June 19, 2019

Lose the Lists, Please, I’m Getting Discouraged

Rain Study 2photo © 2008 Amanda Slater | more info (via: Wylio)By Chaplain Mike

Let me start with the bad news. There is no “answer” for discouragement. You would never know that from listening to some preachers. I did a web search on “discouragement,” and here is an example of some of the typical results I found:

The following is from an article on “15 Steps to Overcoming Discouragement,” by Dr. Don Wilton, Sr. Pastor of First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, SC.

Here are the “steps”—

  1. Pray
  2. Remember Who God is
  3. Prepare yourself for the discouraging situations you’re bound to encounter
  4. Stick to your assignment
  5. Get guidance from a Christian counselor
  6. Refill your spiritual energy tank
  7. Take care of your physical health
  8. Spend time with someone who isn’t discouraged
  9. Give to people in need
  10. Simplify your life
  11. Share your faith with others
  12. Use the talents God has given you
  13. Resist Satan’s efforts to discourage you more
  14. Choose faith over fear
  15. Never give up!

With all due respect to Pastor Wilton, that’s discouraging!

When It Rainsphoto © 2006 bronwyn quilliam | more info (via: Wylio)The purportedly “Christian” counsel given in this list is basically this:

Change your entire life, get busy doing all the right things, and remember—it’s all up to you! (with God’s help, of course).

However, the fact that it is given in a list of concise bullet points gives the impression that the process of “overcoming discouragement” is a simple matter of following a “to-do” list of instructions. Take the steps, realize the result.

Welcome to today’s moralistic therapeutic deism. Welcome to evangelical Christianity, American style, the home of spiritual technology that provides quick fixes and sure results, guaranteed.

I’m not casting aspersions on a particular preacher here. The stuff is pervasive and unfortunately, desperate people keep eating up advice like this thinking it might help somehow.

I love the Gospel, don’t you?

Seriously, why do we put up with this in our churches week after week, year after year? This is like teaching people to play baseball by giving them the rules of cricket. There are certain surface similarities between the games but in the final analysis they have nothing to do with each other.

There are no “steps” to “overcoming” discouragement. There is no answer, no fix for this problem. Furthermore, the Bible was not given for the purpose of enabling us to “conquer” this or any other emotional malady. It contains no instructions to follow that will lead to an answer. When genuine Christian love and wisdom speaks to such matters, it gives no prescription to apply, no regimen to take up, no course to take, no program to sign up for, no service to attend, no dramatic experience of divine intervention to plead for.

Discouragement is a part of life and must be dealt with in the context of life. The reasons we find ourselves discouraged, the symptoms we experience, and the ways we find help, relief, and renewed strength are as unique as each individual. If I were trying to help a friend make it through a time of discouragement, I might even advise him to follow one or two of the suggestions in the list above. I would not argue that they contain no wisdom. What I am saying is that when you present a list like that from the pulpit or in another form of “Biblical counsel” you have created an expectation that the Bible is an answer book for all our problems and all we have to do is grasp its principles, apply them to our lives, and voila! no more discouragement (or whatever).

Let me be clear. Ministers and Christian teachers who take the “15 Steps” approach are engaging in spiritual and pastoral malpractice. If you truly want to help people with discouragement, you don’t do it with a list of bullet points. You pastor them. You welcome them to worship, bless them by proclaiming the Gospel of forgiveness and peace, and provide nourishment for their lives at the Lord’s Table. You visit them personally. You learn their stories and help them integrate their personal narratives into God’s story. And you work with your brothers and sisters to build a community in which the members bear one another’s burdens daily and thus fulfill the law of Christ.

rain dancingphoto © 2009 amboo who? | more info (via: Wylio)No shortcuts. No quick fixes. No “answers.”

It’s about life, not about lists.

I am a person prone to discouragement. Even depression. I know this about myself. And I’m done with“quick fix” approaches to “overcome” it. I don’t go to church, read books, or listen to Christian media to find “answers” for it. I go to worship God and receive the benefits of his Good News. I go to serve and be served by my forever family. I go as part of the rhythm of living in the Gospel—gathering with God’s people to worship, and then scattering to fulfill my vocation in the world in my daily life. It is not a weekly therapy session or tune-up from the Quick Lube.

Dealing with experiences like discouragement is something one learns and relearns over time. It has taken years of experience to recognize traits and patterns in my life and relationships, and I’m still flying blind much of the time. Such is the level of self-deceit human sinners like me maintain. Nevertheless, I like to think I’ve grown a little bit, at least enough to realize that the guy in the loud suit yelling at me from the back of the medicine show wagon probably doesn’t sell a potion that will cure my ills.

When I’m discouraged today, I might need someone to challenge me to get back in the game. Tomorrow, I might realize I need to take a walk with my wife and talk some things out. Next day, I might need to take a nap. Some days, lunch with a friend is in order. Other days, being alone helps. On certain days, I need to practice prayer more fervently. Other days, that will only discourage me further, so I should go mow the lawn or watch a ballgame. There are a million reasons why I get discouraged, and a million ways to help me work through it. At any given time, it may have something to do with my relationship with God or it may not. It could be something purely physical. Perhaps I’m emotionally exhausted and don’t realize it and need a friend to take me aside and gently insist that I take a break. Life is an infinitely complex tapestry and I distrust anyone who claims they can unravel it and give me a perfect analysis of its threads.

I know this: whatever I may need today, I most certainly do not need “steps” and “principles” and “instructions” and “answers.” Neither do you. Nor does anyone else. Pastors, teachers, save your breath. Christian book publishers, save a few trees, OK?

Lose the lists. Let’s start living.

Comments

  1. Just let it all hang out with God. I have learned that whatever I am (happy, sad, discouraged, relieved, scared, mixed-up–you get the picture), I need to be it in God’s presence–He is the only One who can reach deep inside me and give me what I need. Through the years (since the late 1960’s), I have found that God alone can meet the deepest needs of my life. I love Him so much and I’m thankful for His faithfulness.

  2. I’m not sure of the value of a faith which depends on everything going right.

  3. “They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” – Hebrews 11:37-38.

    They must have overlooked a success principle somewhere.

  4. So this guy is a fixer. He wants to give people something, some way to climb out of a hole that they are in. Maybe he is just writing some ideas, good and bad, because he has to – this is his day job after all. And some people like to be around fixers.

    Was Jesus a fixer? Didn’t he always have an answer? Yes, “Jesus IS the answer” but didn’t he fix peoples problems? Isn’t this what got him a following?

    • 1. It’s not his job, if he’s a pastor.
      2. No Jesus was not a fixer.
      3. No he did not always give “answers” especially to things like “discouragement”
      4. No he did not come to fix people’s problems.

      If that is your reading of the Gospels, then we have a serious disagreement here.

      • I’m going to push back on #4: sometimes HE did…the problem comes when we make what occaisionally happened a template for what GOD always wants to do. I THINK what you are saying is that there is no such template.

        I would add that even when HE did fix a problem , HIS larger purpose was to use that to point to HIMSELF as Messiah, NOT to guarantee a life of “fixed problems” to HIS future disciples: see Dumb Ox’s posts above.

        • He also never “fixed” people by giving them a formula to follow. He called them to receive his life and follow him.

          • Soooooo……. that muddy paste I’ve been smearing in my friends eyes……?????

            OH….gotcha.
            kidding aside, I couldn’t agree more; BOO formulas.

  5. My rule of thumb: never trust ANY PERSON whose list of rules runs more than 9. God stopped at 10 — if you’re God, you’re allowed to match that; otherwise, stay below.

    (And yes, John Maxwell, I’m looking at you …)

    • But the longer the list, the easier it is to assign blame to the person if they aren’t helped by it.

      “Still discouraged? You glossed over step #32 didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU?”

  6. I began battling depression a few years ago and tried everything in the book to rid myself of this because I thought to be a Christian meant intense joy non stop and I never seem to quite have that. All of the advice which included praying more/ being rebaptized/ striving to obey God did not fix my problem. It made it worse. I soon began to question if I even believed in Christ’s claims of being God and the resurrection. Only when I began to hear the gospel did “any of my fears relieve.” It isn’t all better now but I stopped trying to find easy fixes for my suffering because I began to hear that that is EXACTLY where God meets us; in our suffering. Trying to avoid suffering well, doesn’t that make us gnostic or something? Maybe buddhist?

    • “It isn’t all better now but I stopped trying to find easy fixes for my suffering because I began to hear that that is EXACTLY where God meets us; in our suffering.”

      Spot on, Robin.

  7. Life is hard, yet many fundgelcials talk as if its easy. Life and faith is nothing but a formula. Remember high school algebra, with formuals such as FOIL (First Outer Inner Last) or A + B = C?

    Fundys take the same approach to God. No matter the issue…rearing children, having a happy marriage, overocming lust, how not to be gay, how to balance your budget, how to pray, how to have a quiet time, how not to be depressed, etc..

    Faith is nothing but formulas. Well that was one of the things I found to be discouraging. What do you do if you follow everything and things still don’t work out? Then what? Lie through your ass? I find the entire apporach to be laughable. AND then to make matters worse…the onus can be put BACK on the person.

    I heard things like this…

    “You need to try harder…”
    “Remember God is faithful…don’t give up!!”
    “Why do you doubt and where is the faith?”
    “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed…”

    And my all time favorite…no matter what the circumstance, situation, etc.. quote Philipians 4:13 and that person is good to go!!

    This was another nail in my “faith” coffin for me….

    • I knew I’d like the thoughts of a person who mentions FOIL in the first paragraph. How about SOH CAH TOA? I loved Trigonometry 🙂

      My faith has been very shaky lately and many of my evangelical friends are having a really hard time helping me through it. It’s almost like my doubt may make them doubt and they’re afraid to talk too much. And it’s not that I don’t believe in God’s promises, Word, etc. It’s just that he feels very far away right now and I’ve felt that way for about a year. My husband lost his job two days ago and he’s got two really good prospects in the area we want to move too. A friend told me yesterday that ‘God wants us to be prosperous and blessed. We have to believe that truth.’ So I pray. And I feel like the prayer stops at the ceiling in my brain. Luckily, I have one good friend who gets it….really gets it.

      But…it will all work out somehow. I do have faith in that. Mostly that we won’t starve or be homeless because God has placed wonderful people in our lives to help us if we need it 🙂

  8. “I don’t go to church, read books, or listen to Christian media to find “answers” for it. I go to worship God and receive the benefits of his Good News. I go to serve and be served by my forever family. I go as part of the rhythm of living in the Gospel—gathering with God’s people to worship, and then scattering to fulfill my vocation in the world in my daily life. It is not a weekly therapy session or tune-up from the Quick Lube.”

    That’s a Bingo!

  9. When the pastor/preacher pulls out the list, that is the time to head for the door.

    There isn’t a whole lot of gospel in the how-to churches. If you do get it, they will rip it out of your hand so that the list will fit into your hand.

  10. I really can’t tell you how sick I am of this “Get-your-life-together-in-15 or so- steps” literature. Lose the lists. Amen.

  11. Adrienne says

    Okay Chaplain Mike ~ have you been reading my journal and/or mind. This post is so good it hurts. I believed this stuff for 30 years. Believed it and sold it in book form to others. Then God did some very painful surgery and removed my list. Free. Scared but free. Then angry but free. Now sad but free. Why didn’t I see that this was not the Gospel?? This was not Christ crucified. This was not I am dead now and my life is hidden in Christ.
    Anyway this is my daily thanks to you. Please don’t get too discouraged. You are freeing and encouraging a lot of us out here. Have you ever thought of being a pastor?? 🙂 You write some awesome “sermons”. Of course you would have a very small congregation after a week or two of this stuff !!

  12. So true. Life is so saturated with nuance that lists become a silly distraction from fine tuned focus.

  13. Great post. What does one do when called into Christ’s suffering ? Trying to run and fix the problem only prolongs what I really need to get better. And that is to sit and be silent before the Lord and let him fix me.

  14. Thanks for sharing, from a sadly dedicated list-maker and lifetime overachever. I have followed all the rules, lists, and syllabi for too long. Too many hits at once have me just sitting and praying and learning how to go with the flow of the stream of my life. Hard thing to master…

    • That my dear Pattie is why the lists are so popular! Sitting, praying and learning how to go with the flow, or as I put it in my journal this morning, learning how to be and abide in Him……..it comes from Him not any list! Even for a person who is abiding can’t tell another how to abide……Oh dear…..no wonder we “do” lists…..it’s just so much easier, at first. But, then of course we always fall again and our little list abiding friends ask us which # we forgot or neglected, etc. and if we just get back up on the horse all will be well.

      I can say that the only time I’ve ever learned anything about the Lord is when I’ve been off the horse……almost 4 years now, not that I’m counting or anything!

      • Just the other day, our pastor started encouraging us with the fruit of the Spirit and I found myself scrambling to try to write them down (not what my pastor wanted!), as if I needed a checklist… What is so appealing about lists, rules, how-tos? Why is captivity more enticing than this liberating life in Christ’s presence, moment-by-moment?! “Oh, you foolish Galatians!” says Paul, and many of you here…

        Not too long ago, I was explaining this word “faith.” It used to mean dogma or even the Bible for me. Now, it’s just this walk. I can’t describe it, I don’t plant it, and I don’t grow it. I just walk in it. It’s all so mysterious, and wonderful. And perhaps I’m criticized when I say it’s (gasp) experiential…because this life IS living. Abiding in Him is a walk by faith, that grows by faith… and I don’t know how to describe that faith! Sheesh.

        Thanks for doing it far better than I. And letting me chime in here. I pray that we all can rest in this REST in Him, and allow Him to root out the areas of rules, how-tos, and control that we are still practicing.

        Resting in Him,
        Karen

        • “I don’t plant it, and I don’t grow it. I just walk in it..”

          I like that, Karen.

      • Lists are popular becuase they promise a guarenteed solution to problem. The problem though is that they often don’t work as intended and can backfire.

        • Predictability….certainty…..repeatability….(oh my !!!) maybe the Three Amigos following us around since the Enlightenment masquarading as the gospel of grace….. just wondering.

  15. It is a bit confusing. The problem begins with the ten steps to a happy, shiny life. Then, when the ten steps don’t work (wow, didn’t see that coming, right?), then along comes the ten steps to deal with the discouragement (God works it mysterious ways; godthis happened so that your shiny, happy life will be even more shiny and happy…someday). How can this not breed discouragement, disillusionment, and abandonment of the faith? I think you are right; this sort of teaching is so far removed from the gospel. The gospel gives courage – even while we are discouraged. Grace is not dependent on externals or our performance. Grace gives us the courage to look in the mirror at our sin and short-comings, to receive forgiveness, and receive strength and courage to persevere, rather than give up or be content with where we are.

  16. I’ve actually made a similar comment before, but here goes….Christians have a fundamental problem of defining life circumstances and events as “good”, if it’s something they like, and “bad”, if it’s something that hurts. Fact is, we don’t think like God thinks, and we don’t see what’s coming down the road the way He does. Just ask Joseph, who had his share of ups and downs. Ask David and Job, who experienced grief and despair. These men fell into pits (literal and figurative), and weren’t clappy happy about it!
    They were despondent and felt lost, and sometimes just didn’t want to carry on. The big picture for them was a “good” one, but the minute by minute life was hard.

    We are trained to believe that if we are “good”…if we pray, keep our spiritual tank full, give, get guidance from Christian counselors, resist Satan, share our faith, etc…then good things are going to come our way! That’s not the Gospel…that’s karma. And my name ain’t Earl.

    What the heck is “keeping your spiritual tank full” anyway? Reading the Bible every day? Going to church every Sunday? Eating unleavened bread when you’re depressed instead of Mayfield chocolate ice cream? Watching TBN, hoping your eyes don’t get stuck on any devil HBO or EWTN as you flip through the channels? I only have two tanks…a gas tank and a septic tank…If I don’t have enough money to fill one up and empty the other, I sure don’t want some pastor coming and talking to me about the condition of my “spiritual tank”!

    I’m a pastor who has experienced the pain of divorce, death, loss of finances and home, and many other tragic things in my life. I’ve been prescribed “lists” like this from fellow pastors before, and frankly, found very little consolation in them.

    What did help was understanding that we live in a fallen world, and that you will encounter briars that cut you and rocks that turn your ankles along your journey. It also helped to know that hard times don’t necessarily mean that your life has made the baby Jesus cry, and you’re not in favor with God. On the flip side of the coin, just because you’re prosperous, it doesn’t mean that God has drawn a smiley on your page in the book of life. We’re human. Life happens. There’s a great promise down the road for those of us who persevere, but you know, it’s okay sometimes to mourn, or be sad, or downright depressed.

    When we pastors hand out “lists” like this, we’re telling people that their feelings aren’t valid, that they should be feeling a different way, and if they followed this pattern, they would feel the way that Christians are supposed to feel. Problem is, human emotion is not a math equation. If you’re my pastor, don’t hand me a list. Be my friend. Return my phone calls. Listen to me. Comfort me. Empathize with me. Pray for me, but not in Waffle House where we’re sharing coffee and conversation, where it just doesn’t feel sincere. Hug me, dangit. Allow me to feel my natural emotions. Then, over the long haul, don’t allow me to wallow in my pain. Help me through it. Don’t frame “all things work together for good” in such a way that it gives me some false hope that life is going to be easier at some point. God’s promises are eternal, beyond our temporal hopes and expectations, bigger than we can fathom, bigger than our problems, bigger than this world.

    If I’m hurting, let me know that life is a refining process that is sometimes painful, and that God is making me “perfect and complete” (see James 1:4). Refining is a burning process that leaves only the best parts of us behind. Sometimes the process involves loneliness, empty pockets, and broken dreams. I don’t know if God will give me money and a new car or a nice address again…but I’m living a life that God dreamed and formed into being. He hasn’t finished writing my story yet, and he won’t…eternity is a perpetually unfinished novel, one that keeps you turning from one page to another with much anticipation. My hope is in that story, God’s story for my life; not in a list.

    That list, in the words of my mama, made me want to spit.

    • Lee, excellent comment. Perhaps our affluence, comfort and relative lack of suffering in America and the West has led to the situation you accurately describe.

      • Agreed. It’s going to be interesting to see how we approach ministry over the next twenty years or so, dealing with a generation that experienced much prosperity throughout much of their lives, then experienced financial loss, loss of home, increasing divorce rate, increasingly shallow relationships (social media is a blessing and a curse), etc. There’s a lot of grief in this culture, and a lot of folks are drinking from shallow pools that masquerade as churches in hopes of easing their pain. There’s a hiding game in the postmodern church, where one must never appear to be in the midst of any type of brokenness, whether it’s emotional, financial, psychological, or spiritual. It breaks my heart. How can we be healed if we can’t even admit to those we call “sisters” and “brothers” that we’re sick? Living in community means not only sharing in joy and triumph, but caring for one another when we’re in pain.

        Brennan Manning wrote this in “Ruthless Trust”…

        “The great weakness in the North American church at large, and certainly in my life, is our refusal to accept our brokenness. We hide it, evade it, gloss over it. We grab for the cosmetic kit and put on our virtuous face to make ourselves admirable to the public. Thus, we present to others a self that is spiritually together, superficially happy, and lacquered with a sense of self-deprecating humor that passes for humility. The irony is that while I do not want anyone to know that I am judgmental, lazy, vulnerable, screwed up, and afraid, for fear of losing face, the face that I fear losing is the mask of the impostor, not my own!”

        • Wonderful stuff, there, from Brennan. That’s golden. And anathema to the american idol image.

          • Thank you for this writing Chaplain Mike. Thank you also to Lee for the truth in your comments. I’ve also found that the quickest way to end a conversation in most churches is to be honest and broken and truthful about the situations of my life… come as you are? Or come as we want you to be?

  17. It is discouraging and hard. Sometimes I feel that the only way to deal with discouragement is to prepare for it ahead of time. However that is not always possible. Discouragement is HARD!

  18. At least he got #1 right.

    I sometimes get the impression that people who give you these kinds of list, like them so much, because it means they don’t have to listen to you. They just refer you to the list. “Don’t talk to me. Don’t tell me your problems. Go to the list, man! Go to the list!”

    If my wife shared with me about being discouraged, and I responded to her by sharing a list, I would rightly get pummeled with some kitchen-ware. If you had friends with some serious problems and they felt discouraged, and your solution was to share a list, it wouldn’t be long before you had no friends.

    This is why I think so many people are also scared off of following Jesus. it’s hard to consider taking a step of faith, if you think that to successfully cross the finish line, you must take at least fourteen other steps.

    And yet, I would also suggest that there is a part of us that craves the kinds of solutions being offered. It’s comforting to think that our life can be repaired and problems solved by simply buying a book, or applying some steps. I am not defending it, I am just saying that there is a reason why you see this stuff. There’s a demand for it, and this is the way people are being taught to think.

  19. David Cornwell says

    My first impression after reading this list is this: It makes me tired just reading it. Any list like this becomes a burden, another load to carry. It’s similar to the load of the Law. Carry it around with you and it will weigh you down. It will pile on the guilt and you will probably become more discouraged.

    Have you noticed that list of principles on how to raise a perfect Christian child ends up burdening the parent down, creating doubt, and sometimes even hurting the child? Watch parents these days. They are so busy attempting to make sure the child is in this, does that, makes it here or there, and becomes perfect. The child (or teen) becomes discouraged, resentful, angry and can’t achieve this perfection. Or he/she becomes a super achiever in order to win the praise of parents and God.

    It’s hard to move away from this type of “fixing” things in a legalistic way. But it boils down to we are trying to do it ourselves, and even prayer becomes a burden. Are we trying to say to God, “look at me, how good I’ve become; how good my child has become; how I’ve overcome this or that by following some rules?

  20. here’s my list:

    1. get rid of the lists…
    2. refer to step 1 if confused…

    i think people that can formulate lists to help clarify steps to help others are not intending to be adding more of a yoke than easing the already heavy one being carried.

    it may be the tendency to quantify or qualify some of the intangibles of life somewhat like a theological itch, they must scratch it since it bothers them so much such a distracting condition exists…

    Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

    i also think the misconception that any saint struggling with discouragement is being ‘childish’ another motivation for making grownup lists for the need-to-be-reminded folks. it may be the saint being more childlike in their honest assessment that no, life is challenging & all they want is Daddy to scoop them up in His arms & make everything all better…

  21. I would like to know how someone even does #14: Choose faith over fear. Intangible, incorporeal concepts…I’m supposed to be able to “choose” one of these? Would you point to that button please, so I can push it? Something tells me any possible answer to this betrays an underlying gnosticism…

    At least #2 is doable: Remember who God is. I mean, I can usually remember something about Jesus if I think about it, but I definitely cannot “choose” faith. That’s ridiculous.

    Nate

    • “I would like to know how someone even does #14: Choose faith over fear. ”

      This is when you share about your struggles and about how you feel discouraged. You feel alone and really oppressed by everything happening in your life.

      Hypothetical Response: “You really should just trust God.”

      (Headbanging moment) Oh darn, I should really just trust God. Forget about all those worries and problems I just shared with you in that moment where I exposed my all my vulnerability. I’m okay now.

      Yeah, you’re right Nate, it doesn’t make any more sense when I write it out. The scary part is that there are people out there who give this kind of advice to their friends and their church members.

  22. Sounds like Beth Moore to me….Get out of That Pit….or whatever her book is. I never could take that sort of women’s “Bible” study and we certainly don’t need it in sermons either.

  23. In following the link in your post, I note that the source on crosswalk was authored by Whitney Hopler and based on Dr. Wilton’s book. It could be the book follows the (horrible) prescription/ 15 steps approach, too. If so, that is too bad. I do think a list of “possibilities to be explored” can be helpful for those who are discouraged WHEN they ask for something to do. Nothing guarantied. No easy road map. Just ideas shared in love. I agree with what I understand the spirit of your post to be, i.e., the most important thing we do to love discouraged people is to be with them and listen to them. I think it would also be malpractice, however, that when a discouraged person seeking counsel asks, “what could I do to help me cope with this?” the only response they hear is, “this is life. deal with it.” While I wouldn’t expect you, CM, to say something like that, I think your post could be misconstrued as such. In other words, there is value in sharing ideas of possibilities to be explored or ideas to be reflected upon.

  24. Mike, two more for the list:

    16. Go in peace.
    17. Be warm and well-fed.

    See James 2:16 for the irony.

    On a side note, still having problems with the site. Sometimes can’t get in, or if so can’t view comments. If this one posts it’ll be an improvement. But thanks for working at it.

  25. I learned thus far that my struggles, disappointments, pain, depression and angst and neither a measure of me or my Father. They just are.

    After wading in the mire for years I accepted this and found some calming and solid ground.

    After reading Leunig (as much as he can be read), I realised these times are to be valued. They come to us all regardless so I have decided to immerse myself and celebrate the seasons for what they are.

    I certainly wont be putting on a plastic Sunday smile for anyone.

  26. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    However, the fact that it is given in a list of concise bullet points gives the impression that the process of “overcoming discouragement” is a simple matter of following a “to-do” list of instructions. Take the steps, realize the result.

    Isn’t “a list of concise bullet points” the way the Chinese Classics are organized — from Confucius to Sun Tzu to Mao Zedong?

    (test post to see if I can post again)

  27. Tim Becker says

    The problem of pain is easily the biggest threat to my faith. It has not always been the way with me, but as I get older and the cumulative effects of life’s traumas take ther toll, the question looms greater. Why did God create a reality that contains pain and suffering? If you’re an arminian, and you say that he didn’t, then why did he allow it to enter his creation? Maybe you think that there is something good about pain. (Makes us better people in some way?) Then why will there be no pain in heaven? Why do we long to go to a place with no pain if it’s such a good thing for us? It’s not logical.

    • i would not say that emotional/psychological ‘pain’ or trauma good. however, we do understand that physical pain is needed for us to navigate this existence by avoiding damaging situations.

      i don’t know how or if or when God will work all the negative effects i have endured to the good, or to my good. i know the scriptural reference, but the actual transformation or re-creation of some of the most recent major disruptions something i still recoil from.

      the pain/suffering/evil consideration way beyond my theological pay grade and/or security level to address adequately. i do know you are not alone, or unique, or the exception in your situation(s) or how they evoke an answerless rumination. i sometimes tell God, “okay, i GET IT! i am a broken individual! i hurt! it does not feel good! can i get a reprieve now???” no amount of logic or plea will get me the solace i desire, but i do continue on this journey even in my questioning. now that certainly is not logical at all… 😉

      • Tim Becker says

        Me too bro. The only thing I really believe in now is Jesus: crucified, dead, and risen. Anything else is up for grabs.

  28. Unfortunatley,sometimes, life does create the need for a list. Mine always has more tham 15 and usualy comes from my wife. Bacon, eggs, T.P. and so on.

  29. #3 is wickedly funny: PREPARE for discouaging situations you are bound to encounter. ……. Whaaaaaat ??? If I knew enough to PREPARE for the %*^*$&%*% thing, do you think it would have happened and I’d be sitting here discouraged ?? What is this, divination ?? How would I know that it’s coming ??

    Wow…you just can’t make this stuff up.
    GregR

  30. CM says: “I don’t go to church, read books, or listen to Christian media to find “answers” for it. I go to worship God and receive the benefits of his Good News. I go to serve and be served by my forever family. I go as part of the rhythm of living in the Gospel—gathering with God’s people to worship, and then scattering to fulfill my vocation in the world in my daily life.”

    Reads like a list to me, just no numbers. Here are CM’s comments above in numbered format:

    1. Don’t go to church, read books, or listen to Christian media to find “answers” for it.
    2. Go to worship God and receive the benefits of his Good News.
    3. Go to serve and be served by your forever family.
    4. Go as part of the rhythm of living in the Gospel—gathering with God’s people to worship, and then scattering to fulfill your vocation in the world in your daily life.

    Pharisee or in the wilderness too long?

    • Those may be CM’s comments, made into a list, but they are not CM’s 4 steps to overcoming discouragement. You have me confused. Just because you can put his thoughts into a list does not mean that CM was implying that following those 4 “steps” would alleviate discouragement.

      Either:
      1) I totally do not get your post. or
      2) you totally do not get CM’s article

      GregR

      • How I would have answered Greg.

      • I guess you don’t get my post. CM has more than 4 steps in the article, here are some more fromt he above article as follows:

        5. When I’m discouraged today, I might need someone to challenge me to get back in the game.
        6. Tomorrow, I might realize I need to take a walk with my wife and talk some things out.
        7. Next day, I might need to take a nap.
        8. Some days, lunch with a friend is in order.
        9. Other days, being alone helps.
        10. On certain days, I need to practice prayer more fervently.
        11. Other days, that will only discourage me further, so I should go mow the lawn or watch a ballgame.
        12…

        My point is you all continue to slam methods others in the Church are using just because you were wrong about your own methods for the past 30 years. As I said in a previous post, you all could still be wrong, you know. You all just happen to have a little blog here where you all agree with each other about how wrong everyone else is. Seems sad to me. I’d prefer to see you all build up the Church instead of tearing it down. Just sayin’.

        • Tony, I do get your post. I just think you are missing my point. Maybe I didn’t communicate it well enough.

          There is a vast difference between giving a list of disembodied “steps,” a formula, a list of instructions, and on the other hand working out one’s proper responses and activities in the context of real life and relationships. If you will read the post again, I hope you will see that there is as much positive encouragement to be about ministering to one another in genuine love in real life contexts as there is in critiquing the formulaic approaches represented by the 15 steps.

        • We’ve been down this road only about a zillion times, maybe not with you, Tony, but with a collection of others who fundamentally have a problem with a message that is ‘anti’ anyone or anything. Ironic that your own words are very ANTI CM’s article. Dont’ you care about building up CM, how dare you be so negative ?? I”m tongue in cheek, here, Tony, I’m not really offended, more amused.

          This article is NOT a personal attack on anyone’s ministry, sermon, or person, it’s a call to rethink our approach to the bible, and the gospel. What is being offered in the Words of life, is it a sure cure for _______ fill in the blank, OR the person of JESUS, and the life of the Kingdom (which needs explaining these days)

          Words have meaning, and passionate confident words sometimes take up to places, and explanations of the gospel that we did not foresee or imagine. The “sure cure” stuff is running afoul of the gospel, NOT because they are totally false or wrong but because they entirely miss the point of what Jesus was all about: redemption, salvation, acceptance with the Father….. all in Jesus’ name. Yes this has an effect on us mentally and emotionally, but let’s not let the small thing(s) become the show.

          Hope this helps, though my experience has been that those who feel that anything “negative” has no place in christian discussion are typically NOT pursuaded by much.

  31. Rawhider says

    Many years ago ,when I was in a dark spot, a elderly christian lady told me the real nourishment is in the valleys very little comes from the Mountain top high not much to feed on there she opined-
    She was right

  32. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1Cor 1:26-31

  33. The constant chase for “the Victorious Christian Life” needs these sorts of lists to try and keep people so busy overcoming their discouragement that they get even more discouraged in their attempt.

  34. @Chap Mike: I was in a similar position maybe 2 or 2 and 1/2 yrs ago listening to a guy giving a sermon on “5 steps to overcoming depression” or some such. I have dealt with depression my whole life, this should make this sermon just my dish, right ?? Not so much.

    1) the pastor himself has dealt with depression his entire adult life but shared almost zip, nada, zed on what that has been like for him , personally. thanks for the transparency.

    2) I don’t remember (or care to, really , the 5 whiz bang steps) I’m reasonably certain they don’t even work for the guy who preached the sermon, though I can’t know that for a fact.

    3) Interesting that the 5,6,7, 15 steps approach takes the RELATIONSHIP right out of the equation. There is no human sharing of something real and sometimes dark (discouragement, doubt, fear, depression), there is only the triumphant word from on high…… cue Job’s counselors…

    4)What COULD be an introduction into the common brokenness of all humanity, and the fertile soil for the gospel (that saves in the MIDST and IN SPITE OF all that crap) we are offered the sure cure, which reeks with oversell.

    sorry if any find that a bummer of a list;

    from Sarah McLachlan “Crossroads”
    “Hold on, hold on to yourself….this is going to hurt like he//. “

  35. MStephens says

    Pardon me, but I disagree with this post. Having recently come out of a discouraging situation of personal failure, I have to say that doing the list kept me from completely going off the deep end.
    The thing is, it takes time to recover from discouragement. Ability to recover is called resilience.
    To recover from discouragement, you have to do things that will nurture your soul and keep hope alive. You lean on friends and family for support.
    At the bottom of your discouragement, you have to keep a little light of faith that somehow the Lord knows you, that He cares, and that He will help you out of it. You have to keep enough hope alive so that when the Lord sends the nurturing messages that are meant to feed your soul, you will suck it in like water in the desert instead of turning away with cynicism. It’s a line-upon-line process of recovery.
    Recovering from discouragement isn’t an all-at-once event. It involves seeking for meaning, seeking for direction, seeking for insight. It can feel like a lot of thrashing and grasping to no purpose, but thrashing is part of not giving up. It is like the long hard process of making Thanksgiving dinner—gathering the ingredients of hope, putting them together, and letting it cook for a time. At these times, the most delightful stories are those about other people who went through devastating difficulty and made it out of it. It doesn’t really feel like God is helping when you’re in it, but when you’ve made it out of it, you realize how much He did by sending things you need your way.

    I am thankful (in retrospect) for those difficult times because they have given me a whole lot more sympathy for other people I find in those situations. I can cry with them and just be with them without giving advice. The other thing is that when I find myself having a very hard time, I can stop and remember, “Christ suffered this too. He suffered it for me,” and I can let it teach me a little something about what He bore for me.