January is just a hard month, isn’t it? After the tearing down of Christmas decorations, the fond memories or subtle disappointments of family togetherness over the holidays, there’s just not much hope left in January. For educators, the school year is only half way over, and the heaviness of familiarity has set in. For folks living in the northern parts of the globe, the short, cold days make the hope of Spring seem too far away. For those working in full time Christian ministry, the additional demands of the celebration of Christ’s birth coupled with our propensity to put others first and self care last, leaves us feeling like an spent and worn out inner tube.
January– Bah Humbug! Good news! You aren’t alone!
I’ve been suffering from a strange dose of the January Blues this year. To break up this otherwise tedious month, we had a 12 day visit from our ray of sunshine daughter from the Sunshine State! Yet yesterday, I found myself at the beach again, my head in my hands, crying out to my Heavenly Father. Lord, please help me see your plan!
My nearly full prayer journal sat on the grassy sand inside the neighbor’s abandoned beach front lot. Here I sat cross-legged waiting on the Lord. After some silence from me, I felt a prompting to page through my prayer journal.
1.Reflect on God’s work
I can’t say enough about the importance of keeping a prayer journal. Even as someone who loves to write, I don’t write in it every day. But maybe that’s what makes it so special? It’s my go-to tool, along with the Bible and praying aloud, to wrestle through things with Jesus. Consequently, it’s pages are filled with raw and painful emotions and tender answers from the Father. My life is entirely too full and my memory entirely too feeble to recall every little work of the Father in my life and on my behalf. My prayer journal doesn’t even capture all of them, but it does give me a fixed point to reflect on just how far the Father has brought me.
I see His faithfulness in answered prayers.
I see His provision in met needs.
I see His love in the tiny details that only He could orchestrate.
If you aren’t keeping a prayer journal, I highly recommend getting one! It’s a great tool to encourage your heart and record the work of the Lord Jesus Christ!
(BTW, far less personal, but oft times encouraging are the “on this day” posts from Facebook have given me much needed perspective and encouragement in life and ministry)
2. Seek out godly relationship
First run to God and then run to a godly friend. I confess, I sometimes get this out of order. I’m still predisposed to share a burden or break the loneliness of discouragement with a text or call to a godly friend. I think getting things in the right order: God first, people second, is very important and a personal goal of mine for this decade of my life. But there’s no question that there is real value in the godly counsel of a wise and loving Christian friend.
3. Create a culture of thankfulness
There are numerous posts on this blog about thankfulness, and for good reason. (Read more: here, or here or here!) Nothing can turn a bad mood or month long funk around better than getting our hearts in the right place regarding gratitude. Sure, there will always be hard things in your life, things that are unfair, hurtful, lonely or dark. But there is always SO much to be thankful for. It’s easy to lose sight of all that God has given us, done in our lives and ministry, in the midst of the brokenness of this world. The Good News is that Jesus is here and wanting to engage in life with us here and now. The great news is that in the end He wins. The comforting news is that in the in-between He has not left us alone, but provides just want we need for today. So count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!
Here’s another great resource, especially for people in ministry, about dealing with discouragement from Pastorpedia, a ministry of the CE National. https://cenational.org/article/discouragement-church-ministry-pastorpedia/
and the ultimate encouragement, the Word of God:
Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[a] his Spirit who lives in you.
I love Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message: It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!
What are some ways YOU battle discouragement in your life? Feel free to share what Jesus is teaching you in the comment section below!