Defeating the Demons of Discouragement

Somebody once said there are two things in life we can’t avoid, taxes and death. I’d like to add a third, discouragement. Church leader or not, you will face it. It’s an inevitable part of life. Several years ago I dealt with a bout of it. Here’s what happened and some suggestions on what to do when it hits you.

It all began Monday even after we had a good day at church the day prior. We had baptized a dozen people, another half dozen indicated they had trusted Christ, and we began Alpha with a bang.

But, when I got the stats back from Sunday’s service, I got bummed out. A not-so-good attendance and a very poor offering pushed me into discouragement. I’ve been doing well lately to not allow low Sunday statistics to affect me. This time, however, I didn’t do so well. It didn’t help that on that particular Thursday night my alma mater, GA Tech, got plastered by Miami on national TV.

I found, however, that three small choices helped me dig out of my funk. I take great comfort that King David lifted himself out of a serious bout of discouragement when he “encouraged himself in the Lord his God,” (1 Samuel 30.6). I believe that small choices that may not seem overtly spiritual can become ways we can encourage ourselves in the Lord.

Here are the three.

  • Break up your routine. One week my wife and my daughter were going to make a run to our local super Wal-Mart and they asked if I wanted to go. My first inclination was, ‘no.’ But after a moment’s reflection, I said, “sure.” Usually I’ll just sit at the man bench at the check-out line. You know, those benches or chairs where guys sit to be very bored while their wives shop … one of those. This time, however, I decided I’d go to the books area and browse. When I did, I picked up the Guinness Book of World Records and had few laughs. I saw, among other things, a picture of a guy who holds the world record in piercings (yuk) and a picture of another guy in India with the world’s longest ear hairs at 7 inches (gross). This little break, albeit odd, helped get my mind off my discouragement.
  • Pamper yourself. For a guy, I know this may sound odd. I don’t mean you have to get a pedicure (unless you like them). Here’s how I pampered myself. At the time I swam at a local indoor pool three times a week and usually went back home to grab some breakfast. I’m was on a very tight budget (as most pastors are) so I didn’t eat out much. But that morning, I decided I’d go through the drive-thru and get some breakfast at McDonalds to treat myself. I spent $2.10 for a sausage biscuit and an egg McMuffin (sans the egg). After I slathered each with grape jelly, I enjoyed this small treat. This small ‘self-care’ gesture encouraged me
  • Do something outrageously fun. At that time on Tuesday nights I’ve gone to my musical improv class. Yep, it’s like the old TV show, ‘Whose Line is it Anyway.” I had great fun in these classes. As a pastor I was a bit of a novelty to my classmates. Comedy turns blue so often, but when I put my clean twist on things, my classmate usually laughed. When I drove home that night, I feel like I’ve made a jumbo deposit into my soul.

So, the next time you face discouragement, give these ideas a try. Break your routine. Pamper yourself. Maybe even join an improv class.

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