If you have ever raised or helped raise children, there comes a point when you realize that much of their tension and frustration are self-inflicted. If you take it a step further, you realize we, having started out as children, often don’t change much over the years. Much of the time, we are the source of our own angst.
The Bible is brutally honest with us. Scripture promises us that we will have trial and tribulation. Think about that. We will experience things that cause us detours from our purpose and destiny. But we have hope. Take a look at Samson (Judges 13-16). When it comes to detours in our life, Samson’s story provides a lot of examples. He was a miracle child, born to parents who had been barren many years. They knew from angelic visitation that he was destined to be the leader of their nation. He had a promising future. But, Samson was dysfunctional and distracted, rebellious and frustrated. Remarkably, in the midst of his dysfunction, God still used him. No matter your interference, God's purpose for you never changes and he faithfully works to bring it about. But know, obedience leads to blessing. Rebellion leads to burden.
In Judges 14:10-20, we get a close up of Samson’s life choices. He took the rebellion/burden path. Choice after choice leads Samson from one bad reaction to another - from insisting on a relationship that was not God’s will for him, to killing bystanders to pay off a lost bet; from walking out on his wife who betrayed him to killing more Philistines after they murdered her, his life spiraled down quickly, all because of choices he made. Our bad attitudes create a circuitous pathway that has us making choices that backfire, leaving us rejected and frustrated which brings about a reaction which causes us to make choices that backfire, leaving rejected and frustrated which brings about a reaction… well, you get the idea. We want so much for it to be everyone else’s fault. But our reactions are completely in our control. How do we break out of the cycle of destruction?
As noted, discouragement in life is inevitable. We find this in John 16:33: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” We must lean into Jesus, our peace giver, and choose not to focus on our trials and sorrows.
When we don’t deal with discouragement, it becomes an excuse for dysfunction. The catch here is that we often do not ask how we got to the condition of dysfunction. We're frustrated, but we want to blame everybody else for how we feel. Like Samson, we declare ourselves innocent and justified for any reaction we may allow ourselves. But, when we see discouragement and dysfunction, we should ask, “How did I create this?” Samson should never have been in Philistine territory at all. He was meant to be an agent of rescue, but he became an agent of destruction instead. We fall into the same traps - destruction being perpetuated through our reactions.
Compounded discouragement and disappointment foster anger. How many of us have killed things in our lives because of our reactions. Unless we recognize our own wrongdoing and hold ourselves accountable, we will fall into a pit and unmitigated discouragement will bring about delusion where our judgment is skewed and where we stop trusting people in our lives. Finally, we push ourselves away from people who actually care. Depression is dangerous. Isolation is often the apparent solution, however, it leads to sadness, grief, fear and worse. This kind of isolation is a counterfeit to what we really need.
We do need space when we are discouraged and we can look to Jesus for how to do it. It needs to be healthy isolation. Jesus needed space but he fasted and prayed. He had the habit of reset. He gained energy and steadfastness in his purpose when he got alone because he got alone with Father God. If you are isolating, is it a place where you indulge in self pity or is it a place where you experience the life-giving revival that only comes from God? What happens when you close the doors?
Discouragement will come. But you can overcome it. Live in faith, not in fear. Get into the Word of God. Pray and fast. Ask yourself what you are living for. Are your responses moving you away from your purpose or do they accelerate you toward your purpose? Ask for God to breathe new life into your relationships and into your pursuit of purpose. Take time and reset.