In the past few months, we have been deluged with bad news – people getting sick with COVID-19, people dying, jobs lost, quarantine, store closures, bankruptcies, evictions, loneliness, inability to visit relatives in hospital, inability to stage a normal funeral and burial, curfews and the list keeps going. It seems that bad news is everywhere, and discouragement is rising.
Do we have a lot to be discouraged about? Certainly, we do; there are more than enough reasons to be discouraged. We have a right to be discouraged based upon the current environment and conditions. The problem with discouragement is that it can lead to a deadly condition called despair. If you are discouraged enough and for an extended period of time, despair can set in. Despair is the complete loss or absence of hope. Despair is something you never want to allow to set in. People who live in despair are at high risk of depression and suicide.
Although we have many reasons to be discouraged, do not allow discouragement to take you to a place of despair. Despair must be defeated. The question is how we defeat despair in the midst of extreme crisis and turmoil. A friend said to me recently, “You can have hope because you still have a job and are assured you will eat. I have no job and do not know where food is coming from. I do not know how much longer I will have a place to live.”
I contemplated for a while and thought, “Would I be discouraged if that were my situation and can I blame my friend for being discouraged?” My friend, like many others, has a right to be discouraged. The problem with discouragement is that it can lead to inactivity and cause one not to see the possibilities for better days and improved conditions. It can cause the problem to grow greater and the solution to be hidden. Discouragement for an extended period can become despair and end with depression and the accompanying negative side effects.
So, how do we defeat despair? The first thing is something I used to hear my mother say growing up – “Count your blessings.” I remember her singing a song that goes, “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done.” If you have lost a lot, take an inventory of what you have left, count the blessings and not the problems. If you count the problems, you may forget the blessings and stop your progress. Discouragement, which is the precursor to despair, is a loss of confidence or enthusiasm. When you are discouraged, you tend to become inactive, and when you have problems, the key to overcoming them is action. You have to do something. The more you do, the closer you get to overcoming discouragement and despair. Number one is to count your blessings. Take an inventory of what you have. Do you still have food? Are you healthy? Do you have family who can help you? Count every blessing.
Number two is to do something. The less you do, the less confidence you have that things can change. Talk to someone – a counselor, a friend, a neighbor who has a positive outlook. Exercise. Do some gardening. Drive by the beach and look at the ocean. Do something constructive and your confidence will be boosted. If you do nothing, confidence fades. There is a saying that goes, “Whatever does not move, dies.” This is a scientific reality. If you do not move your legs, they become atrophied and after a while they stop working properly. Your brain needs to move, or it will start to die. Read, do research on the internet, develop a new talent or business on the internet but whatever you do, please do something.
Number three is to remember. Sometimes, we forget that the world and each of us have gone through many challenges and have overcome. If you forget that you have overcome before, you can get to the point where you believe it is impossible to overcome your situation. The world has seen many challenges, this is not the first or the last pandemic. Each time there was a major calamity or disaster, we bounced back, so why can’t it happen again? If you forget your victories, you will only remember your defeats. Remind yourself of your victories. When David faced Goliath, he started reciting his victories in the bushes: I faced a bear, I faced a lion, he said. Then he started to think: “If God delivered me from the lion and the bear, I have a history of victory. Who is this ‘uncircumcised’ Philistine?”
Whatever you are facing today, remember the key to your victory is not in reminding yourself of how bad things are, but in remembering how good things can still become. If you count your blessings, your challenges will not seem as great, and your possibilities for recovery, increase. Your biggest enemy is not the current situation, your biggest enemy is discouragement and despair, which can circumvent your recovery. Do not allow discouragement and despair to set in at any cost. Keep hope alive, because faith is the evidence of things hoped for. You cannot have faith without hope, and you cannot have hope if you are overcome by despair. Defeat despair today and achieve victory tomorrow.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to email@example.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.