Expectations have the power to inspire us. Our dreams can motivate us to work hard, keep focus and strive for our goals. But these same expectations also have the power to discourage and defeat us. When life doesn’t go the way we imagined it would, it’s hard to keep perspective.
I remember working long hours in jobs I didn’t like to get to my dream career. When I got there, there were days I still didn’t like my job. In my single years, there were times I felt like the only one not in a relationship—like I was being left behind. And even now as a wife and mom, working a job I love, I still have seasons where life isn’t what I thought it would be. We can let these seasons defeat us or we can keep our perspective and forward motion. Let’s choose the latter. Here are some actions to take when life feels discouraging.
If you don’t know what God is doing, trust who He is.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
When God promised to walk with us through life, He didn’t promise life would always be easy. Our human understanding is limited, and there are seasons that will bear no explanation. We cannot always explain our grief, pain or confusion. Circumstances change—but the character of God does not.
Bad things happen in this world not because God is powerless, but because this world is sinful. The only place free from evil is heaven itself. God has not yet transformed this world or taken us up to heaven because He is still doing a powerful work here, wishing that “no one may perish, but that all may come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). He can use discouraging circumstances for His glory. He can use YOUR life seasons to draw more people to Him! This will happen if you trust in God’s good character and His eternal love for you, and let that buoy you in difficult times.
If you don’t know where you’re headed, pursue the calling you have today.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Psalm 32:8)
We’d like to have everything mapped out from the beginning; a cosmic blueprint for our lives. But if God allowed that, we wouldn’t need to walk daily in His wisdom. We wouldn’t need faith.
You might not know where you’re called post-high school. You might not know whether you’ll marry or have kids. Those things don’t have to be figured out right now; in fact, Jesus tells us not to worry about them:
Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34)
Instead of worrying about your next season, live fully where you are. If you don’t know God’s calling for your future, that’s okay! You already know His calling for today. Right here in your home, school and job, He has given you a sphere of influence. Be faithful with the little He has given you, and He’ll eventually open doors to a new season.
If you’re struggling with your circumstances, keep an eternal perspective.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
I have this verse written on an index card on my kitchen window. When we get discouraged by the pain of this world or the weight of our circumstances, we can hold onto this promise: Christ has already overcome. In Him we have a peace that passes understanding: It doesn’t make sense to be joyful when life is hard! But because we know who wins in the end, we have rest when life fails our expectations.
An eternal perspective sees that life isn’t about us, but about God’s redemptive work in this world. We are part of something bigger than ourselves. In light of our eternal impact, life’s discouragements seem much easier to bear.