We are a week into the New Year. How has it been? Is it still bright and shiny? If you are like me you might be struggling to get out of the holiday fog and find yourself already full of doubts and discouragement.
Have you abandoned the very idea of goals and words for the year?
Are you feeling inadequate?
Unorganized…Needing some encouragement?
Don’t worry, Beloved, you are not alone. I am there too.
A couple weeks ago I was excited and thought I was organized for the year…I had a plan, goals, and strategy for making steps toward those goals. I even wrote about goals and how to achieve them…and BAM…discouragement, difficult circumstances, and comparison reared it’s ugly head faster than I could even purchase a planner. (Which I STILL don’t have, BTW.)
So what does one do when it is a week into the New Year and you somewhat already want to wave the white flag? Let me embolden your hearts (and mine) with a challenge to “find the encouragement” in the hard. In the messy. In the disorganization. Press in.
Find the encouraging moment, engage it, embrace it, and pass it on to encourage others who may be feeling the same way. A practice that has been helping me find hopeful encouragement is something called Examen. I thought I would share with you exactly how to use this proven practice for powerful encouragement.
[igˈzāmən]NOUNA formal examination of the soul or conscience, created by and made daily by Jesuits.
-mid 17th cent.: from Latin, in the figurative sense ‘examination’ (literally ‘tongue of a balance’), from exigere ‘weigh accurately.’
Examen is a formal daily examination of the soul that began with the Jesuits. Doing a daily Examen assists you in engaging with the Lord and finding gratitude that leads to joy. It is definitely a practice that I encourage you to try. It takes just minutes a day and can help to realign your messy, unorganized heart and mind to where you want it to be.
Examen: Practice Rest and Stillness
As a culture we tend to be on the GO all the time. I wrote about the dangers of busyness here. Practicing rest and stillness is not embraced by our society as a proactive practice, but this couldn’t be more wrong.
When we practice the discipline of rest and stillness it prompts us to become more aware of our Creator. To do this we need to quiet our thoughts, feelings, emotions and try to create a clear space where we engage the Father and acknowledge his presence.
For some this is the most difficult step of Examen due to either a lack of belief in God or/and the overload of “Stuff” going on in their minds. For others this is the easiest step and only takes a moment.
Examen: Engage in Gratitude
What are you grateful for? Some days are hard so you may be grateful for bare necessities like food, water, shelter, etc… Others are FULL of blessings we can be grateful for like our cars, jobs, kids, spouse, pets, relationships, encounters with others throughout the day, etc…
Thank God for what he has given you, no matter how big or small the gift.
Examen: Reflect on your Emotions
Gratitude tends to illicit emotion(s). What emotions are you experiencing from your day? Pick out an emotion you are feeling and acknowledge it.
Oftentimes we can be people of extremes. Most people tend to either live completely from their emotions without any balance and it shows in their choices. Others push all emotions aside to make decisions thinking either emotions are weakness or something to deal with later.
Emotions are not bad or a sign of weakness. Emotions were given to us by the Lord. They are for a purpose. Acknowledging our emotion(s) about a subject, person, or situation is an important practice since it helps us determine our motivation for the choices we made that day. The truth is our emotions are there whether we acknowledge them or not. Most likely you are making subconscious choices all day because of an emotion and not even realize it.
Examen: Choose a Joy and Sorrow
Every day has a high and low moment. Choose a high point, or joy of your day, and a low point, a sorrow, of your day. If you can’t think of one ask God to show you one or both.
A joy of your day may have been buying coffee for the car behind you at the drive-thru this morning or the choice to love someone when they didn’t deserve it. A joy is a moment when you made a choice to not allow a sinful desire to overcome obedience to God. Joy is not dependent on your circumstance, but your choice.
Celebrate the victories of the day; they should be acknowledged and shared with loved ones. Shared joys help to spur one another on to good works. They give us cause to celebrate!
A sorrow may be ignoring the homeless person on the street or yelling at your kid instead of engaging with them. It’s any choice of giving into a sinful thought. Sorrow can also be a loss of a friend, job, dream, or any kind of negativity due to circumstance.
When we acknowledge and confess these sorrows they don’t hold power over us any longer. Too often we lament over our failures instead of releasing them because we don’t acknowledge them, thus we don’t learn from them. Recently I wrote about how failures help us to learn how to overcome. We need not ignore them or be afraid of them.
Examen: Claim Hope
Everyday we have renewed hope. We live in hope because of Jesus. If you are not a believer of Jesus as Lord of your life there isn’t abundant hope to be had when you find yourself in an unbearably difficult season. We become much more susceptible to hopelessness when we aren’t engaging the gift of hope.
The Spirit of Condemnation dupes us and tries to deceive us daily. We have to recognize the illusion that he gives us about ourselves or a certain situation. Hope guides us around these and leads us to our one Hope; Christ.
It’s not about being religious. It’s not about going to church. It’s not about thinking one is better than another because they are a “Christian.” Hope is about having something to believe in no matter what… Someone to rely on and trust… Someone to love you no matter the circumstance, trial or pain you are going through.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
Do I believe that there is a God that loves and cares for me? If I do believe in God, do I believe God is a Giver or a Taker?
Have I focused too heavily on the Sorrows of the last week rather than the Joys?
Am I willing to press in and find the encouragement in each day? Then engage and embrace it right where I am so I can in turn encourage others?
In who or what am I placing my hope in when I find myself discouraged or in a difficult season?