Saturday, August 10, 2013

Crying the blues, are ya?

The blues - ya singing 'em?  We all have a time here and there when we just get into the "mulligrubs" - the place where we are kind of ill-tempered, grumpy, or just plain grouchy.  Our circumstances have been internalized and we are allowing them to affect the attitude we display about everything we touch in life.  Melancholy is not meant to be a way of life for a believer, but we sometimes find this path kind of worn smooth by our frequent passage over it, huh?  Sometimes our "souls" just need a good talking to - they need to hear clearly they are not where they need to be!  There is a song I remember from grade school - about the old gray mare not being what she used to be.  Now, if we were given to singing the blues now and again, we might just bemoan the fact the "old mare" or "old stallion" isn't what s/he used to be!  Physically we age and the aging process is sometimes less than kind to us!  On the other hand, I think we sometimes stay mentally, spiritually, and emotionally immature - never giving ourselves the chance to experience the growth God intends for us.  Instead, we choose to bemoan the fact our growth never seems to come.  We get downright melancholy in the process.  As I have said before - nothing good comes to those who just bemoan their losses, or dwell on their past.  We have to be outward focused if we are to overcome the mulligrubs.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  (Psalm 42:11 NIV)

Discouragement can be a deterrent, can it not?  It gets into our bones and even slows us down.  Our shoulders begin to slump, our muscles seem heavy, and even our breathing seems to be labored.  If discouragement affects us too deeply, we will just stall out - or crash land!  The truth is - none of us can live ABOVE discouragement at all times.  It is a natural part of dealing with life's stressors, the emotional roller-coasters we ride, and the affects of all kinds of forces we don't see, but certainly feel.  What is worse - not all problems we face are "fixable" by us!  We might want to get them fixed, but guess what - we don't possess the ability, or perhaps they are not our problems to fix in the first place.  If you have ever tried to fix a problem you don't own, you know the extreme frustration that causes you - usually because you are also trying to fix someone else in the process!  If you don't possess the ability to fix the problem, you might be a little reticent to ask for assistance to get it done - simply because pride, fear, or mistrust gets in the way.

So, we live with our discouragement as well as we can, not because we want to, but because we don't know the way out!  Sometimes the answers to what is giving us problems is not always going to be readily known.  We often need to ask for advice - to get instruction.  Here's the rub - we don't always know how to ask for help, nor do we believe anyone else will be able to help us.  In short, we deal with discouragement because our pride gets in the way of us asking God to help us out of the pit, or to take the hand of the one God has provided to actually give us a means of climbing out of the pit with their help. God wants us to "partner" with him and often someone else he puts in our path in order to rise above the discouragement.  He doesn't plan for us to dwell in the rut!

God gives us a certain amount of mental abilities - the ability to reason, make choices, run equations, etc.  This mental ability often is what we turn to when we are facing discouraging times - we attempt to "calculate" our way out.  I like watching some of the survival shows on occasion - not because I would want to do them, but because I see how their minds work in order to "calculate" their best opportunities for making it through what they are exposed to in the midst of harsh and punishing conditions.  The mind is made to "calculate the odds" and "run the scenarios" - it functions much like a computer.  The problem comes when we just "run the scenarios" and forget to enter God into the equation!  Discouraging times often get us to the point of only seeing the walls of the rut - forgetting to look up to the light just above those walls!

If you take only one thing away from today's study, here it is:  God wants us to be changed right where we are.  Discouragement would get us to focus on what we could have been, or what we should have done.  God wants us to focus on what he can do in the midst of where we are right now.  Why? Truthfully, it is because where we are is the only place we can grow!  A seed cannot grow where it is not planted - it grows exactly where it is planted!  If we are in the rut, then the opportunity for our growth comes IN the rut, not because we somehow find a way out of it.  You don't overcome discouragement by some mystical power from within - you allow the place you are planted to become a stepping stone for your growth - because you allow it to be attended to by the best one for the job - God himself.

Discouragement takes our focus off of God and gets it on ourselves.  It has us turned inward.  The things we see when we only gaze inward lead us to even deeper despair, for we don't possess what we need in order to get beyond the walls of self-pity, pride, or fear.  In looking upward (outward), we see not only the walls, but we begin to see the path which lead us into the rut.  We don't retrace the path "in" to find the way "out".  We look for God to provide a new path!  It is usually in front of us, not behind.  It is above us, not below.  We look for the messiness of life to change around us - God looks for it to change within us.  It is this change which begins to release us from the pit of discouragement we have come to call home!  Just sayin!

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