Embracing discouragement—Finding strength to overcome

Discouragement feels like Murphy’s law. “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

This day was one of those days. It passed while I sat at my desk staring at the same piece of paper the majority of the day. When I looked up on occasion I would look at my computer screen or I would turn my head to the right to stare out the distant window. I yearned to see the outside world. To connect with something, anything outside of the physical corner I occupied at work.

When I looked at my computer screen, it displayed a familiar video that had always brought comfort. On this day it was only bringing restlessness. There is a beach city in San Diego called Coronado. It is a peninsula even though most people call it an island. And on this peninsula is one of the most historic hotels—Hotel del Coronado. In spite of its historic age and status, it offers restless souls like me a piece of happiness—a live video feed of the ocean view from the hotel.

I stared at that view for hours on this day. And as the clock struck 5:00 p.m. I knew what I had to do. I drove home, fed my dog, then promptly left. I endured some sadness over leaving Lottie at home so I could sit on the beach by myself for a couple hours.

Armed with my purple Knapbag, a quilt, my journal, a pen and my headphones, I drove the 25-minute route to Coronado. There was not much on my mind except the mission at hand: Get to the beach so you can breathe.

The clouds had rolled in since 5:00 p.m. Even though it was late August it was chilly. I trudged past the groups of high schoolers at the bonfire pits out celebrating the last days of summer freedom before school started again. I tried recalling a time when I felt as happy as they looked, especially at that age. I could not clock a specific moment.

I set up camp 15 feet from the tip of the tide as it rolled onto shore. Reclining in my Knapbag with my quilt snuggly wrapped around my shoulders and my left toes in the sand, I took what felt like my first real breath all day.

Not sure of the purpose I had at the beach that night, I just sat for a long time. Forced myself to slow down. Allowed the discouragement access to my heart. Denying it any longer had become impossible. A result or a way out was unknown. I just had to be there in the moment.

Unsure of what I could do beyond breathing, I took a tentative move toward my journal. Writing, journaling would be good because I could not seem to form adequate words in my thought prayers. Written prayers would suffice.

Everything felt heavy—my breath, my chest, my bones, my heart. It all bore a weight I was struggling to stand underneath. It felt as if I did not have a choice in how or what I was feeling. On the surface, what I felt was loss. I had put up a valiant effort and lost. And now I had to forfeit completely. But in the meantime, in the time it was taking me to get there, I did not understand the emotions rolling through me.

I opened my journal and I began to write. I wrote for a long time. I poured my heart out to God in my words, asking my questions and getting no answers. I stated the things I was struggling to understand, and I still struggled to leave them at His feet after I said them. I confessed how bad everything hurt, and I cried.

After a while, it felt like there was nothing left. I sat there and wondered if anything in any realm of life could get any worse. I wondered, Did I take the right first step? Or would I be doomed to flounder in discouragement forever?

As I deflated my Knapbag and grabbed up my stuff, I let my thoughts wander. The walk back to the car was steady, not fast or slow. The road that was filled with parked cars on both sides when I arrived had slowly emptied out. After unlocking the door and dumping my stuff on the front seat, I sat there.

I had taken the right first step. I ran to Jesus with the cries of my heart overflowing. And now I was left with some waiting. Waiting felt void, like it held no substance. I think I just had to be OK with where I was.

So in concrete terms, what does discouragement really feel like? Do you remember when you would swim as a kid, then get out of the pool and change back into regular clothes, then go swimming again later on it the day? Was your swimsuit still damp? Was your towel fully dry to be used for the second swim?

Discouragement feels like going for a second swim of the day after the temperature has dropped, then deciding to get out of the cold pool, endure the cold air with the hope that your towel is going to be warm and ready. But it is damp and cold. The towel never finished drying after the first swim. I imagine that’s what discouragement without Jesus might have felt like to me.

But discouragement with Jesus walking beside me feels like all the hope for that warm towel is valid. He is the warm towel. He will dry me off, He will warm me up, He will comfort me and shield me from the cold air.

Discouragement feels like Murphy’s law because as I left the beach that day, I got lost. My normal route was closed and Google Maps did not know where to send me. But discouragement with Jesus beside me felt like an opportunity to spend a few more uninterrupted moments with Him.

Getting lost was not going to ruin the progress my heart just made. Regardless of Murphy’s law and my cold towel of discouragement, I laid down my emotions at His feet and I knew, and still know, that He cares enough to pick them up and turn them around for me.

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