Rising above discouragement depends on where your hope lies

Rising above discouragement means taking control of your thoughts and steering them someplace else.

As simple as that sounds, most people believe they can't do that. Instead, they believe they're a prisoner of their thoughts, forced to follow wherever their mind leads them.

Ironically, your thoughts are one of the few areas where you are free. You may be bound to your job, bound to an unhappy relationship, or bound to an illness or disability, but you can control how you view those things and your life.

I would not make such a radical claim unless I had lived it myself. I have known many kinds of discouragement over the past 50 years, but eventually I discovered a crucial truth about it: No one but yourself can force you to stay there.

Rising above discouragement: Finding hope

At the center of hopelessness is the belief that your future will be the same as your past. It may be, but it doesn't have to be. It takes the willpower to break free.

I couldn't break free until I became fed up with hurting. The painful truth was I had brought a lot of it on myself. Please, please don't do what I did. Put an end to self-destructive thoughts. Stop beating yourself up. The sooner you stop, the sooner happiness begins.

Look, you can break the pattern of hopelessness, but it will take the invincible power of God to do it. That's why so many millions of people are stuck there. They simply refuse God's help.

Here's where you either stop reading in disgust--and shackle yourself to more of the same--or realize this is a God-sized problem you're facing and only he can solve it.

Hope lies not in your own efforts. That's where many people go wrong. They try to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. True hope lies in God.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying rising above discouragement means sitting back and letting God do all the work and you'll be magically changed. It will take effort on your part too. You have to say "Enough is enough" and be willing to change.

Don't stick around

Imagine you're walking in the city and you find yourself in a high crime, sleazy neighborhood. Do you stop walking? No! You get out of there as fast as your feet will carry you.

Discouragement is the bad neighborhood of your mind.

Your thoughts took you there and they will take you out. First you have to recognize this is a dangerous place to be. You're not doing yourself any good by staying there. In fact, you're exposing yourself to threats. Second, you have to make a conscious decision to leave, then get going!

Disappointments in life are inescapable. We all have dreams and desires. I had to learn by experience that when one of my dreams was denied, it was time to find another dream.

When I couldn't become a comic book artist, I got a new dream: I would become a writer. And I did! I made a living at it for 30 years and still do it every day. It wasn't easy, but God helped me through the rejections and discouraging times. While everybody shouldn't try to become a writer, everybody should be prepared to pursue a new dream when one goes by the wayside.

It's healthy to grieve when somebody dies, but it's unhealthy to grieve forever. We have to move on with our life. The same is true with our dreams. Mourn for a while, but move on. Don't live in that depressing neighborhood of discouragement.

The hardest thing in life

I've often said the hardest thing in life is trusting God. We believe what we see. We believe what we hear. And sadly, we believe our past determines our future.

Rising above discouragement takes trust in God. But God is invisible, and often so is his work. We can't tell what he's doing. We don't know how he's moving things behind the scenes. We want him to let us in on his plans, but he doesn't do that.

Most of my life, I was so stubbornly set on my dreams that I couldn't believe what God had for me could be better. My heartbreak over losses colored my attitude. I saw my life through the lens of bitterness.

I made one of the biggest mistakes a person can make. I saw myself as a victim.

But God never saw me that way. His goal for me--and for you, too--is to mold us into the image of his Son, Jesus. And God has to file away a lot of rough spots to do that.

Oh, I have a long, long, long way to go. But I'm finally starting to get it. You get it too. Don't let most of your life go by before you understand this truth:

Hard times are God's classrooms. He has a lesson for you in each one.

Rising above discouragement is a lifelong battle. Don't stop hoping or dreaming because you don't want to be disappointed again. Dreams make life exciting. They make life worth getting up for in the morning.

Take a second look at your dreams. What's better, being wealthy or wise?  Famous or having peace of mind? Outdoing some rival or acting more like Jesus?

Rising above discouragement takes strength, and the greatest source of strength is God. When the Amalekites invaded the town of Ziklag, they kidnapped all the women and children. Let's all learn from what David did when he was discouraged:

Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.            (1 Samuel 30:6, NKJV) 

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