The Art of Anticipating Discouragement
When our heart’s temperature drops (metaphorically), the facts about our current circumstances often don't matter. All we know is that life has taken a turn for the worse. People on the outside looking in understandably wonder what the heck we’re whining about. And because there doesn’t seem to be real legitimacy to our depression, these same folks might have a difficult time extending any grace.
It’s interesting to me how one of the most debilitating attitudes of the heart can, in actuality, be so predictable. If you can stand on the sidelines of the human drama and watch when a person happens to get sucker-punched by depression, you’ll see that, based on the things that led up to that moment, discouragement was pretty much a foregone conclusion.
Events that can lead to discouragement have something in common: they’re all emotionally charged events. They don’t offer a manageable pace for our everyday feelings to run their course. Overworked emotions make us think thoughts that have nothing to do with what is actually going on at that time in our lives.
Obviously, a protracted period of negative emotional pressure, like being raised in a family that’s falling apart or being raised in a fear-based home can do some long term damage to your emotion’s abilities to stay upbeat. Circumstances like these may require sophisticated medical and spiritual expertise in order to get through them.
But for your standard run-of-the mill discouragement, there’s good news. You can actually manage these low points in your emotional cycle by simply anticipating them—even scheduling them—and seeing them for what they are instead of what they aren’t. In the process, you can keep your depression from mastering you. Here's a strategy to help subdue bouts of discouragement:
- Go into them recognizing that although it feels otherwise, these times of discouragement/depression AREN’T accurate reflections of your actual state of reality.
- Remind yourself that these are times when your feelings simply have a minor (or major) case of emotional flu. Your emotions have gotten sick from overexposure or overexertion. A little time of recovery will do them (and you) wonders.
- Recognize that the Forces of Darkness love to take advantage of you during these times when they know you aren’t thinking straight. When this happens, follow the instructions of 2 Corinthians 10:5: “Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.”
- Do your best to avoid making any major decisions during this time of emotional recovery.
- Realize that those who otherwise love you haven’t suddenly turned on you. Your emotions have turned on you. Ask God to give you an almost irrational kindness towards them until that time when you can have your rational kindness restored with emotional vitality.
- Take your medicine! The Rx for recovering from these kinds of emotional slumps are: physical rest, emotional rest, time reflecting in God’s Word, prayer, and encouragement from the people who love you.
Everyday discouragement is a part of life. For most people, brief encounters with discouragement or feelings of depression are simply part of the recovery cycle from overworked emotions. Don’t panic. Anticipate them. If you have the facts--and if you have truth, logic and common sense in place before you face these downtimes--most of the time you can get through them without them getting a chance to define you or to ruin the bigger picture of your life.
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