Fighting Discouragement and Doubt
I'm about ready to give up.
Yep, there I said it. It's been this nagging feeling at the back of my mind all year, but honestly, I've been too afraid to voice it. Not trying to complain here, but in more than one area of my life I've been facing massive discouragement. I'm discouraged at work. Discouraged on campus. Discouraged with church. Discouraged with my family struggles. Discouraged with prayer. Discouraged with God. Discouraged with my body. Discouraged with my friends and social life. While there have been a few major crises this year, mostly it's just the day-in-day-out life stuff. But what does this say about faith? Am I a "bad Christian" for feeling discouraged, and allowing these feelings to "nag me down"? Where does faith play into all this?
These are big questions that I think a lot of people face - there just not often talked about. And believe me, I don't have all the answers. Actually, I barely have any. Do you struggle with discouragement?
I never thought of myself as one of those "doubters"... You know, the ones who just struggle to believe. To just have a little faith. The ones who track with Christians for years, but just can't seem to muster up the faith to conquer their own doubts and believe in God. That definitely wasn't my story. I welcomed God into my life with open arms and an open heart. I had faith that moved mountains and hope that anything and everything could change. I rarely doubted.
I think I first experienced REAL doubt over a year ago when 2 friends of mine tragically died within 24 hours of each other. It rocked my faith, feeling like my whole world turned upside down. That was a hard winter, complete with struggling with letting go of idols and broken relationships. I doubted God, what He was doing in my life, and what my purpose was. I felt so completely lost. This year, the circumstances are different but that doubt sits there and nags away. The discouragement that I've been feeling, along with unanswered prayer about my family has led me to doubt who God is, his plan for me, and his character. It's hard to persevere. Do you struggle with doubt?
As a Christian when faced with these things, I need to turn back to the Bible. No matter how we feel, the Bible is important because it's God telling us about himself. Not what we say about God. Not what I say about my life, or my circumstances. What God says. Also, there's some really applicable stuff in there. Some funny stuff too (I promise!). When we struggle with doubt or discouragement about someone or something, we need to allow that person to speak for themselves. For instance, if I feel doubts about how a friend feels about me, I need to talk to them and hear what THEY have to say - not just rely on MY perceptions of what's going on. It's the same with God.
While I don't have the answers to every doubt and discouragement, and it's hard to make them go away on their own - the Bible does shed some light on who God is and what he does in our lives. For the past few years I keep coming back to Exodus - the story of the Israelites with Moses in the desert after they escape Egypt. Moses faced both discouragement AND doubt - several times. A key interaction with God stand out.
In Exodus 32, God is frustrated with the Israelites because their sin is relentless. In his anger, he desires to destroy them. Moses responds in prayer and petition.Moses pleads with God on their behalf, reminding him of his love for them. He reminds God of his own promises to his people (not that God actually forgot, but Moses is pleading here). God relents and allows the people to live. Right after, Moses goes back to the people and finds them out of control and running crazy! He's astonished that things seem to be falling apart and he's massively discouraged with the people God has entrusted him to lead. Moses responds in prayer and petition. He once again goes to God and prays for them on their behalf. God responds with a delayed justice. He extends grace for the moment, allowing the people to continue on with his protection and guidance, led by Moses, and yet promises final justice to be fulfilled at a later date. Sometimes God responds to our discouragement and pleas with a not yet timing. God still has promises and plans for us but doesn't always deliver what we ask, the moment we ask for it. He extends grace for the moment, and makes us wait for the final result.
No matter our circumstances, how we feel, or how God is/is not working, we are ALWAYS to respond with prayer and petition. We are to seek his face and plead with him on our behalf, and of those who cannot pray. Seeking God in constant and consistent prayer has been my greatest weapon against discouragement and doubt. Acknowledging my need for him, my need for his wisdom, help and guidance, has been instrumental in knowing how to move forward.
His timing is perfect, and his sovereignty is good.