As the end of 2016 draws near and the dawn of 2017 begins to creep over the horizon, I sit here in the morning sun and slippers reflecting back & attempting to dream forward.
At first glance the past year feels like it was an absolute mucky mess, one where it feels like I have deteriorated in every single area of my life. A feeling, which really makes me want to stop reflecting on the past year, put it in a garbage bag, allow it to be hauled away to the dump and left to rot out of sight & out of mind.
I know that it is wiser to learn from our mistakes and our messes than it is to just attempt to forget about it. Something also tells me that there is treasure in the trash that I really do want to hold on to. It is just a yucky job to be sorting through all of it.
Discouragement can really keep us from digging into the mess to find the gifts. Discouragement can cause us to pull away from the good and the bad, instead of holding to the hope that we have been called to.
While my heart deeply bends to the antonym, encouragement, I would be hiding the truth if I did not openly admit that this year has brought deep discouragement into my life. I write about this not because I have mastered it, but because I am wrestling with it.
Are you discouraged my dear reader? Has your hope been shaken or your confidence diminished?
One of the ways that Webster.com defines discouragement is, “the act of making something less likely to happen or of making people less likely to do something.”
Less likely to happen. Less likely to do something. Withdrawn.
Are you feeling as if something in your life is less likely to happen? Are you feeling less likely to do something? Have you withdrawn?
I can confidently answer yes to all three of these questions.
Part of my discouragement this year stemmed from not being heard, listened to or understood. Maybe I tried to share with the wrong individuals. Perhaps my timing was just off. It could be that I chose the wrong words to attempt to communicate what I was feeling or what I was facing. I could be the greatest contributing factor to it all.
As a mom and a wife, I faced some tough stuff this year. When I tried to share, with people I thought would care deeply & listen with open ears, I was brushed off, admonished or ignored. I left conversations feeling unheard and with a list of “should do” suggestions. After several attempts to change it up and try again, I found myself deeply discouraged, and wanting to withdraw.
Discouragement can bring an overwhelming increase our insecurities, causing deep deficits in the accounts of assurance within our hearts.
My Best vs The Best
Insecurity deeply infected my heart this past year causing high fevers of doubt and disbelief. There were times that I felt like an utter failure in every single area of my life. The crazy thing was, as I was going through the moments of this past year I really thought I was giving my best. I was making sacrifices and pouring out effort. I was trying my best, but still a mess.
It was like life was handing me big fat “F” grades on everything I did. The first couple were disappointing, but as they accumulated they got harder to take. It became much easier for me to believe the things people said I was doing wrong than it was to believe any good comments that came my way.
Hard times to seem to teach the strongest lessons.
In many situations in life, even the ones we try really hard at, our best may not be the best available. It is not always easy to surrender, and say that MY best is not THE best in any given situation, especially without feeling like a gigantic failure in the process.
Our world is filled with messages like these that rain down upon us, “hard work can get you anywhere”, “if you can dream it you can do it”, “just do it.” In the right application these sayings can make sense. On the other hand Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
Sometimes hard work is just not going to get us there.
Our dreams may not meet the presented need.
Just doing it, may actually break something.
That last one, totally true. God blessed me with a husband who is an exceedingly patient mechanic. He’s had the opportunity to repair many of my “just do it” ventures all because I “just broke it.”
MY best is not always THE best.
Our hard work is appreciated. Our dreams are important. There are valuable tasks that when we just do them, will meet the incredible needs of the world. There is a time, there is a place for OUR best to shine.
We are each like a piece in complex puzzle, there are some places we are just not going to fit in, no matter how we rotate, turn, push and squish ourselves. Our individual best may not be THE best in a given situation. That’s a good thing, no a great thing. Imagine how exhausted you would be if you were THE best in every situation…
Faithfulness as We Find Our Way
It can take a long time, a lot of effort and disappointment to find our way and our fit in this great big puzzle. Sometimes just when we think we have found a place we get picked up and moved. What may look like a picture of grass in a city park, ends up being a pasture filled with cattle. We don’t even get to see the whole puzzle, there’s no box with a finished picture on it. Perhaps that is why many days I find myself puzzled about my place.
The Lord is faithful as we find our way. When we are withdrawn and discouraged, He is faithful. When we are prideful and ambitious, He is faithful. When we are stuck and broken, He is faithful. When we are exhausted by the effort, He is faithful. When our dreams have evaporated away like a morning fog in the sun, He is faithful.
"He makes the grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate - bringing forth food from the earth; wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts." Psalm 104:15 (NIV)
The Lord cares for so many little details in our lives, simple things that we overlook each and every day; grass, plants, oil, bread. All key ingredients into the processes of our daily lives. Gifts that meet our needs to sustaining life.
So many treasures, even among the trash. Daily bread. Glad hearts. Smiling faces. Grass for the cattle. Even if that grass was right below the kitchen window, being enjoyed by the cow that was out of his pen. A silly treasure indeed.
It may have been a hard year. A year you want to turn away from in discouragement, but I encourage you to dig into it. As I dig through my year, I have found the love of incredible friends willing to cry with me, the prayers of sisters in Christ that bolstered me in my brokenness, the joy of a child as they received a hug, a husband whose aches & pains couldn’t keep him from his work, a resilient son who could remain calm answering the same questions & assumptions about his health repeatedly, a daughter who is taking on more responsibilities joyfully and most of all “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalm 103:8 (NIV)
As we move into another year, as we try our best, even though we may still feel like a mess, may Psalm 104:33-34 (NIV) be our guide.
"I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the Lord." Psalm 104:33-34 NIV
Beloved, Faithful, and Treasured Lord,
Lord, this year had a lot of yuck in it. I know it was more than just me who felt deeply discouraged. Lord, I pray as all of us are reflecting on the year gone by, that we would have the courage to dig into it and find the treasure among the trash. Help us to find jewels of wisdom, smiles of joy, and pauses of peace as we see the blessings of the past year in Your light.
Lord, may our efforts to dig through it all with You pull us out of discouragement. May the Joy of the Lord be our strength that makes us MORE likely to do something and acts of love & good deeds MORE likely to happen.
May we rejoice in Your faithfulness. May we meditate on that which is good and pure. May we praise You for Your love and compassion. May we feel that we have purpose even when MY best is not THE best. May we have a rich peace in trusting You. Trusting that we may not be at the right place for our piece in the puzzle at this time, trusting that when the right time comes You will give us the signal to just do it, without breaking anything in the process.
Lord for each of my precious readers, please fill any deficits of assurance in their hearts with Your abundant provisions. Please give them a surplus of confidence in You and Your purpose for their lives. May they have an excess of hope and joy that spills out of their hearts onto the lives of others. May they have a plethora of peace to know what they need to continue in and what they need to step back from.
In the fearless name of Jesus, who sees only treasure in our messes, Amen.