It happens to all of us. Despite our best efforts, circumstances in and around our lives leave us feeling defeated, let down and discouraged. As children of God, loved immeasurably by Him, we know this is not the way we should feel. Jesus sacrificed Himself for us so that we might have life and a life of abundant joy at that. As H. Jackson Brown once said, “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce.” The goal then is to determine how to keep from falling too far and how to maximize our bounce back up. I have three suggestions to help keep you motivated at all times. They are ways to keep you from getting too discouraged, and all provide elements of achieving a great bounce.
Select a role model. Find someone whose life reflects Christ in a manner you admire. This can be someone you know, an author, a pastor, a missionary, or an elderly acquaintance in a nursing home. There is no one definition of who can be a role model, just make sure it is someone who loves and glorifies God. If possible, talk to that person, as this will always lead to you being encouraged. However, most of us will never have the opportunity to actually meet our role models. Instead, study everything you can about that person. How do they react to difficult situations, how do they carry themselves, and what sort of language do they use? When you get discouraged or face a difficult decision, determine in your mind how your role model would react in the same situation; then act in the way they would. Jesus, of course, is the perfect role model. For some, particularly to those earlier on in their journey, it can be difficult to apply the life of Jesus to their modern problems. It’s okay to have human role models (past or present), as long as we recognize that the reason their lives look like they do is because they have themselves modeled their life after Jesus. Living like Jesus is the goal. Still, it can be beneficial to have other God-fearing people as role models if that makes it easier for you to relate.
Lean on your spouse. If you are married and have a relationship that is centered on Jesus, your spouse can be a tremendous source of encouragement. Always involve your partner in your plans, your dreams and your goals. If you are working toward a God-ordained purpose together, you will find great comfort in the company and help of one another. Nothing can diminish the struggles of a difficult day like the warmth of a smile or a hug from your husband or wife. As they perform little acts of kindness for you, your discouragement will melt slowly away as you retreat into the arms of the one to whom you have pledged to love and to cherish. If you are not married, remember that the church is the bride of Christ. Each of us shares an intimate relationship with Him. Jesus provides an unrelenting source of warmth and comfort to each of His children. Close your eyes and imagine His arms wrapped gently around you. He loves you and is there for you through sickness and health, good times and bad.
Surround yourself with well chosen friends. A friend can do wonders in lifting you up from your discouragement. Unfortunately, the converse is also true; they can so commiserate with you that you actually sink deeper into despair. Make certain you are surrounding yourself with Christ-focused people. Energy is contagious, so make sure your friends are radiating positive energy, not negative. I’m sure you have already experienced the phenomenon that it is virtually impossible to be down in the presence of a positive, upbeat person. Recharge your batteries by hanging out with folks who will lift you up and encourage you. Don’t wallow in self-pity or seek out those who will only feed your negative state of mind. Choose your friends wisely, because they are who you will become. Read positive books and listen to positive music. What we feed our minds is what determines our actions. Seek out the counsel of wise friends and avoid the negative people you know until you are again strong enough to be an encouraging voice into their life.
Discouragement is the result of circumstances, some self-inflicted, others beyond our control. Recovering from discouragement or avoiding it altogether, however, is a choice. We choose to be discouraged and we choose whether or not to bounce back. Circumstances do not keep us discouraged, attitude does; and attitude is always a choice. When I look at the life of Jesus, I do not see a discouraged man. I see a focused, driven person, always on mission, and always showing love. Jesus had many reasons to be discouraged throughout the course of His life; the people in His hometown thought he was a lunatic, the government thought He was leading a rebellion and the religious leaders accused Him of being the devil himself. Yet He didn’t let the misunderstandings of others or His circumstances keep Him down. He bounced back every time, and each time He bounced higher than the last.
Try using one or more of the suggestions above to shake off and rise above your circumstances. Always pray for the love of Jesus to so permeate your life that nothing else matters. Remember that you are loved and chosen by the King and Creator of the universe. In Him, we cannot be defeated. Stay focused and on mission, and always make sure to bounce.