What to do in a season of discouragement
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:13-14
I have a confession to make. Since we moved back to our home state of Oklahoma from California, I feel like I’ve been disconnected from the Lord. In California, I felt like I walked so much closer to Him because I was in control of my surroundings and schedule. I was the only person in my home office so worship music was all that was played. I controlled my schedule which meant I could drop what I was doing and go on a walk to talk with Him at a moment’s notice. I was in the perfect environment to grow in my faith and live out being the person I was called to be. I got to start fresh and not feel tempted to backslide into bad habits and old routines.
But what happens when the conditions aren't perfect - when you can't control your schedule and your life feels crazy? You know, those seasons when you’re put in new environments of stress and it’s easier to cuss instead of pray, gossip instead of giving grace and drink that extra glass of wine instead of asking to be filled with the Spirit. While it’s not fun to be in the middle of these seasons of busyness and distraction, these are the times when we’re changed the most; when our faith is tested and our character forged.
Paul knew a little bit about the importance of looking ahead when it’s tempting to look back in discouragement and wrote about it in his letters to the Philippians. You see, Paul didn’t get to run away from his problematic past, create a new life, and be on mission for the Lord in the safe places when his message would be received the easiest. Throughout Paul’s letters in the New Testament, he used his spiritual transformation as a testament to God’s good work of love and redemption through Christ. God put Paul in places of extreme hardship, not to punish Paul, but to grow his faith and use his weakness as an opportunity to highlight the strength of Christ in him. I’m so thankful Paul documented the vulnerable admissions of his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9, Romans 7:14-25) so we can remember we’re not alone in our constant fight to live a life with God and to keep going!
- To the mom who can’t finish a cup of coffee while it’s hot, much less get five minutes of alone time to spend with the Lord.
- To the professional who wants the opportunity to be an example of God's love for her coworkers but is afraid she'll fail.
- To the woman fighting addiction, sickness or depression who feels too weak to conquer the battle.
- To myself, when I discouraged and feel unqualified for the spiritual journey because I'm not perfect.
- Keep fighting to be near the Lord - He’s already fighting for you!
Just remember: When runners are training for marathons, they don’t train in perfect conditions, when the weather is best and the terrain is easy. They purposefully train in harder environments, with hill-filled routes, and in more extreme temperatures so that when race day comes, they are fully prepared for whatever the course may throw their way. The same goes for us! It’s easy to be our best selves when the conditions are right. But unfortunately, perfect conditions, while pretty and safe and fun to be in, don’t always equip us for growth in the long run. If you’re in a place where you feel like you’re being challenged or you feel like you’re constantly failing or falling short, know that you’re in the best place for God to create lasting change in your heart.
Jantzen Jolly-Miller is a small business marketing professional and freelance faith writer who is on a mission to help women get real: real with themselves, with their business, and with their relationship with God and His church. In addition to being the lead content writer for Wheat and Honey Co., she blogs about personal takeaways from her life and faith walk to help women create positive change in their everyday routines at JantzenJollyMiller.com