I suppose that I can always find reasons to feel discouraged. I know that one of the tools that Satan has used with me through the years is discouragement. This has been a battle for me more often than I would like to think. (And of course it impacts Charlotte as well). Occasionally, there will be seasons of frustration and I almost feel this dark cloud overhead. I can feel myself get totally focused on the negative. At times this culminates in the feeling of resignation, "What's the use?" More than once I have been praying and failed to mention a great frustration and concern that I have. I didn't mention it because I felt like it really was useless to pray about it. Maybe I had already prayed about it many times or maybe I just felt so discouraged regarding the situation that it felt pointless. (You say, "That's not good." Yes, I know that.) That discouragement has at times left me feeling frustrated, angry, and on more than one occasion feeling hopeless. When I get that way, I think that I am exactly where Satan wants me to be.
I really believe that the Lord has helped me with this in recent years. I don't get seem to get as discouraged near as often.
1. God has promised to be with me. He will not leave me or forsake me (Heb. 13:5-6). His presence through his Holy Spirit sustains me.
2. God often does some of his greatest work in the ordinary lives of believers apart from the structures and organized efforts of the modern church. I witness this so often. I see that in our Life group. I see that in the gestures of grace and kindness toward other people.
3. The most important works of the church: loving other people, praying for other people, putting in a good word for Jesus to an unbeliever, living under the Lordship of Jesus can be done by God through all of us. Good things can happen even when other aspects of life or the church are discouraging. This is not hopeless.
4. I have learned the importance of just being who I am under Jesus and not getting caught up in "fixing" everyone else (as if I could!). I remember once asking a friend of mine this question, "How can I get people in the church where I am to pray more?" His answer, "Why don't you just pray and see what happens? Do that instead of trying to do something to them."
5. Life in the Lord is so much more than the pettiness and smallness that all of us can get bogged down with. The abundant life that I am experiencing in Christ is not dependent on everything around me going great. I am not dependent or trapped by what others do.
6. God often uses people at very important times to encourage. Doesn't it feel good when somebody communicates to use that they are genuinely concerned about you and how you are doing? I am so thankful for several friends who regularly ask me how I am doing.
I was at lunch at Rudy's not long ago. I was with a friend and we were talking and laughing a lot. It was a great break in the day. I remember thinking on the way back to work, "It was good to be with him and to just remember that life is so much more than what goes on in my immediate and often small world."
God really is good.