I confess—I sometimes have a problem with discouragement. I see circumstances lined up against me and I throw up my hands. I can’t imagine a good outcome. As far as my mind can understand, I see no reason for hope. Worse still, even when I choose to hope and to stand firm in faith, I often fall flat on my face. So much for hope!
I recently mentioned my problem with discouragement during confession. The priest simply stated: “Discouragement is incompatible with discipleship.”
These simple words cut me to the heart and set me on a journey of faith and of exploring what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Too often I make resolutions or look on the bright side or tell myself I’m sure things will work out just fine. Too often I ask God’s blessings on my plans and fall face-first into discouragement when the answer does not match my vision of what should happen.
Little by little, I am beginning to see that discipleship is something entirely different. It means surrendering everything to Jesus Christ and leaving the outcome in his hands. It means setting aside my will and seeking his will. It means believing that he can and will bring good out of every situation, no matter how difficult. It means trusting him because he is good, not because he does what I ask. It means trusting even when things look dark. It means putting him first and putting myself last.
I’m thinking about these things partly because I’m feeling discouraged lately, but also because I am thinking about Thanksgiving and being grateful. It has occurred to me that gratitude is a great antidote to discouragement. When I am grateful, I see all the things God has given me simply out of his goodness. I see how he has taken care of difficult situations as I leave them in his hands. I see how his power is way greater than my weakness and pettiness. I’m sure my struggles will continue, but I am also sure that over time I will become a more faithful disciple and a more grateful person. It’s all a gift of grace, and this Thanksgiving I am full of gratitude for the way God leads me and fills me with hope as he acts in my heart.