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When Discouragement Sets In

How do you recover when you’ve had a difficult day, week, month?

I’ve had a tough week. A number of people I care about are going through deep struggles. These are just a few.

a boy supporting ukraine in a rally
Photo by Sima Ghaffarzadeh on
  • Our dear friend next door is nearing death.
  • My manicurist found something on her breast and won’t have a biopsy until January; and she struggles with a newly independent daughter who is becoming emotionally distant.
  • Friends from Ukraine are hurting for the ongoing war, uncertain what will happen to their families.
  • Marital struggles of a dear friend.

Don and I met Anita on the street in Menlo Park. Long blond hair, makeup on, eyes sad, she sat on a bench, shoulders hunched, with a sign saying she couldn’t pay her rent.

“Are you hungry?” I asked. She nodded. “OK.”

We were headed into Boulangerie, where we ate breakfast and purchased lunch for her. While we ate, Anita came inside to use the restroom. When she came out, I asked “Are you the woman who was sitting across the street?” (wanted to be sure). She was.

Don and I invited her to sit with us. She told us she is disabled with manic depression, diabetes, etc.

After we talked awhile, I asked “Do you know Jesus?”

“Yes I do. I pray to him every day.”

By God’s grace we were able to encourage her with some food and a bit of money to help, at least for a brief time. Just as important, I think she knew we cared. We took time to listen to her. The blessing was that we weren’t in a rush that day. Don had a doctor’s appointment in Menlo and we had a number of errands to do before my haircut in the afternoon.

It’s so easy to walk by panhandlers, averting our eyes–or maybe nodding and saying hello, then continuing on in our own little world–which I often do. I’ll never forget walking behind a well-dressed woman in downtown Los Angeles years ago. She wore a suit and high heels, and her hair was coiffed. As she passed a homeless man, she looked straight at him and said, “Good morning, sir!” No, she didn’t give him anything tangible. But I always felt she acknowledged him, thereby giving him dignity.

There are so many in need and it hurts to see their pain, discouragement, loss.

I cried a lot this week and thought ‘what’s wrong with me? I’m not usually so emotional.’

And over the next day God brought to mind two things.

First, I’d forgotten to take some of my meds for about three days and that threw me off kilter. I’m just now recovering from the emotional fatigue of the week. (Medication can be a godsend; if you’re on it, be consistent!)

Second, this scripture came to my mind.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:11

When I get discouraged, I need to focus on praising God for all he is doing. A song says “Even when I don’t see it He’s working, Even when I don’t feel it He’s working …”

The other day my hairdresser and I talked about homelessness, about choices people make that lead to that condition (not necessarily counting mental illness which I believe causes a lot homelesness). She said “They’ve made that choice, whether through drugs, alcohol, or whatever.”

Regardless of whether or not you agree with her statement, God has given us a choice too. He’s said “I’ve done everything needed for you to have eternal life. I gave my beloved Son, the only one who has never sinned, to die in order to take the punishment for your sins. You can’t meet my standard because you’re sinful. But you have a choice. You can accept what I’ve done and put your trust in Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for your sin, or you can choose to reject my gift of hope and life. You have free will. I won’t force you.”

Another thing I can do when I’m discouraged is remember God’s answers in the past. He has led throughout my whole life. Despite loss of a husband, parents and others I love; despite challenges of working in a ghetto and threats we faced there; despite discouragements and setbacks along the way; He has always been with me, leading to the next step. He is faithful; I look back at what my God has done in the past and am reminded that His character doesn’t change. He was faithful then; He will be faithful now.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus, John 16:33 ESV

I certainly don’t know the end result for the people I care about.

But Val chose to receive Christ two weeks ago. Though her body will soon die (as we all will at some point), she has eternal life through Jesus Christ.

I can love on and pray for my manicurist as she learns more about the lump in her breast, upcoming treatment, etc.

I don’t know what the end result of the war in Ukraine will be, but pray for the country’s people, their courage and stalwart hearts.

My hope is not in peace in our lifetime.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV

One day our God will make all things right. Each of us will be judged by what we have done with his offer of forgiveness through faith in Christ. Evil will be banished and righteousness and justice will reign.

That gives me great hope!

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