I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m discouraged. An initiative doesn’t go well. Someone devastates you to your core with a few words. A leader needs to be relocated for his/her job. It happens ALL THE TIME in ministry.
We know the right answers:
- This too will pass.
- All things work together for good.
- It must not have been God’s will.
However, knowing the right answers doesn’t make me feel better about it right now. It doesn’t help me see it clearly right now. Here are 5 techniques I’ve learned over my ministry that have helped me deal with those days (sometimes weeks, sometimes months) of discouragement.
1) Read your bible and write in a journal
When discouraged we are frequently driven from the Word. Either there is some underlying resentment at God for allowing things to go badly or there is shame for something you’ve done or there is just a lax attitude towards the Scripture. I’ve been there in all of those instances. There is nothing that I’ve found more helpful though, when I can get over myself, than sitting and reading some Scripture. Dealing with leadership issues? Go read Nehemiah. If the problem is hurt then go read the Psalms. If you are aching over someone not responding to the gospel go read the gospels. The Scripture is sufficient for us. Write down what you read. Recognize how it applies to you.
2) Pray and get others praying for you too
This is a natural outflow for me. After I read the bible and journal I want to pray. I may still be upset (usually am). Frustration is still present, but at least now I’m directed to the One who can help, bring encouragement and work with me (and on me) in my hurt.
I also have a trusted list of men that I go to with hurts. I can text about 10-15 guys and I know they are praying for me right then. Details aren’t necessary. Just a simple, “I’m dealing with some discouragement today. I can’t share a lot of detail, but I’d appreciate your prayer support today.” They are faithful men and friends. I’ve also found that just their simple reply back of, “gotcha covered man” or “on it!” brings a great deal of encouragement in knowing that I’m not alone and I’m not isolated.
GO RUN! LIFT WEIGHTS! DO SOME CARDIO! Get off your butt and get your heart pumping and blood flowing in something physically productive. There is a definite correlation to discouragement and depression and a lack of physical activity. Get up and get going.
4) Talk to a friend
Ministry can be lonely. It can be painful. Find a friend, usually someone outside of your ministry situation, that you can talk openly with. I was reminded today by one of these friends that discussing frustrations with trusted friends, without gossiping, helps you see different perspectives. Be open to your friend to comfort you and call you out when you might have a blindspot in a specific area.
5) See a counselor
There is such a negative stigma about pastors seeing counselors. That is just dumb! I see one regularly (usually monthly). I pay for this service. My counselor is a biblical counselor and he listens and points me to Scripture and the gospel. Friends can fill this role on occasion, but someone who has regular experience is invaluable.