We all go through times in our lives when we face trying situations and find ourselves battling, fighting with everything we are, against discouragement. Other times discouragement wraps around us like a very unwelcome hug and we struggle to get out of his embrace. Though I’m not in this situation right now, I have been thinking back to periods in my life when I have been. Sometimes it was so overwhelming and felt like a literal weight was tied around my neck. I still marvel at how emotional matters can feel so physical.
On the good days we fight it.
We feel those tendrils of discouragement beginning to wrap themselves around the vulnerable places of our heart. With one look, we recognize that dark, malevolent presence and do everything we can to keep this monster from feeling any welcome in our life. We bolt the door of our heart from the inside and post a guard against it. In full battle armor (Eph. 6 10-18) we face off against our enemy. We know that discouragement has nothing on us and we are determined to win.
But other times, those tendrils become strong roots.
Fighting turns to indifference. Yes, we see discouragement coming. We hear the heaviness of his footsteps right outside our door and we’re too emotionally spent to fight. He squirms his way into our heart and makes himself at home. Our enemy knows that once he’s in a little, we’ll more than likely go all the way and invite him inside. And even more than that, he knows that once he’s inside we’ll find it very difficult to send him away.
So finally, Discouragement becomes our expected companion.
On those dark nights or long stressful days when we were building our home and I was pregnant with Samuel, Discouragement certainly became my companion. I thought I could fight it. I thought I was strong enough. But my enemy knew I was wrong.
Instead of the belt of truth, I had donned a tool belt and declared I could do it myself.
My flimsy breastplate of self-confidence was easier to carrier than the heavy iron breastplate I could’ve used.
My shoes of peace sat unused in the corner while I stood on a firm foundation of accusations and judgment.
I shielded myself with a healthy dose of self-pity and doubt and left the arrow-quenching shield of faith untried.
My helmet of salvation fit poorly and just seemed to get in the way. I honestly thought that it wasn’t doing me any good and wondered if I should just set it to the side.
I set out to fight a malevolent monster with a cardboard sword when there was a sharp, two-edged one sitting on my bedside table.
The result of my battle with discouragement was utter and total failure.
I lost. The enemy won and Discouragement took the most prominent seat at the table of my heart. For months I struggled with him as my guest. In reality, I wondered if he’d ever leave – if I’d ever have the courage to make him. I looked around at my circumstances and decided that my life was really bad. Somehow Discouragement not only affected my relationships, but my perceptions as well. With him as my guest, all my senses were off.
I wasn’t sure how to use the weapons I knew I needed. I had become so accustomed to my replacement armor that I was unsure of how to wear the real thing. Discouragement would see me heading for my sharp two-edged sword and engage in all-out war against me. He knew that once I had it in hand I would plunge it deep into his heart and drive him to his death. He knew that as soon as I allowed myself to get behind the shield of God’s righteousness, that his arrows would be quenched. So he shot more my direction. Those shoes of peace would wreak havoc on his existence so he tried hiding them and making me think they never existed.
His every move was calculated and expertly.
Mine were clumsy and uncertain. But there came a time when I recognized that Discouragement was hurting, not helping me. More than that though, I admitted the truth. I hated having him in my life and I wanted him gone. With that admission, the armor and weaponry seemed so much easier to wield.
The battle turned in my favor in the form of a scripture. It came into my head one day so I picked up that sword and meditated on it. Then I struck a blow toward Discouragement by writing it all down and taping it to my fridge:
Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Psalm 61:1-4
Somehow, after that, the volley of flaming arrows never seemed to reach me well. The helmet of salvation began to sit better on my head and I became amazingly grateful for its protection. The shoes of peace were much more comfortable than the hard foundation of accusations and judgment.
I couldn’t tell you when the final blow was made that drove Discouragement away.
I think it was sometime after the birth of our son Samuel. This had been the most difficult time in my life. Not only was I in great physical pain but also was experiencing the uncertainty of our building project with no home of our own. The cherry on top was relational stress and emotional vulnerability. The enemy of my soul knew these things and sent Discouragement at just the right time.
Friend, if you’re going through a time of discouragement, I urge you to recognize it for what it is – a tactic straight from the enemy of our souls. Pick up that armor that is given freely through our Savior and use it to fight him. Don’t fight with the closest weapon you can reach – use the ones that will be the most effective. I lost my battle for a time – don’t lose yours.