Down days are part of every Christian life. Every spiritual leader, every pastor, every growing Christian wrestles with times of discouragement. Should it surprise us? No. Should we feel alone in it? No. Should we pretend we never deal with it? No.
We should simply respond biblically and patiently. Emotions are shape-able. The heart is lead-able. So, it’s critical that you lead your heart, as Paul explained in Philippians when he repeatedly encouraged others to rejoice, even in suffering.
So, where do you go to encourage your heart? Some go to pain killers like drugs or alcohol. Some go to pain-expression like anger and temper. Some go to pain-repression like bottling it up and trying to ignore it or over-spiritualize it.
There are better places to go and better ways to respond. There are better ways to process discouragement. Here are the “places” I go to encourage my heart. I’ll start the list, you help me finish it…
1. Go to the Word—Nothing can minister to you like God’s Word. Hear Him first. He is very precise in speaking directly into your circumstances and to your heart. And only Jesus knows precisely and intimately what you are dealing with.
Psalms 119:50 “This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.”
2. Go to Your Saviour in Prayer—No one can carry you like Jesus can. Cast your care upon Him. Literally say it out loud— “Jesus, this is your problem now, I’m putting it on you!” The gospel makes you safe, accepted, secure, and anchored in Jesus—so rest in that, regardless of how your emotions “feel.”
Psalms 16:11 “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
3. Go to Your Spouse or a Godly Friend—Get with your best, more encouraging, “Barnabas-like” human friend, and be strengthened in that person’s wisdom and perspective. Let someone with an objective view of your circumstances speak into your tainted emotional world. This is why Solomon said, “Two are better than one.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10 “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”
4. Go to Your Kids/Grandkids—Somehow, no matter who is upset at me or how the world seems to be coming against me, the power of that emotion fades greatly when I spend time with my family, or when I spend time with my twin grandchildren—Chad and Charleigh.
3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
5. Go to Your Support Team—Ask for prayer from Christian friends, and intentionally be with people who strengthen you in God’s grace and wisdom. God will usually give them a word “fitly spoken” that you really needed to hear! The key is, reach out to them, as they probably have no way of knowing your present need.
Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
6. Go Toward Reconciliation—Take any step you can toward “being at peace with all men.” When a relationship has been hindered, you can’t always “make” another person reconcile, but you can at least extend your heart and attempt it. This goes a long way toward putting peace back into your heart. Peace and joy are ultimately a product of your inner world, not your outer world.
Romans 12:18 “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
7. Go Toward Renewal—Wait on the Lord, and know you will not always feel the way you feel on your worst day. He will eventually renew your strength. It’s what He does. Don’t make a bad decision when you’re discouraged. Wait out the weary places. Endure the down times, for they are almost always followed by wonderful blessings and victories.
Isaiah 40:31 “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
8. Go Toward Worship—Discouragement is often a product of turning inward and looking at the wrong things. Solomon did this. In Ecclesiastes, when he looked around or within, he was in despair. But when he looked up and worshipped, his heart changed. Worship resets your heart. So, build a collection of songs or scriptures that place your focus upward on Jesus. Take a drive or a walk, raise the volume, raise your voice, and pour out your heart in worship. This will renew you and strengthen you in ways that nothing else can! (This is also why there are so many Psalms?)
Psalms 73:17 “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.”
9. Go Toward Service—Give yourself away to someone else. Share the gospel with someone. Encourage someone. Look around and consider the hardships of others. It won’t take you long to find someone hurting, mourning, or struggling—minister to them, and your problems will likely become smaller.
Philippians 1:12 “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;”
10. Go Toward Surrender—Examine your expectations, and accept what you cannot change. Yield to God’s control and consider that perhaps He has led you into this time of testing. A light heart is a joyful heart, and often our hearts are heavy because we are wrestling with things we cannot control or change—we had different expectations. God is sovereign in these things, and often, the path to a lighter, more joyful heart is the path of surrender. “God I accept your control in this area. I will stop wrestling and start resting.”
Isaiah 45:9 “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!…”
One final thought—consider the physical or environmental influences upon your emotions (your heart.) The problem is not always spiritual. Often, I have found, a gray day, an exhausting season, less sleep, and other external factors tend to impact my emotions more than I realize. I fight the gray days (weather-wise) with vitamin D. I fight the exhaustion with intentional rest. I fight inward focus by taking a brisk walk and getting blood flowing through activity. It’s actually amazing how these simple tweaks can impact your emotions for the better.
Emotional lows are a part of the Christian life, and seeing them objectively and responding to them appropriately is critical for your spiritual health. Expect them. Know that you are normal if you experience them. But don’t let emotions lead. Discover, by God’s grace, how to command your heart and direct your emotions through His Spirit.
“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28)