April 10, 2013

How To Encourage Yourself in the Lord

There are seasons in life, it seems, when the world is closing in and all hope seems lost, times of utter loneliness, almost irrational in nature. What is going well? What am I doing right? Nothing, as far as my emotions can see. We got no food, no jobs, our pets' heads are falling off. That's the kind of language I use to convey my state of mind to my husband, because he can instantly relate to Dumb and Dumber quotes.

I make light of it, but there really is no lightness to times like these. It's all darkness and confusion and heaviness, times when you just need to know that you're on the right track, that your kids will actually learn to love anything other than video games, that you have a friend in the world, and that you matter.
Before my offline friends start beating a path to my door with meals and concerned faces and tissues (because that's how wonderful they are), I'm not in one of those times. But I have been. And I find that in those times, I crave encouragement from other people. I'm not talking the healthy, Christ-community kind of encouragement. I'm talking an almost insatiable desire for approval, for someone to say something to me that proves my worth and value as a person.

I know this isn't healthy, and I also know that God is dealing with me in this area because He continues to withhold what I desire in times of discouragement, and He continues to show me that no amount of human encouragement will meet the deepest needs of the heart. He is my only hope. His words are the true words of life. His approval is all I need.

Knowing this struggle of mine, I am amazed every time I read this verse: "But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God" (1 Samuel 30:6). Do you know the story? David and his men have come back from battle to find that their homes have been burned and their wives and children taken. The men turn on David, preparing to stone him. If anyone could quote Lloyd, it's David: We got no food, no jobs, our pets' heads are falling off. But David seeks no man's encouragement about the type of leader he has been. He runs immediately to God for wisdom, his worth, and encouragement. He asks for direction from the Lord, for some discernment in the midst of the grief and confusion. And God gives it to him.

This has given me a framework for learning to encourage myself in the Lord. Of course, it begins for me with recognizing that I must allow God to kill any unhealthy desires for words of approval and worth from others, even my husband. This is always the beginning: confessing sin, confessing when I am frustrated by unmet expectations, and confessing that God is enough. When I recognize and acknowledge that my hope is in God and acknowledge what He's done and doing in my life (that all hope is not lost), I find that He urges me to ask for what I need. What is at the root of what I'm feeling? What truth from the Word speaks to what I'm feeling or thinking? What characteristic of God do I need to recognize and apply to the situation? Do I need to share my struggle with others who will pray for me and speak truth to me?

This process typically has to happen over and over and over for days until the light of hope and grace and truth start to shine in my heart again.

Until, yes, there it is...

I am encouraged in the Lord.

How do you practice the discipline of encouraging yourself in the Lord?


Christine said...

Needed to hear this this morning - "no amount of human encouragement will meet the deepest needs of the heart" - and I needed to remember that that's good news, not bad news! My God can meet my needs no matter what, no matter whatever else is going on.

Thanks for walking through all those practical questions at the end of the post - those are super helpful! And, +10,000,000 points to you for the Dumb and Dumber references. PERFECT. :)

Christine said...

Always good to get a comment from you, Leslie Lee. Goodbye, my LOOOOOOOOVVVVVE!

Christine said...

Christine, I've never commented before but just had to share. This morning I was thinking, "hmm...I feel hopeful today. That's different than what I often feel. I want to look up hope and pursuing hope in the Lord...where should I go on google? I think I'll try that blog,"Grace Covers Me" and here is your post...on hope. God never acts randomly. I can relate to all of what you said...so personally...if that makes sense. As a pastor's wife serving in a foreign country, I can often feel very out of sorts...with myself, with the culture here, with the women I am trying to befriend and minister to/with. Hope is a precious commodity. Yet the "disciplines" I have seen fruit from are 1)reaching out to other sisters in the Lord, asking for prayer and counsel. 2)studying hope in Scripture 3) reading back through my journals of years gone by and seeing prayers prayed and answers given and finally 4)doing something out of the ordinary on a day when the hum-drum of life feels like it's all there is. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy to hope because I insist on not breaking the routine of life...a bit of a "works mentality" in action there...but I want to live as if..."Grace Covers Me" because it does!
Thanks for all you do through your blog! From Nassau, Kristin

Christine said...

I actually just wrote a little bit about this. It all comes down to Reality vs Truth. Many times, the reality we experience seems to go directly against what we know is True, meaning we can know that God will not leave of forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) but we are experiencing serious financial struggle. It is our choice to believe God's Word or our experienced reality.

This is absolutely how I encourage myself. Sometimes I feel sad or unloved or just dried up, giving all I have and then having more demanded of me. It is in those moments that I go back to Scripture and remind myself of the Truth that has been imprinted on my heart (Jeremiah 31:33). This finding, reminding, and claiming of the Truth gives me perspective, and, therefore, encouragement.

Also, as a practical action when I've feeling icky and down, I take in beauty. Whether it's from a book of poetry or some of my favorite photography sites or spending time outside in nature, it always gives me a boost. And, interestingly, I always come out on the other side with a better perspective of who I am and who God is.

I'm a missionary pastor's wife, and sometimes we just get looked over. Thank you for your love and encouragement. I'm looking forward to reading the book!

Christine said...

So glad you commented and that you're disciplining yourself in hope! Thanks for sharing.

Christine said...

Great idea about taking in beauty. That is helpful for me, too.

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