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3 Tips on Dealing with Discouragement

I'm honored to have my newest friend in ministry, Julie Sibert guest blogging today.  I know you will be blessed with her encouraging words as we continue this month's focus on hope.

I spoke recently at a conferencewhere we addressed the “seasons of marriage.” Fortunately, I was involved in the planning of the conference, so Icould snag “spring” as the season I would cover.
Who doesn't love the spring timesin marriage?
Listening to the other speakers,though, I was most impacted by a married couple that shared about the “winter”seasons of marriage – those times that are plagued by miscommunication,difficulty, devastation and discouragement.
As anyone who has been marriedknows, it really isn’t a matter of ifwinter comes; it’s usually only a matter of when.  All marriages oscillate through ups anddowns, with some “seasons” lasting longer than others.
And even if you are not married,you are wise enough to recognize that winter is not reserved for married folk. Allof us experience desolate times, when finding a nugget of hope feels about aseasy as finding a lost earring that you didn’t even know was lost until weeksafter it disappeared.
What’s a woman to do when discouraged?    Here are three suggestions:
1. Don’t isolate from God.
Sounds easy enough, right, when allyou really want to do is pull the covers over your head?   But isolation and discouragement do not makefor good bedfellows.
Get real with God about your sheerfrustration and discouragement.  Don’ttry to guard your heart from Him (as if that would be possible anyway), butrather share with Him everything you are feeling, even the really ugly stuff.
As we’ve likely heard, God isindeed a big God.  He longs for us tocast our cares upon Him. He is a steady place to lean when we feel hopeless,even if “leaning” just looks like a lot of tears, runny noses and brokenness.
2. Cling to safe confidantes.
The key word here is “safe.”  I believe we each need 2-3 other people inour life who will receive us right where we are, pray with us and speak from aplace that is rooted in godly counsel.
And this next point is crucial –women need women confidantes and men need men confidantes.   It is dangerous ground when a distraughtdiscouraged woman seeks refuge in a male friend who is not her husband.
The boundary lines can – and likelywill – become hazy.  When we arediscouraged, we are blind to some of our weaknesses and can easily findourselves entertaining ideas or misconstruing circumstances.  It’s just a dangerous road, so you might aswell avoid it all together.
Gals, stick with your safe womenfriends.
3.  Clear your schedule.
When some people are discouraged,they do the exact opposite of isolate – they instead consume themselves withbusyness.  Sadly, we have even heard thisas advice – “you just need to keep yourself busy.” (I heard it from well-meaning people when I was going through the lossof my first marriage).
I think there is a tipping point,though, where busyness becomes a misguided attempt to mask authentic pain.
When I am most discouraged, I needthe Lord, my close confidantes and space. An overflowing calendar tends to just compound exhaustion anddiscouragement. 
A more sensible approach is to cutback where you can cut back and extend yourself grace in this, so that you haveroom to reflect and get your bearings.
Though the winter times come in allof our lives, the truth is that spring is on the horizon. We have to believe that, though, and walk or crawl in thatdirection.  The Lord and your friendswill help – if you let them.
Julie Sibert writes and speaks about sexual intimacy in marriage. You can follow her blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com and on Twitter @Intimacy4Life. Shelives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, their two boys and one rambunctiousGerman Shorthair Pointer puppy who refuses to stay in the fence.

Copyright © 2012 Julie Sibert