Sunday, October 21, 2012

Giving Up?

Have you ever been at that turning point? The choice is 1) either continue on the current path (usually uphill) or 2) just give up, turn around, and go back.

How does someone get to this turning point?

I'll use an example from my own life. My first job was working in a busy library where my main function was to put away books being returned by patrons. Sounds easy enough, right? For the most part, this was true. It's not that difficult to pick up a book and put it back on the shelf. Now, multiply that one book by several hundred a day. (At the time, there was a circulation of about 80,000 pieces of material!) As quickly as I could put a book back on the shelf, ten more would be waiting for me (even more after a holiday when the library was closed). Unfortunately the books didn't magically jump off the carts and find their ways back on the shelves. (That would be a Disney movie!) Keeping the shelves in order was ALWAYS a challenge and sometimes discouraging--especially in the children's wing. All those tiny little books, picked up by tiny little hands, and put back in the wrong spot. Another part of my job was to make sure these books always in Dewey decimal order so that someone searching for a particular title could locate it. What a task! Do you know how many books Dr. Seuss wrote? Many!

I share these examples as something anyone can identify with. What's your challenge or discouraging situation? Just exchange the book scenario for toys, paperwork, co-workers, a spouse, an illness. Anything has the potential to be overwhelming and discouraging.

Circumstances (or people) can be frustrating. [When will it ever end?!!!]

Circumstances (or people) can (and usually do) disappoint. [Can't they see how hard I've worked?!!]

Circumstances (and people) can cause discouragement. [What's the point? I have worked so hard and nobody appreciates it. No matter what I do it just gets messed up again. I can't take this anymore. I just want to feel sorry for myself and go home.]

Yes, I think we can all identify with those thoughts and feelings. There were days at the library when I would come in and see books stacked up higher than me and overflowing from their carts and temporary shelves. I also felt much frustration over the person who worked the shift before me and should have put a dent into that huge volume of books--but didn't. At that moment I had a choice to make:

I could become discouraged and half-heartedly do my job, 
quit, or take it out on the other employees.


I could roll up my sleeves, dig into the work, 
and do the best I could in what time I had. 

I had to choose to forget the frustrations of the shirking co-worker and I had to play a little mind-game with myself, making it a challenge. (Interestingly, my attitude rubbed off on some of my other co-workers and it eventually became a fun challenge to see how many books we could put away during our shift! It's amazing how our attitude really does affect others.)

I heard Dr. Charles Stanley recently teaching a series about overcoming discouragement. He said something I found quite interesting which I will paraphrase. There is a difference between discouragement and disappointments.

Disappointments are inevitable. Discouragement is a choice. 

Hmmm. I've often thought those words were somewhat interchangeable. Discouragement may begin as disappointment and we can choose to live in discouragement.

We can trust God with our disappointments (those inevitable things that happen). So discouragement becomes our zip code. We live there and have all our mail delivered to this place. (I've known people like that and I don't really want to be  that way. Discouragement breeds all kinds of other problems.) The antidote to this place of discouragement is to stay in the Word. Daily doses of scripture (TRUTH) can counteract that disappointment and discouragement. Will there be an immediate reprieve from these feelings? Maybe. Maybe not. It all depends on how God wants to use these circumstances in our lives. Dr. Stanley said he was in a place of discouragement for quite a long time and people often asked how he managed. After he looked back, he realized it was his daily time studying the scriptures which sustained him.

"Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying,
yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us 
an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 
while we look not at the things which are seen, 
but at the things which are not seen; 
for the things which are seen are temporal,
but the things which are not seen are eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

I have dealt with disappointments and discouragement many, many times in the past two years. There were times when I let discouragement settle into my heart and set up a pity party. Sometimes I just wanted to run away--backward (retreat), sideways (avoidance), anywhere but forward. The path forward was overwhelmingly difficult. It wasn't long before the Lord would nudge me. Truth from the Word ALWAYS brings me back to reality. Before long, each time I needed encouragement, I would to ask the Lord for help. He was faithful to supply exactly what I needed. Yes, the path forward may be extremely difficult but God will walk through it WITH US.

And take heart because one day we will be celebrating the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven. No more tears. No more sorrow. No more pain. No more discouragement or disappointment. Hallelujah!

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, 
and there will be no more death 
or sorrow or crying or pain. 
All these things are gone forever." 
~ Revelation 21:4


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