How can I keep from feeling discouraged?

The worst way to react to discouragement is to pretend that it isn't there, that it isn't bothering us. We need honestly to accept discouragement with all its attendant fear and heartache. Denial can turn discouragement into a big, ugly, long-lasting monster.

For a Christian, the frailty of discouragement can be a doorway to greatness. Paul said, "I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:9). Also, the suffering and discouragement of the cross remind us that Jesus has gone before us down the road of discouragement. We are not alone.

Discouragement usually shows that we are dependent on others. Facing this need and then reaching out to others for help can become the ingredients of excellence.

Besides meditation on these spiritual truths, we need to reach out in our discouragement to a friend who will listen to us and just be with us. Discouragement usually comes when we have experienced failure. We need to swallow our pride and honestly share our weakness with someone who will handle us with tenderness and understanding.

Soon after being ordained a priest I was assigned to teach high school religion in the Los Angeles ghetto of Watts. Despite initial enthusiasm for the assignment, I soon learned that I lacked the discipline skills to deal with teenagers in the classroom. After two years, I had to leave the school. I had failed as a high school teacher.

The failure was devastating to me. I visited with my mom and dad, who lived near Los Angeles. One afternoon I shared with them my inability to handle the role of high school teacher. I remember their tender love and understanding.

I also turned to the Gospel of Mark. I found Jesus understood my failure. He knew failure in His dealings with His family, His disciples, the religious leaders, and the Gentiles. From reading of these discouraging experiences of Christ, I gained a strength to deal better with future struggles.

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