When Discouragement Sets In

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I have wanted to avoid telling you the reality of this — wanted to get past it so I could share with you uplifting, encouraging words instead.

I have not wanted it to be true.

But it is true: I am in the thick of discouragement lately.

This morning I woke early in order to write this letter to you. But as I stared at the screen, attempting to write, no words came. I felt completely blocked. I couldn’t find the entry point to any of the stories I thought I might tell you.

I think a lot of it had to do with the reality of this discouraged spirit in me. I feel so aware that the words that have winged their way to you these last many months have carried dark shadows already: grief and loss, broken hearts and healing, exhaustion and illness.

How could I burden you with more?

But as my husband, Kirk, reminded me today, discouragement is part of the journey. It’s part of the journey of the heart. And as someone who seeks to invite you deeper into the reality of your own heart, I wouldn’t serve you well if I didn’t acknowledge this truth.

Discouragement meets us sometimes. It just does.

What do we do with that discouragement when it comes?

One thing I did was close the computer screen and sit alone on my couch. I picked up a book of conversations with Jorge Bergoglio — the man who would become Pope Francis — and let the solidity and wisdom of his words wash over me.

I went to church. I took a nap. I asked Kirk to give me a hug. I played with our cats. I helped celebrate the eucharist (even though I felt completely unqualified to do so, given how I was feeling!). 

I think one of the hardest things about all the hardest feelings — discouragement, loneliness, sadness, brokenness — is our attempt to fight them. I keep watching myself do this lately. I try to deny the truth. I judge myself for the feelings. I feel embarrassed by them. I want them not to be true, so I try to convince myself they aren’t.

But they are true. The darkness is there.

Last week I shared with you that healing and forgiveness begin with God — with letting him see the broken pieces of our hearts — and that I’m relearning this process right now.

Letting God see the broken pieces of our hearts means this process begins with honesty. When the darkness sets in, though our immediate instinct is to run or avoid or bury or deny, the invitation is actually to face it. To say — not just to ourselves, but also to God — “This is what’s true. This is what’s really here.”

As scary as that sounds, I keep remembering as I practice it how freeing it actually is to do this. We stop fighting with ourselves. We make peace with what is. And that’s where connection and intimacy start between us and God.

So I’m seeking to practice honesty with myself and with God right now about all the darkness right now. I’m seeking to take courage by saying, “This is what’s true: I’m discouraged. And here are the reasons why. Can you acknowledge what I’m telling you?”

I’ve found that acknowledgment from God is so incredibly healing. It’s one of the very best things I’ve ever experienced in my life. And when I receive the gift of it, I wonder why I waited so long to bring the truth to him and seek that validation.

What would it be like for you to tell the truth — to yourself and to God — right now and then to ask God for acknowledgment?

Much love,