Posted by: ritagone | July 4, 2012

How to Alleviate Discouragement

It’s not unusual for someone involved in ministry of any kind to become discouraged occasionally.

Hey, it’s not unusual in this day and age for anyone to become discouraged at any time about anything!

We live in a society and in a world where discouragement is so prevalent that I don’t think we even notice it much any more.  Our media panders to it, our culture almost takes it in stride, our art mirrors it.  I paid attention to it a while back by noticing that almost every film released – barring the very silly attempts at romantic comedies that I felt were gigantic failures – was a picture of discouragement and disillusionment and great malaise of one sort or another.  I watched “We Need To Talk About Kevin” from last year and was glad I didn’t own a gun.  I subscribe to HBO and realized that every period melodrama such as “Game of Thrones” or “Boardwalk Empire” was ironically infused with a 21st century mentality or view of life that was bleak and sad.

Turn on the TV at any time and you’ll see discouragement everywhere.  It bleeds and oozes fatigue, tiredness, and general malaise.  It can’t be avoided, unless you find the cable channels that cater to old “Happy Days” re-runs (which I often do, by the way, since my husband wrote for the show for so many years).

In short, discouragement is everywhere.

In ministry, when you are a part of the work of God anywhere around the world, it is natural that there are ups and downs, times when the discouragement is so severe that you just feel like packing it all in, selling shoes instead, not that selling shoes wouldn’t have its own discouragement, of course.

But this story has a happy ending, I’m thrilled to report.  I went to Chicago for a Christian Associates conference recently, flying out of LAX on June 21.  I must have hit the only good weather in Chicago and that part of the country for weeks on either side of the three days I was there.  The conference was put together by three great CA staff people who worked very hard to make it great…and their work was rewarded.  Though small in attendance (which I know was a disappointment and discouragement to them), it was one of the most meaningful conferences I’ve been to in a long time, packed with thought-provoking subject matter, great discussions, and loads of fellowship and community.

But that’s not even the best part for me.

I had come to this conference feeling discouraged about some pretty serious, heavy topics we in leadership have been wrestling with in CA.  You know, the usual suspects: attrition of staff, growth rate not as substantial as we would like it to be, and the ever-present hovering financial trauma that besets most ministries in this day and age.  Where are we going to keep getting the donor base that we need to carry on ministry around the world?  How are our staff going to keep their own personal support at levels that mean they can stay on the field, bringing Jesus Christ to people who desperately need to know Him in cities that are secular and starving spiritually?  These are the kinds of questions that keep the dedicated leadership of CA awake at night, praying and wrestling with God’s direction and plan.

Sometimes you get so discouraged (I’m speaking strictly for myself here) that you think: maybe it’s time to pack it in.  Maybe this is God’s way of saying it’s time to take up knitting instead, sit on the recliner rocker chair in the backyard and watch the dogs chase one another, just relax and live out the rest of my days in peace and quiet.  Maybe CA isn’t meant to continue as a thriving ministry; ministries probably have lifespans just as people do, right?  Right?

So when two of the dynamic staff people at this conference each spoke to me separately and unbeknownst to one another of the fact that without the support of CA they couldn’t do what they’re doing in their vibrant ministries, I perked up.  I had been praying for God to speak to me about the future.  I wanted a clear sign as to what was supposed to happen.  While I was praying, while I was attending this conference in Chicago, three days out of my life, I fell in love with Ronnie and his exciting, challenging ministry in Bronzeville, the Harlem of Chicago, as it’s known.  Ronnie spoke those words to me toward the end of the conference.  Without the undergirding he gets from CA, he truly couldn’t do his work for the Lord.  I broke out into a bit of a cold sweat.  Just what I needed to hear to banish the discouragement.

Then Dianna spoke to me in almost the same words and phrases as Ronnie, Dianna, a single mom who works full time in the mortgage department of a major U.S. bank so that she can minister to the homeless and less fortunate as part of her ministry in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, a woman I also came to admire while working with her both before and during the conference in Chicago.  A woman who said, “I can’t do what I do without the support of Christian Associates.”  Okay, Lord, I hear you.  I hear them, and I hear you, and I am not discouraged any more.  And I thank you.

Are you discouraged today?  What would it take to lift that pall of discouragement from your heart and mind?  Look for it.  It may be closer to you than you recognize.  It sure was for me.

 

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Responses

  1. Wow. Great stuff, Rita. Thanks for these ENCOURAGING words!

  2. You could have no idea how timely this writing is for me. Thank you Rita!

  3. Well put Reets. I needed that, I think!


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