Whose Name is Discouragement

what to do when you're discouraged

The last day of the year. A 2.5-hour drive to a friend’s house in Sycamore, IL became a harrowing 7.5-hour excursion toward and then away from South Bend, IN. Though I’m unsure of exactly how it happened (but geographic reasoning is not my strong suit), this experience showed me how easily discouragement takes hold of my heart.

Lost and Losing Hope

At the beginning of the trip, I had been reflecting on the beauty of the snow I saw along my route in Illinois—how it rests brilliant and evenly on all things, and endows them with beauty. In that moment, God was rest, a unity of self and landscape.

When I crossed into Indiana, I ran into a heavy patch of Lake Effect snow on the highway, and the snow was no longer beautiful. It was blinding, and as I sat there shaking, gripping the steering wheel, and keeping my distance from the truck in front of me, I began to lose hope.

For a time, I did not know I was entering into a moment of desolation. Honestly, in the midst of this small blizzard, I forgot God for a time. It was only as I was winding my way along Indiana’s country roads in an effort to find the highway back to Illinois that I remembered Him. And I was furious. It had begun to snow again. The sun had suddenly slipped like a dull coin into an envelope of snow clouds, and my GPS had momentarily lost signal. A kind man in a Casey’s noticed my chapped face, and gave a few good directions, but my geographically challenged brain still struggled to grasp where I was going. In the fifteen minutes it took for my GPS to find a signal, I railed against God. “Help me! You know I have no idea where to go! Why won’t you help me? I hate snow!”

Discouragement is from the Devil

During this trip, the devil, whose name is Discouragement, gripped at my heart for awhile. I felt an impending sense of dread. It seemed inevitable that I would go off the road; that no one would be around to help me; that the frigid temperatures and my fear would finish me.

The word despair means “to be separated from hope.” On the last day of the year, I felt that I had, in some small space deep within, turned away from God. I had finally shown the hand that I had, until this moment, kept close to myself. I had finally revealed that deep down I did not trust Him. I did not trust that He was holding me close in these hours of panic. Driving in the snow and in the darkness, fear blotted out hope.

Though I finally made it to my friend’s house, I was shaken by the experience. I was left wondering: What can I do with this utter lack of trust? The way my faith wavers in moments of distress?

Peter and Hope

When I think of discouragement in Scripture, I think of Peter. There are so many moments where I imagine he momentarily experienced deep discouragement: when Jesus entered his boat to preach and Peter had caught nothing after fishing the entire night before; on a harrowing journey across a storm-tossed lake where Peter walked toward Jesus on the water and began to sink when he noticed the whipping wind and the rising waves; when Jesus told Peter, “Get behind me Satan,” after Peter tried to deny that Jesus would have to suffer and die; when before Jesus’ crucifixion Peter denied ever knowing Jesus.

I think of an evening after Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, the evening before Peter and his fellow disciples discovered the Resurrected Jesus on the shore. Peter said to the other disciples, “I am going fishing,” and watched the placid sea all night. He caught nothing.

I wonder if Peter despaired during that night. His relationship with Jesus had been broken by betrayal and fear; yet, in the morning, at Jesus’ familiar words to fish the other side of the boat, Peter jumped out of the boat to get to Jesus. And Jesus proceeded to feed both Peter’s body and soul. He forgave Peter his weakness and called him to feed the flock he would soon serve as pope.

In this scene, Peter’s discouragement was brief. Mine was too. Yet this experience awakened in me a need to recommit myself to hope.

Finding Peace in the Midst of Discouragement

If discouragement is a cross you carry, I want to tell you that you are not alone. We live in an anxious world that chips away at our peace. I pray that each of our hearts is able to rest in a reality bigger than our worries: that our Lord does not stand by watching us in our discouragement, but with a compassion fuller than we can imagine, feels our grief, our anxiety, and even our despair, and actively seeks to comfort us.

A dear spiritual friend, St. Therese of Lisieux, elaborates on this truth: “As the sun shines both on the cedar and the smallest flower, so the Divine Son illumines each soul, great or lowly, and all things work together for its good.” He sees all. He is present in all.

Though I felt incredibly fearful that night, Christ shielded me from harm. Though dark and snowy, He led me to the right road, and ultimately to my destination—to a town with snowless roads, to a house still filled with Christmas lights, into the arms of a waiting friend. Though I still struggle with the temptation toward discouragement, like Peter, I want to continually turn toward Christ, and invite Him to plant His hope deeper in my being.

How do you cling to hope during times of discouragement? Is there a prayer you say or a Scripture you read? Please share with us in the comments below.

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Lindsey Weishar is an MFA candidate in Poetry. She enjoys discovering beauty in the little things and endless cups of tea. She has written for Verily and the Young Catholic Woman. A chapbook of her poems is forthcoming from Leaf Press in the spring.

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  • Reply
    March 22, 2018 at 9:37 am

    When I am afraid or I feel discouraged, I pray the Hail Mary in Latin. That help me.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    I can’t believe how helpful it is to hear this blog. I struggle with letting go and letting God handle things. I know that all is in His hands but when I struggle with fear for the future, worrying and anxious thoughts then make me feel how can things be ok. I doubt and then i berate myself for my lack of faith.

  • Reply
    Lynn Monty
    March 23, 2018 at 6:47 am

    Something similar to this happened to me just last week and when I was finally near my destination and I felt safe, I pulled over and literally screamed out loud asking Jesus why he allowed me to be so frightened. I was crying and shaking. I was mad. But then it suddenly came to me that I was safe and that I had been brave. I was overwhelmed with a new knowing that Jesus is always with me and at the same time I will experience fearful times and in those times he’s asking me to act respectfully, responsibly and brave … that all I need to do is 100% of what I am able and he promises to fill in the rest. Since that day I feel less fearful of fear … if that makes any sense. Your story is a sign from Him that I’m paying attention to what he’s trying to teach me. Thank you!

  • Reply
    March 24, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    I was so discouraged this afternoon. My desk broken sending everything on top of it all over my already messy living room. It was just more than I could handle. I prayed a Hail Mary and was reminded that this too shall pass. Then my mom called and sent my dad over to help with my home and kids. Prayers answered.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2018 at 8:57 am

    Through those times of discouragement, anxiety, and worry I always think of my favorite verse; Jeremiah 29:11. The Lord has plans for my future and they are not to harm me. Even though the storm may be rough and the days are grey and it appears as though the sun will never shine again I have to constantly remind myself of this. The future is in his hands and he has a great plan.

  • Reply
    March 28, 2018 at 6:07 am

    I liked everything what this article said, as well as the commenters. “ . . . All I need to do is 100% of what I am capable of doing, and He will fill in the rest.” God has a plan for my future (also my go-to verse).
    When I am in the midst of my challenge, it is so hard, SO.HARD to remember to trust, remain calm, believe that God really does “got this” and is “with me.” After reading this article and the comments, I am prompted to resolve to pray ahead of time, like, now, while I am in the comfort of my warm, dry home, in my easy chair in the living room, cup of coffee by my side, to REMEMBER the Lord is with me, will be with me, I shall not want, I will not want, all things work together for good, God has a plan. What human would NOT panic in the face of threat, (sometimes 100% of “what I am able” is still zero) but I hope I can REMEMBER everything I have been believing for the past 50 yrs to be true.

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