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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2 thoughts on “Defeating the Demons of Discouragement”

  1. Dear Dr Charles,

    Thank you for your e-teachings. I have just used the “8 ways to maximise Bible impact” on our church FB post. I credited you, but called you pastor, (there are too many Ph.D’s in my congregation, as I live and minister in a college town). (see FB Potchefstroom Methodist Church).
    On a personal note, I am an ordained Methodist minister (1988), and have served all over central South Africa since then. My particular interest, which directed my master’s degree, is the interaction between theology and science. I focused on evaluating the quality of scientific thought and process that Young Earth Creationists are using to make their case for Special creation, with reference to the Grand canyon’s deposits. (I was studying to be a sedimentary geologist before answering the call to ministry). My conclusions were that a sincere love for the Lord Jesus is not an excuse for the sloppy scientific methods often used, and that these devoted disciples are not doing God’s cause any favors when they force dubious conclusions from poorly formulated arguments. Their main focus should be to produce solid scientific papers that can be peer reviewed by mainstream scientists.

    Theologically I am conservative, with my primary document being the Bible, which is why I found your “8 ways”, such a gem.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Edward Brown M.Th. (Rev)
    Potchefstroom Methodist Church
    South Africa

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