continuously careful not to treat it as something that we MUST do in order to please God, but instead, we need to treat as something we have the PRIVILEGE of doing to get to know God better as we cultivate our relationship with Him. I ask myself, do I look at this as a joy or a chore?
- Memorize a Scripture
I would encourage you to seek out a new Scripture that you haven’t ever memorized before that speaks into your current situation. The day that I committed to spend serious time in God’s Word again, the first chapter I read included this verse which became my memory verse:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
- Pray about it and Write about it
The main point here is to take your time praying honestly to God about your feelings and struggles. I often use a prayer journal to help keep me focused during prayer. I find my mind easily wanders and distractions are everywhere and writing some of my prayers to God down is a huge help to me. If you don’t know how to start doing this, try copying out psalms. Many of these were prayers of people who followed God and were going through struggles.
- Spend time with an encourager.
God wants us to encourage each other. If you know someone that you can spend some time with who will give you some encouragement seek them out and you will be blessed by it.
I pray this helps you or someone you know who is struggling with discouragement. I’m planning to get back to posting regularly on my blog. I’m ending this article with a list of resources that will help you apply the principles I just listed out.
Here’s a link to one of the songs (“Burdens” by Jamie Kimmett) I listened to and sang along to over and over again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DquWxeycBIQ
A list of Scriptures dealing with discouragement. Here’s the link: https://www.openbible.info/topics/discouragement
A list of encouraging Scriptures. Here’s the link: https://www.openbible.info/topics/encouragement
Here’s a link to the sermon by Greg Laurie that I listened to entitled, “How to Handle Discouragement”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjDqnpQ0Ryc&t=1782s