3 Ways to Overcome Discouragement

If you’ve made up your mind to follow the Lord, don’t allow the devil to lead you down the path of discouragement.

Who would want to surrender before the battle even begins? Unlike attacks from the outside, discouragement strikes us from within, sapping our willingness to fight. Our adversary, the devil, knows this, of course, and works his best tricks to lead us into discouragement, wanting us to throw in the towel on all good resolutions. It helps to understand this strategy and to form a battle plan to fight back. 

Problem 1: Making Excuses

When we make a resolution to undertake more regular prayer and penance, for instance, the devil will come up with so many excuses for us. “This isn’t really doing anything. It’s not really necessary. You can’t really be holy, anyway. It’s bad for your health. You don’t have time. You need to focus more on work. etc. etc.” It’s always easier just to keep things the way they are because it hurts to keep up demanding disciplines. The devil will lean into this, making it seem like it’s not really worth it. Giving into these excuses, we fall back, almost like gravity, toward our old habits, which are much easier and more comfortable. As a result, we become stuck in a rut and stunted in our spiritual life.

In response, we need courage, which offers us strength to overcome difficulties. To accomplish anything good requires perseverance, pushing through trials, boredom, and weakness. Courage means to act with our heart, keeping what really matters most in mind and putting aside all the trivial objections that pop up when we set out on the right course. With courage, we, as Catholic men, can do many great things for God and our families. But first, we have to cut through all the excuses.

Problem 2: Getting Off Track

Discouragement often sets in because it’s hard to maintain consistency and the effort required to keep up good habits. Even if we do persevere initially, pushing through the initial excuses, over time it’s easy to lose sight of our “why.” What are we really aiming at in setting out into our spiritual exercises? We have to remember the freedom we need from the Lord and the virtue needed to be a good husband and father. We get distracted and lose sight of the fact that becoming closer to God is the real “why” that unfolds the more we enter into prayer. Union with God is the purpose of our lives and is the only thing that can ever make us happy in the deepest sense.

In response, it will be easier to endure if we have a clear plan, consistent habits, and the support of friends to persevere. It is only through long, regular stretches of prayer and discipline that fruit will unfold for us. God is patient, giving us many opportunities to start again and to follow him faithfully. We too must be patient, starting again when we fall and keeping our sights fixed on the highest things. This is what will undo the devil’s efforts to discourage us and will lead us to the promise of freedom in Christ. Find a rhythm for your spiritual exercises and routines, and stick with it.

Problem 3: Listening to Lies

Finally, we might begin to wonder if all this effort is even worth it at all. The devil begins to speak lies, getting us to doubt God and our efforts. “If I keep going in prayer and discipline, will I see a difference in my life? Will God really bring me to greater freedom?” We know that God cannot be manipulated and controlled, but, as a generous Father, we have to trust that he does, indeed, offer us his grace and help. The devil, more than anything else, wants to undermine our trust in the Lord. He wants us to think that we know better and that God does not really have our good in mind. 

In response, we have to stay rooted in daily prayer. Prayer is a process of learning how to surrender to God, and it takes time to learn how to enter it fruitfully. Coming to the Lord each day, however, will enable us to receive all that he wants to give us. The battle of our life comes down to whether or not we will allow the Lord to lead us, which requires much sacrifice and trust, or if we will give into the devil’s constant attempts to undermine us from within.

If you’ve made up your mind to follow the Lord, don’t allow the devil to lead you down the path of discouragement. Reject his excuses and lies by forming a consistent plan of prayer, discipline, and fraternity to support your spiritual growth. Join Exodus for daily Lenten reflections, regular habits of discipline, and weekly fraternity meetings. 

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