Does life ever feel like a puzzle with pieces that don’t fit together? When people feel like this, it’s easy for them to fall into a discouragement syndrome. With this mind-set, every aspect of the day tends to take on unpleasant overtones – at work, at home, in dealing with others. Nothing seems right, and there seems to be little prospect of any positive change. This dilemma often leads to continual discouragement, and life is viewed as a drudgery trap.
When life is perceived as being heavy and complex, it becomes seemingly impossible to see beyond the narrow confines of the present negative circumstances. One philosopher used the analogy that some people cannot see the whole architecture of life because they have their eyes on one brick – nor can they feel anything except the brick they are holding.
Yet it is possible to shift one’s focus.
Here are three suggestions to help those who are struggling change their perspective from pessimism to hope.
- Look ahead. Encourage them to look beyond their present problems so that they can see a purpose for their life. In difficult times, it takes strong goals and character to avoid falling into the drudgery trap. Consider the pain of childbirth. There is purpose in the pain, and the end result – the baby – allows the mother to persevere through the pain. Similarly, life may seem unbearable for the moment, but the struggler must look up and claim God’s promises, remembering that it will all be worthwhile (1 Corinthians 15:58; Hebrews 12:11). As Christians, we are admonished to keep our eyes on the goal, which is Christ Jesus, the author of our existence and the reason for our hope (Philippians 3:14; Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 6:8). In this way, we are able to alter our attitudes from negative to positive
- Help them pray. As counselors, we can help our struggling brothers and sisters develop a healthy habit of praying when troubles come their way. God is always willing to help His children with any kind of problem, at any stage. If the problem is merely a nuisance, a person must simply cast the bothersome situation onto the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). If the problem is too heavy to cast, then he/she can roll it onto God (Psalm 37:5). In Hebrew, “commit” means “to roll.” Finally, if the problem is too great for a person to handle, God can and will lift it from their shoulders (Psalm 81:6). There is no excuse for not giving our burdens over to the Lord (2 Timothy 1:12). We can give God our problems through prayer and by studying and applying the truths of His Word to our lives.
- Get in community. Finally, it is vital that the struggling individual be involved in a supportive, caring group. The apostle Paul emphasized the necessity of this arrangement when he wrote: “… so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:25-27 NASB).
God did not create man to live life on his own but rather to work in unity with each other. Thus, each of us who are following the Lord can edify, encourage and help bind up the wounds of those struggling in this world. We can be used to hasten their healing.
Dr. Rick Fowler earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Theology (Greenville College), a Master of Arts degree in Social Science Education (University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point), an Education Specialist degree in Social Science (University of Georgia), a Doctorate of Education in Social Psychology (Highland University), and received his LPC, LMFT certification (University of Texas at Tyler).