Discouragement is a stealthy and fatal weapon of the devil. If Satan can keep you perpetually hopeless, he wins.
I know the idea sounds too simple. Can destroying a beautiful soul be so easy? A nearly comical suggestion!
Envision a strategy team trying to destroy an enemy by declaring, “Let’s discourage them!”
But, then, imagine the follow-up explanation to their triumphant solution;
“Let’s convince them they will fail before they even try. First, we’ll pretend like we’re friends until they trust us. Then we will make small criticisms, but always followed with a backhanded compliment. Then, we’ll start condemning everything they do until it only takes a few words to stop them from trying. Soon, we won’t have to say anything.”
“Yeah! They’ll start criticizing themselves and, as a result, make no progress. We’ve won! And we hardly had to lift a finger!”
Everyone starts nodding their heads in agreement, delighted by their unassuming, efficient, and effective plan of attack.
Weapons of the Devil Start Young
While running with my daughter last week, I watched as her long seven-year-old legs propelled her forward in pursuit of running a mile in under nine minutes. (She ran a mile in 8:52, by the way.) Her dark blonde ponytail swung back and forth, the curls unfurling every which way in an unbridled expression of determination. Her irises looked as if a flame were growing hotter and hotter behind them, turning from a cheerful sky blue to a burning sapphire. Her cheeks reddened with every step of relentless effort.
For a couple of seconds, I saw discouragement threatening to creep in as her gaze started shifting downwards. Knowing what a debilitating sickness discouragement can be, I ran slightly ahead and to her right. Over and over again, I cheered, “Fiona is strong! Fiona is brave! Fiona has power! Fiona is smart! Fiona is kind! Fiona is fast!” A smile quickly spread across her face, her feet finding confidence again.
I nearly saw discouragement sulk away with the swells of comparison and perfectionism behind it. At that moment, I thought, “No, not my daughter. You, my lifetime archenemy, are not sinking your claws into my bright, beaming, courageous, and generous Fiona.”
Defense Must Be More Than a Thought
Such a noble thought and righteous desire, right? But, thoughts and desires do very little unless put into action.
So, I asked the Lord and asked myself, “How can I protect my children from such a foe?”
The answer was simple and straightforward; “You cannot stop it. You cannot shield your children forever. But, you can give them the tools to fight discouragement. Teach them of their capabilities, influence, and potential.”
What a two-fold blessing and revelation! To teach my children how to fight discouragement, I must know how to go to battle myself. Too often, discouragement sneaks in and fills the room any time I let my guard down. Some days, I can’t get my guard back up, and I flail around, trying to find a place to set my feet. I imagine many of you can relate.
I decided to look through my notes from my scripture study and the most recent General Conference to find the counter-attack strategy. I found what I was looking for in the doctrine and promises of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here are the highlights;
We are capable of doing anything Jesus Christ wants us to do through the enabling power of His Atonement. He gives us the strength to overcome and accomplish what we could not otherwise.
With this truth comes the next, “But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen” (1 Nephi 9:6).
When we feel to list off our shortcomings, hardships, and fears as reasons for giving up, He says, “Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea rejoice evermore and in everything give thanks. . . and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord. . . be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy” (D&C 98:1-3,15).
The weapon of the devil would have you believe the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ does not apply to you.
How we choose to respond to the learning experiences embedded in every worthwhile pursuit influences our progress. Speaking personally, when I feel discouraged, I also feel impatient, irritable, and more than a little self-pity. As unintentional as it may be, I circumvent my ability to see my Redeemer cheering me on as He leads the way through unfamiliar paths. The very trails that must be navigated before growth and success follow.
Jesus Christ teaches how we are to respond to setbacks, “And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive, and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive” (Alma 7:23).
The weapon of the devil would have you believe you have no control over you responses and reactions.
Each of us has the potential to become, “. . . heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, if it so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:17).
Measurable accomplishments or circumstances do not alter this gospel truth. When we put forth our best efforts, the Lord accepts our sacrifice. President Russell M. Nelson explains, “. . . Moses had to walk all the way up to the top of that mountain to get the Ten Commandments. Now, Heavenly Father could have said, ‘Moses, you start there, and I’ll start here, and I’ll meet you halfway.’ No, the Lord loves effort, because effort brings rewards that can’t come without it.”
One of the most exceptional pieces of wisdom my father gave me was during swim practice in high school. He said, “Tessa if you want to hit the center of the lane when you reach the other side, you have to look at the center of the lane.” (So simple, I know. But obviously, it needed saying).
Similarly, reaching our potential requires a focus on what we can become rather than what we are not. The weapon of the devil would have you believe that everyone has potential expect you.
I can hear the faint cries of people like me, now discouraged about being discouraged. Please, be as kind to yourself as you are to other people, and stop. Stop cutting yourself down before you have a chance to stand up.
A lot of us say, “I am (fill in the blank with whatever demeaning adjective you use).”
Instead, try looking in the mirror every morning and repeating, “I am a daughter of God.” Or, “I am a son of God.”
Learning to see yourself as God sees you will change your life. You will be freed from the stealthy and fatal weapon of the devil.