How are you doing living a life of freedom, peace, acceptance, truth, protection and transformation? What kind of obstacles are keeping you from growing closer to God? Here are a few of the major obstacles I have faced and a few suggestions for you if you find yourself in this place.
Feeling discouraged about your spiritual life or growth is one of the obstacles I sometimes face when trying to grow closer to God. I can be discouraged about my lack of growth because it can be difficult to see the small steps you are taking in coming closer to God. Sometimes my circumstances are discouraging. I feel sad and worn out by the struggle in my life.
What can you do?
1. Seek out encouragement. Others in your life can help you gain perspective on your circumstances and moods. Be open and honest with friends and family about how discouraged you feel, and then allow them to encourage you. Surround yourself with others who are hopeful and positive about life and spiritual things. This is an important role of the church. We are to encourage each other.
2. Focus on the positive. Take time to remember the ways God has worked in and through you over your life. Write them down, tell others about them, or write a letter about them to someone else who also may need encouragement. Make a scrapbook or a piece of art. Get creative! The goal is to remind yourself of the faithfulness of the Father.
3. Resist the urge to check out. When I’m discouraged I tend to want to ignore the feeling and watch TV. It does get me through the next hour, but it isn’t feeding my soul. Turn instead to music, scripture, or serving others. Work on a hobby or something else that feeds you. Pray. Have a good cry if you need it.
I’ve used the word discouraged instead of depressed on purpose. I am no expert on the subject of depression, I only can speak from my own experiences. If it is helpful to you, here are my two cents on the subject. I would encourage anyone feeling depressed to check in with a doctor to assess what is happening. Clinical depression or depressive disorder are medical conditions that require medical attention. In my experience there are multiple ways to address depression and all of them should be considered. Okay, I’ve said my piece!
The list of possible distractions in our lives is long and varied. Some are good, some are bad, some just kill time. We tend to live life at full speed. Every spare minute is filled with entertainment. Even waiting at a stopping light, I find myself wanting to check my phone for emails or messages. There used to be downtime in life. But with smartphones and tablets and laptops, it is all portable now and it seems to go with us everywhere. I love all this technology and I don’t think it is all bad. I just need to keep checking in thoughtfully with my usage of it.
What can you do?
1. Use your technology to keep you in scripture regularly. Apps, online Bibles, or devotions can all be accessed in lieu of other entertainment that grabs your attention. Use an alarm on your phone to remind you when you intend to read your Bible. Keep a list of prayer requests on your devices.
2. Take some time to figure out what your distractions are and where you can eliminate some of them. Consider making changes. Make rules for yourself and ask someone to hold you accountable to them.
3. Plan some quiet or silent time into your life. It doesn’t need to be a regular discipline to make an impact.
Discontentment may be the worst of the obstacles in my life. I feel frustrated with myself and then that spills over to everyone else in my life. Or I hear about something someone else has accomplished and I wish I could accomplish more. I spend time looking online for craft and decorating ideas and mine don’t turn out like the picture. When I’m discontent I tend to shop for something new. Or I try harder to meet some imaginary goal. But I rarely acknowledge the discontentment and resolve to do something about it.
What can you do?
1. Make a list of blessings. This is not a brilliant new idea, but I include it because it works. Pray through them, acknowledging God’s blessing in each one.
2. Re-frame your complaints. Take each frustration and figure out a way you can be thankful for it. Then do that…thank God for it. For example, instead of being frustrated with a small house, thank God for less house to clean. Instead of being frustrated with a potty training toddler, be thankful your child is healthy enough to learn. Instead of being discontent with a boring job, be thankful for the growth you are experiencing through the challenge. Instead of focusing on your spouse’s shortcomings, focus on the characteristics that made you fall in love in the first place. Instead of being discontent with your physical appearance, celebrate the ways God has created you to be unique.
3. Read about the struggles facing women in other parts of the world. Pray for them, and remember their struggles as you go about your day.
Excerpted from The Spacious Place by Kathy Erickson, 2015.