Finding and exalting heroic leaders is a common but harmful rewriting of the Church’s story. The battle to change this is ours to fight . . .
In our last post we pointed out three vital moves when discouraged. 1) Go deeper into your own story – go past the symptom of discouragement and get at the root. 2) Enter the story of a person nearby – discover the power of an outward mindset, and, 3) Find and explore the story of one who has prevailed in the face of great challenges – experience the gift of vicarious resilience. Now, three more vital moves:
Insert gratitude into your current story. We often hear the call to ‘thanksgiving’ in scripture as an add on to prayer. It turns out, gratitude is a game changer especially in times of challenge, difficulty and despair. When we are discouraged we often sense we are in a state of depleted resources. A grateful posture changes perspective. It jolts us out of a spiral of thoughts on what is wrong or what is missing and reminds us of what has been given. Martin Seligman refers to the practice of forgiveness and gratitude as the twin pillars of happiness. In reverse, the one-two punch of misery is the lack of forgiveness and the absence of gratitude. This act of resource listing lifts us up to see much more than the current situation and prompts us to call in the life-giving attitude of thankfulness.
Don’t forget to place a comma in your own story. We often tend to place a period where there needs to be a comma. In discouragement we feel as if we have reached a terminal point, an end . . . or a dead end. Many years ago, as my brother wrestled with his divorce, his thoughts were spiraling downward with the thought that this failure was final and fatal. However, in the fog of his perceived failure he was urged by the mercy and grace of God to place a comma where he was tempted to nail down a period. We worship and serve a God who ever calls us forward. Place a comma in this season of discouragement and then move ahead.
Finally, at the centre of our journey with discouragement, remember THE Story. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, “remember Jesus Christ,” is framed in the “difficult days” of those who strive to be a servant in the midst of such days. Paul throws on the screen of Timothy’s mind inspiring examples of athletes, soldiers, farmers, and then workman, vessels of honour, and servants. But at the heart of II Timothy 2 is a central exhortation, “remember Jesus.” Ever keep the person and journey of the Great Servant in view as you enter the contest, till the soil, and work your craft. In the same spirit as Hebrews 11 and 12 we can gain much from the story and example of others around but the vital remembrance is of the one who “endured the cross” for us. If we are discouraged today, our best move is to spend some time fixing your eyes on His story, and from Him to draw our strength, courage, and greater endurance. It is time to Keep On!
What to do with criticism? This one page perspective may prove helpful in overcoming discouragement.
Book: Crafting a Rule of Life