One of my favorite things to do as a child growing up in Tennessee was picking and eating blackberries in the summertime.
OK eating blackberries was a lot of fun.
Picking blackberries was not. Why?
Partly because the really nice big ones were usually found on bushes in hard to get to places and you were expected to pick more than you ate. Lots of work, little reward.
But the main reason was the thorns.
For those of you who have never picked wild blackberries, along with the delicious fruit that grows on the canes or vines are little sharp points called thorns. And they sneak up on you.
You know they are there but just as you are reaching for that big juicy berry, BAM they ambush you.
Not fun and if you let it the pain from the thorn can discourage you from wanting to pick any more. No matter how good they are.
Thorns and discouragement have a lot in common.
Discouragement like the thorns on the blackberry bush can show up unexpectedly and do damage in many areas of our lives.
Discouragement can effect or even end relationships causing us to blame others and wallow in anger.
Discouragement can result in disappointment and if allowed to build up without resolution, can result in a deep loss of self-worth
Discouragement affects our confidence replacing our belief in ourselves and our abilities with uncertainty and weaken our resolve to the point that we compromise or give up.
If we are looking for a basic definition for discouragement, it is found in the word itself–dis- couraged, indicating the opposite of, or the absence of courage.
The one who feels this way is: less confident, less hopeful, persuaded not to act, or prevented from action by objections or obstacles. We could say a person who is discouraged is one or all of the following:
Disheartened by obstacles, failure, or criticism
Distressed and fearful, lacking courage and confidence
Disillusioned, losing hope for the future
Disinterested, apathetic, lacking initiative
Doubtful about the value of certain actions
Down on himself/herself, with a poor sense of worth***
Discouragement has no respect for who you are or your place in life.
Even those used by God the”Bible” hero’s used by God experienced discouragement.
Job-“Let the day of my birth be erased,
and the night I was conceived.
Moses-“But Lord!” Moses objected. “My own people won’t listen to me anymore. How can I expect Pharaoh to listen? I’m such a clumsy speaker!
David-Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.
Elijah-““I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
The apostle Paul after personally encountering Jesus, being part of miracle after miracle, and contributing to the encouragement found in the New Testament writes the following story.
1 Corinthians 12:7
To keep me grounded and stop me from becoming too high and mighty due to the extraordinary character of these revelations, I was given a thorn in the flesh—a nagging nuisance of Satan, a messenger to plague me! 8 I begged the Lord three times to liberate me from its anguish;
God’s answer to Paul?
And finally He said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.”
God did not leave those he used in that place of discouragement and he will not leave you either.
God will work good things in our lives even in the midst of our trouble if we do not give in or give up!
His grace is sufficient.
My pastor often says the “Plain things are the main things”
God can spread His grace over and use the simple and practical things in our lives.
In keeping with that thought I want to share some tips that can help in the battle with discouragement.
Nothing can be more discouraging than having a lot to do and not knowing where to start. Disorganization and clutter can produce confusion and stress and keep us from fulfilling our responsibilities.
Rest and recreation for body and mind.
If health problems can be at the root of discouragement–and they can–we need to do our best to maintain good health. It’s OK to take a break relax refresh. Even Jesus did this “‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat” (Mk. 6:31).
Surround yourself with encouraging friends
<p When we are going through difficulties, when we are facing challenges in our lives, we need those who will lift us up, and help us to find new hope. We need friends we can turn to for help and support.
Focus on the Lord and not on our problems
The very best thing we can do in any problem or difficulty is to know what God says about it. Even if you are not a student of the Bible or haven’t read it very much its not that difficult to find answers. Most Bibles have a list by topic either in the front or back and their are many online resources. One that I would recommend is wordwise-bible-studies.com and also biblegateway.com
Promoting a wholesome thought life.
What are you allowing into your thoughts? Distressing or depressing reading can have its affect on our moods. So can the nightly News and electronic media. We are told in Philippians 4:8 to fill our minds with things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely and of good report
Big picture thinking
My wife often says that if it can be fixed with money or time it is worth praying about but not losing sleep over. Some things are more serious and those we give to the Lord and trust Him to work them out. In all things we trust He is in charge and many things we go through are only part of His bigger plan. To everything there is a season…
Have a consistent prayer life
It is important that we develop a consistent prayer life. God in his infinite wisdom knows whats ahead, we do not. I am convinced that in many of our troubles and disappointments God wants to prepare us ahead a time. And because we do not pray we are blind-sided caught off guard. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7)
As I have grown older I have realized that despite the thorns and the work picking blackberries is still fun. And even though discouragement will come don’t let it defeat you! Jesus is our victory in all things.
Keep on picking!
Credit is given to wordwise-bible-studies.com for their article “Dealing with Discouragement