Hey everybody! In honor of Independence Day falling on a Thursday, I waited until today to make the regular post. Hope all my American friends enjoyed fireworks, hamburgers, homemade ice cream, and all things American – and THANK YOU to the special men and women who continually serve this nation to maintain our freedoms.
As you may or may not have noticed, I am trying to feature a different guest at least once a month, and this week my friend Rachel Wightman is sharing a bit! (Click here to follow her on Instagram.) She’s a dear friend to me, and I am beyond convinced that you will be blessed by her words, as I usually am. Grab your morning latte and enjoy!
More often than not, I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky, laid-back sort of girl. I’ve known Jesus all of my life and I’m more thankful every day for that simple truth. But if I’m being honest, in my 20 something years of walking with Jesus, I have hit quite a few rough patches. I have been discouraged, felt alone, and even struggled with depression despite my knowing Jesus.
I am positive that I am not alone in these struggles. Doing life with Jesus does not by any means exempt us from hard times. The question is, what do we do when we find ourselves there? Here are some things that I have found to be encouraging in times of spiritual dryness and discouragement on my journey with Christ.
1. Be encouraged and inspired by the stories of great men and women of God.
Recently I faced a tough season in my own life when I really felt like God was stripping me of a lot of things. As a church planter, I always struggle with feelings of loneliness, discouragement, and inadequacy. I stumbled upon a book I had read years before by a lady named Elisabeth Elliot.
When I finished rereading the book, I was amazed at the wisdom it contained, and I wondered where this woman had gathered it all. So I started reading other books by her. I read books written earlier in her life and ministry and discovered that she felt and thought and struggled with so many of the same things that I was facing decades later. This was so encouraging! To see this amazing woman of God known for her life of faith and to realize that she had struggled through life much the same way to get there gave me new hope in my own journey!
Hebrews 11 contains the famous passage about “the great cloud of witnesses,” and also is famous for dealing with the subject of faith. This of course is not a coincidence! Our faith is strengthened and renewed by drawing inspiration and encouragement from those who have gone before us! Give it a try!
2. Revisit passages of Scripture that have spoken to you before.
Of course all Scripture is good and all Scripture is alive and active, but sometimes when we are in a slump, we need to let our Bibles fall open in those natural creases. When we are discouraged and empty and we don’t feel like we are hearing much at all from God, it’s powerful to go back to those places that He spoke so clearly and vividly before.
Spend some time flipping through the pages and allowing yourself to go back to those moments when He revealed things to you through His Word and the passages that have stuck with you the most. This is such a great reminder that God does indeed speak and although it may not feel like it in the moment, you will hear Him again. And of course every word that was so powerful then and every promise you have held onto have the same weight and value in this season as well.
3. Surround yourself with solid, Godly friends and mentors.
This is always important, but especially in seasons of spiritual dryness and discouragement. We need to be around people who will be honest but also encouraging. We need to hear the truth but we also need to be able to share our heart honestly and receive feedback that helps us to regain our footing and move forward in a positive way.
This has been so valuable in my own life… having friends and mentors who will let me share my heart and who will hear me out to the end, but who love me enough to challenge me and not allow me to stay in places of spiritual darkness. Of course it’s not always fun or easy to hear, but I am so thankful for honest assessments of my spiritual condition and suggestions that encourage me to pull myself (or rather let Christ pull me) out of whatever slump I’m in.
4. S i m p l i c i t y notes (or something like it)
When I am in need of a perspective shift, I sit down and write what I have now labeled a “s i m p l i c i t y note.” It is simply a list of blessings that have come my way recently. Sometimes after a really long, hard day or week or perhaps month, I’ll feel myself becoming irritable and grumpy. That’s when I know it’s time.
It sometimes feels like everything is going wrong, but the truth is that so much is going right! If we will train ourselves to pay attention, we will see how blessed we really are, and it will be hard to hold back a smile! Sometimes it may be the simple, little things mixed into an overall “awful” day, but they’re there, and it’s our job to find them.
5. Rely on the character of God.
I’ll never forget the moment God taught me this lesson. I was hurt, lonely, stressed, drained, and at the very end of my rope, curled up in a ball in the corner of the empty Central Bible College chapel. God led me to Lamentations 3.
Jeremiah had been through a lot – a whole lot more than me. This is his honest, crying-out-to-God rant, filled with hurt and anger. He goes on and on about how he’s felt hurt and abandoned by everyone and even God Himself and how he just can’t take anymore. And then he says, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.” And He goes on to list characteristics of God that allow him to hope in spite of how he feels. And, not because of anything that God has done for him, but simply because of who God is, he is able to hope and endure whatever comes.
So wherever you might find yourself on your own spiritual journey, I pray that these will be an encouragement to you. If you’re discouraged right now, give some of these a try. If you find yourself in a pretty good place, then spend some time preparing yourself for the next valley that may come. At any rate, God is good and His character is constant, and that alone is more than enough to get us through every season life may bring. :)