Everyone gets discouraged from time to time. We don’t like to talk about it but that’s the truth. It’s not surprising. We live a world with a lot of bumps in the road and it’s all too easy to find big and small doses of discouragement along the way.
So then, the question becomes what do you do when you’re suffering from an encouragement deficit? There are five clear steps to help break free and move on.
1. Take Ownership for Your Own Encouragement
Often when we are discouraged we tend to want to get angry at others for not doing more to encourage us. ”Don’t they know how down I am? Why don’t they try to encourage me?”, we ask ourselves. We can’t understand why, when we’re starving for some encouragement, those around us don’t seem to offer much. The truth is that they are probably starving too. One drowning man doesn’t typically offer to help another drowning man.
If we are going to break free from the grip of discouragement, we simply must realize that we are responsible for our own encouragement levels. We’ve got to take ownership and responsibility. We also must decide to take action steps (some listed below) and stop waiting for someone else to bail us out.
The Bible says that at one point David “encouraged himself.” I used to dislike that phrase because I couldn’t get my head around it. If I was discouraged how could I encourage myself? Then I realized the point of the verse is to remind us that we are not powerless when it comes to discouragement. We don’t have to wait on others. We must decide to take control and do what we can to break the cycle of discouragement or we will forever be victims.
2. Ask God for Encouragement
The first and best source of encouragement is the Lord. People may encourage you from time to time but don’t expect them to be able to give you all the encouragement you need in this often discouraging life. Instead, we must look to God as our ultimate source.
Now, it’s not enough to just hope God will encourage us. We should be bold enough to ask for it. Many, many times I’ve come to the Lord and said, “Father, I’m really discouraged right now. Will you please send some encouragement my way today? I really need it.” Then, He typically does. It might be big or it might be small. It might come through a friend, a stranger, or a “random” circumstance but He is very good to send the encouragement I need most of the time. It might not come immediately but it usually comes.
3. Encourage Someone Else
The Bible commands us to encourage others. It doesn’t say that we should do it only when we are overly encouraged ourselves. In fact, I’ve often found that when I am at my lowest God will instruct me to contact someone else and encourage them. It seems unfair at first but it is a powerful way to break free from the self-centered emphasis of a lot of discouragement. Also, this act of giving a costly gift of encouragement to someone else opens the doors of Heaven to bless us back. We’re told in scripture that if we give it will be given to us in return. My experience is that this holds true to giving encouragement as well as anything else.
Don’t let your discouragement stop you from encouraging others. Dig down deep and do it. Don’t expect them to turn around and encourage you. Just give the gift of encouragement and trust God to take care of you in return. You will be amazed at what happens.
4. Take Small Steps Forward
The root idea behind the word “encourage” is to have or add courage. The surprising truth is that we can often jump start the process of adding great courage to our lives simply by taking small courageous steps in the right direction. Courage begets courage and courageous steps, no matter how small, will eventually yield encouragement.
You might not know exactly everything you should do but I bet you know something minor that you could do. Do that. Move forward. Take a courageous step of faith and then watch how God rewards that with a dose of encouragement.
5. Take a Gratitude Inventory
When discouraged we tend to make mental lists of unanswered questions, unmet needs, dashed hopes, painful delays, and the like. Flip this on it’s head by creating tangible lists of things for which you are thankful. This is the thermonuclear option when it comes to discouragement. Detonate your your own gratitude bomb and watch what happens. As you list out all the people that do care, all the opportunities that still exist, all the things that have gone your way, and any number of other blessings you’ll make way for a wave of encouragement to flood your heart and mind.
What do you think? What works for you? What helps you get encouraged?