In the article #1 Killer of KidMin Leaders I talk about a deadly enemy that wants to take you out of the game.
His name is Discouragement.
Like a blood-thirsty tick, discouragement buries its fangs in your soul, and it doesn’t let go until you’re dry and empty. It comes to put out your fire, obscure your vision, dampen your passion, and drain your energy. Its ultimate goal is to stop you dead in your tracks and cause you to give up on your calling.
Just how dangerous is this enemy? Consider just a few of its worn out and defeated victims:
1. A liberated nation that never reached their home and died in the wilderness (Numbers 13:31—14:23).
2. A fearless prophet who sank into the depths of despair and called it quits (1 Kings 19)
3. A zealous construction crew who abandoned their mission halfway (Ezra 4).
4. A chosen disciple who never crossed the finish line succumbing to the weight of guilt and hopelessness (Matthew 27:3-5).
Actually, you don’t need to look so far back to find tragic examples of discouragement.
Often all you need to do is look into the mirror.
You know what discouragement feels like when…
You had to cancel a Fall Festival Party or VBS due to almost zero response from the families in your church.
You’ve spent weeks preparing for an important training, but only a handful of volunteers showed up.
You’re doing your best equipping and encouraging parents in your church and they don’t even bother to answer your emails; what’s worse, they don’t seem to care about discipling their own children, expecting the church to do it for them.
The senior leaders add more and more responsibilities to your already full plate without providing any type of additional support, not to mention a kind word.
You have great dreams for the children and the families in your church, but no adequate budget to bring them to life.
When you face discouragement, there are two things to keep in mind:
1. Discouragement doesn’t discriminate.
Everyone faces it and even the strongest among us will find ourselves under its power at times. Did you know that spiritual giants like Martin Luther, Alexander Whyte and Charles Spurgeon admitted to times of serious discouragement? Listen to this confession from the prince of preachers (Spurgeon), “I would not wish upon my worst enemy the depths of despair and discouragement I often feel for weeks or months at a time.”
2. Discouragement is not a sin.
It’s not a weakness or moral shortcoming. It’s not a symptom of faltering faith. It’s simply a warning sign letting you know that you are depleted (mentally, relationally and physically).
The worst thing you can do when you get discouraged is to allow condemnation into your spirit.
What starts out as a simple bout with discouragement can quickly blossom into full-on spiritual defeat.
Instead, step into the ring and have a boxing match with it. To stop discouragement from getting the best of you, you’ll need to do two primary things: understand its nature and tricks (learn more here) and develop a defense plan.
My personal plan has three tiers:
1. Enjoy Simple Things
2. Embrace God's Presence
3. Emulate a Hero
I’ll talk about God’s presence and a hero in the next two blogs. Right now I want to share how I’ve learned to beat discouragement by enjoying simple things.
Here’s how it works.
Let’s say that after numerous failed attempts to recruit VBS volunteers, discouragement begins to wrap itself around you. With every plea that goes ignored, with every email and phone call that goes unanswered, with every “No, we’re busy that week” discouragement tightens its grip on you, choking out every ounce of excitement and enthusiasm for ministry that you still have left.
As a result, sadness and loneliness start to creep in. Soon they’re joined by anger and despair. The thought of turning your back and walking away becomes sweeter by the day.
Just then you remember that you are not a powerless victim, and you decide to fight back. You make the wise choice to separate yourself from the sources of discouragement and just enjoy some simple things.
You go on a bike ride, paint a picture, or climb into bed and take a nap. What happens next is nothing short of a miracle—discouragement gets a panic attack and runs away from you!
By now, you might be rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself that it sounds too easy, naïve and even unspiritual? Please don’t quickly discard such activities as too simple. The truth is: they are! However, God often uses small, insignificant, simple and mundane things to produce extraordinary results.
Check out these “therapy sessions” where divine wisdom encountered human brokenness:
While feeling discouraged, Elijah was served food and drink by an angel. He even managed to squeeze in some nap time between meals. (1 Kings 19:5-8)
While feeling defeated, Peter was served breakfast prepared by Jesus. They also had an honest conversation around the fire. (John 21)
While being imprisoned and deserted by friends, Paul writes to Timothy asking him to come and bring him… are you ready for this? His coat and his books (2 Timothy 4:9-13).
In His final hours on earth, Jesus finds joy in sharing a meal with His friends. “I have really looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you,” He told them (Luke 22:15).
Did you notice the common thread in all these accounts? It’s the simple things, like food and drink, heart conversation, friends around the table, a favorite coat and books.
Sometimes God shows up in spectacular ways. Most of the time, however, He simply joins us in the midst of our mundane living and renews our strength with EVERYDAy things.
Why do simple things beat discouragement? I don’t know all the answers, but here is what I have found to be true.
1. Taking time to enjoy simple things will bring you back to the understanding that you’re a human being, not a human doing.
Finding joy in simple things will help you distance yourself from the work that you do (the work that drains you and stresses you out) and help you to simply enjoy life as God designed you to (1 Timothy 6:17).
2. Taking time to enjoy simple things is like pressing a pause button.
It’s like taking a mini-vacation which allows you to refill your tank. It doesn’t change the situation you’re in, but it does change you and the way you see your circumstances.
As you experience simple joys, they will rejuvenate you and give you a fresh perspective. Of course, you will still need to recruit the same number of VBS volunteers, but you can now go back and tackle this challenge with confidence, clarity and even joy.
In Psalm 23:5 we find a beautiful word picture, which is actually God’s battle plan for the times when you feel discouraged. Here’s what it says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Notice two fascinating things in this passage.
1. Your Environment. It’s absolutely hostile. You are surrounded by furious enemies who are closing in on you eager to beat you down.
2. God’s Response. It’s absolutely ridiculous. God puts on a waiter’s apron and He’s serving you a six-course dinner right in front of your enemies.
Take a moment to ponder these two parts that seem completely out of place—a fancy meal and a war zone; a banquet and a battlefield. God is treating you to feast, while your enemies are watching.
I don’t know about you, but through this passage I get a sense that sometimes more good is accomplished by me enjoying a hearty meal than by picking a fight. Or could it be that while I’m enjoying the simple things, I’m actually fighting for my soul?
Did you notice what doesn’t happen in this scenario?
God is not giving you an armor to fight your haters or a fortress to hide from them. The enemies are still there. The challenging situation did not go away. God is simply giving you breathing room in the midst of the war. He’s reviving your drooping head by serving you a wonderful dinner. How simple and yet at the same time, profound and powerful!
Don’t despise simple things.
God often uses them to restore your soul.
Here’s a question for you: with what simple things will you break through the throes of discouragement the next time it strikes you?
Here’s a list of 21 suggestions to help you think through this question.
Have a nice meal.
Watch a good movie.
Shed some sweat at the gym.
Take a long walk.
Have a dance party in your living room.
Go for a long ride.
Enjoy time with your family.
Wash your car.
Savor a cup of coffee and a laugh with a friend.
Have a good night’s rest.
Bake your favorite cookies.
Climb a mountain (or a hill).
Listen to the rain.
Clean up your room (workspace.)
Treat yourself to dessert.
Garden or work in the yard.
Solve a word puzzle.
Read a book you've been meaning to get to.
__________________________ (you fill in the blank)
So go ahead and enjoy some simple things! You have divine permission. Who knows, Jesus might show up in a coffee house or in your garden and change the course of your life forever.
If you like this article so much that you want to send my wife and me on a coffee date, that would be lovely. (Coffee Date Launchpad is HERE.) Thank you so much!