Recently I went through a period of time where I really struggled. By struggle, I mean I went through what the Psalter calls, “The valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). When I examined this brief season of life, it seemed like everywhere I looked I found situations that required constant attention or times when I felt helpless to effect change. During this, I fell into the deep pit of despair, discouragement, and disappointment. What brought me out of this season was recognizing one day as I was praying, that God was teaching me through this time. He was showing me He was going to use all of these difficult situations I was experiencing in my life for my good and for His glory.
Maybe today you’re facing a similar situation and you find yourself discouraged. Perhaps you’ve had a friendship go cold or your marriage is at the breaking point. If I’ve learned anything in my Christian life it’s that I need to remind myself of what I already know. I desperately need to go back to the essential truth of who I am in Christ as an adopted son of the King of Kings. In other words, I need to daily rehearse the gospel.
Imagine Joseph in the Bible. It would have been easy for him to get discouraged or disappointed after getting thrown into prison. King David in the Psalms is known for being down in the dumps and a few verses later lifting high the praises of God. David recognized who his God was and how great God is, and that changed his perspective. One of my mentors in high school once stated that life is all about perspective. For King David that perspective meant not only subscribing to a right view of God as Creator and sustainer of all life, it also meant implementing that view into all of life. While he faced discouraging and difficult situations, King David loved the Lord and his love for God compelled him to move forward in life to the glory of God.
In order to have a God-ward perspective in life, we need to first have a right view of God. This comes by regularly reading the Bible, whereby, we fill our mind with God’s Words by meditating on it and putting it into practice.
As a junior in high school, I remember sitting on the floor in my room at my middle brother’s house in Monroe, Washington. There I was challenged during my daily Bible reading as I read Matthew 6:14-15. The Holy Spirit challenged me to forgive my dad and if I refused to forgive, the text says that I in turn wouldn’t be forgiven. The next day my dad came over to my place and he and I went for a walk. I told my dad what the Lord had done the day before and asked if he would please forgive me for holding onto anger, bitterness, and resentment against him from my childhood. There has been multiple times over my Christian life where this experience has happened again and again.
Second, how we face disappointment and discouragement says a lot about what our heart truly treasure — God or ourselves.
When self is on the throne instead of God, our bitterness towards people who hurt us will only grow. This is why we need to forgive. It’s easy to hold a grudge or be angry with someone, but it’s much harder to truly forgive. To truly forgive is to have the sting of pain you feel towards that person removed. In my case, when I forgave my dad I no longer had anger or bitterness towards him. The Lord completely restored our relationship. You may have a certain relationship in your family, or perhaps with your spouse or a friend from church, that needs to be repaired and restored. By understanding what true forgiveness is you can extend the forgiveness of God to others. It’s been said many times—and will continue to be said in the future—that forgiven people forgive. Since you’ve been forgiven by God for your sin, you must forgive people when they sin against you. That may take time to process, and I understand, but you need to actively pray for the person and ask the Lord to help you forgive the person or people who have hurt you.
Lastly, handling disappointment and discouragement is difficult. It’s far easier to stay mad at someone or even to dwell way too much on a situation. As I look back at the sentence I just typed, I want you to understand that I’m pointing the finger at myself and I am pleading guilty as well. The key to handling disappointment and discouragement is to apply who you are in Christ into every sphere of your life. It’s one thing to say you believe the right things about God, the Bible, Jesus, etc., but it’s quite another to practice them. The book of James says that to those of us who know the right answers but don’t do them, to us it is sin (James 4:17).
As you face disappointment and discouragement I don’t want you to run away from it. Instead, I want you to run towards it and face it head-on by God’s ferocious grace. This will mean dealing with that awkward situation or difficult person(s). It will mean finally resolving conflicts in your life.
By forgiving others of their sins, Jesus says He will forgive you of yours (Matthew 6:14-15). Not only that, but you won’t carry around the baggage of unforgiveness any longer, but will instead by God’s grace become the agent of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17-20) that God has called you to be as His disciple. So go now and make amends with whomever it is you need to make amends with, forgiving those who have hurt you because you yourself have been forgiven by Jesus, who has removed your sin from his sight as far as the east is to the west (Psalm 103:12).
Facing disappointment and discouragement is possible but only because of Christ. It is through Christ who was rejected by men yet approved by God that our salvation is secured. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, Christians can face discouragement and disappointment knowing that Christ experienced this in His sinless life. By looking to Jesus, and running the race towards the face of Jesus Christ, you can grow through discouragement and disappointment by learning to see them as opportunities not to run away from God but to Him by pressing on towards Christ.