Dealing with Discouragement During the Holidays
If my Facebook feed was any indication of how the past year went, lots of people really struggled in 2013-
- Loss of loved ones
- Personal loneliness
- Illness or financial setback
Complicating things is the time of year:
- Dark, cold, gloomy weather has an impact on some worse than others
- Seeing others enjoy lots of presents if you are short financially, or dealing with the reality of spending more than you had
- Looking at happy family photos can really make loneliness more acute
- This is a naturally reflective time of the year, easy to rehash mistakes and setbacks of the previous year
So I want to offer a word of encouragement, just some basic exhortations from Scripture that I hope can help.
1. Be thankful for what is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Seems like counting disappointments comes more naturally than counting blessings.
The imperative to be thankful in all circumstances doesn’t mean that all circumstances are wonderful. It just means that as we face up to the realities of life, we do so realistically, truthfully, not filtering out everything good and dwelling on the bad.
Reminds you of God’s previous grace and gives hope for the future.
2. Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.
Part of what makes people miserable is obsessing over what others have that you don’t: money, romance, family stability, etc. But you cannot control anything about what others have.
This attitude is the opposite of contentment - Philippians 4:11-13
Besides, every moment you spend dwelling on what you cannot control is a moment wasted on focusing on what you should be thankful for and what you can control.
-It would be great if everyone was easy to get along with, but you can’t determine that. What you can do is “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18).
-It would be great if everyone had white hot grease fire of romance, but you may be single. Focus on developing the kind of character that would make you a good spouse for someone else.
-It would be great if everyone had plenty of money, but often we find ourselves tight. Focus on being a good steward of what you do have, learn habits that may lead to one who is faithful in few things becoming faithful in much.
Focus on what you have in Christ, what you can be in Him, on the things you can control.
3. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t define yourself by them.
Self-reflective time of the year naturally opens up moments to pause and think about what went wrong. Natural, and can even be good.
Pain is a great teacher - those whom the Lord loves He disciplines (Heb. 12:6).
It is good to take stock and evaluate what has gone wrong, try to understand why, and learn from it. But making mistakes doesn’t define who we are - Christ does.
Paul would often reflect on his life as a non-Christian, but not to the point of crushing despair. Instead, reminded him of his blessings in Christ and motivated him to look forward - Philippians 3:4-14.
I can’t think of a better way to end this lesson on how to deal with discouragement than by sharing Jonathan Grant’s FB post from NYE-
A year ago tonight, I held my wife in my arms, and we had this conversation:
"This is going to be a good year. A really good year. Some sad things will happen, and they will make us cry, but..."
"What are you talking about?" Sami asked.
"Well, I don't really know what... but sad things are a part of life. We'll cry some this year, but it's going to be a really good year. I can feel it."
Man, was I right. It has been a good year.
Sure, some sad stuff happened. I had no idea I was talking about myself that night... that we would find out in July that I have stage 4 cancer. That was sad. We cried.
But it was a really good year. I've spent more meaningful time with family and friends, and have had the chance to see acts of love and charity first-hand. What a good year.
There is only one word that can explain an attitude like this - Christ.