A note from Kelly King: Occasionally we bring you posts from new voices. Denise Gitsham Jones has written today’s article on how we can encourage ourselves. Through God’s Word and spending time with Him, you can be encouraged every day.
I’ve always been a cheerleader at heart. Long before I held pom poms and rocked a kelly green cheerleading outfit (Go Celtics!), I knew just how to give those around me an extra shot of verbal encouragement, right when they needed it most. I call it my “spiritual gift” (which Romans 12:8 affirms as “a thing”), though in my mind, there’s nothing all that spiritual about loving people with words. It’s something that anyone, anywhere, can do at any time.
The trickier part of encouragement for me, however, was learning how to encourage myself. As a general rule of thumb, self-encouragement is most needed when it’s hardest to give. Pulling yourself out of a pit is tough enough when things are going relatively well and a thousand times harder when they aren’t.
For the past two decades, a downward spiral of events seemed to knock me off my game every three years, like clockwork. Naturally, I lived in fear, waiting for the “other shoe” to drop. Feeling this way made even the good times difficult to enjoy, because I was so fixated on the bad that was sure to follow.
And sometimes, it did. Like that three-year stretch when my mom contracted scleroderma; my dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer; my purse with all my id and credit cards were stolen; and I lost a Congressional campaign that I had poured my heart, soul, and finances into. The facts were undeniably brutal, and in the midst of it all, I found myself lying on the floor of my bedroom, drowning in a puddle of tears.
As I sought answers from God, he led me to the Old Testament books of 1 Samuel and the Psalms. Both focused on the life of King David, a man dearly beloved by God who learned to self-encourage and avoided suffering more than he needed to.
To say that David had it bad is a vast understatement. He was underestimated, overlooked, chased, rejected, laughed at, and threatened nearly all of his life, often by those he loved and served. He lost an infant son, was forced to hide in the desert while a jealous king pursued him, his wives were kidnapped in battle, his own men turned on him in battle, and his own sons tried to murder him on multiple occasions—and that’s just the short version of the story. Nevertheless, David somehow “encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (1 Sam. 30:6, KJV).
How, I wondered, did he maintain his faith in the midst of his circumstances? And how could I tap into his “self-encouragement” superpower?
A closer look at David’s life offered just what I was looking for—a step-by-step “how to” guide. Here’s what I gleaned:
1. Get away from the noise. David regularly made time to be with God one-on-one. He found or created space to be alone with God, even in the midst of battles.
2. Acknowledge your emotions. David never pretended he was fine. He felt all the feels, and he even wrote psalms that detailed his heartbreak.
3. Take your case before God. David never complained to others about the trying circumstances of his life. He took his issues straight to his best friend, who was the only One who could do something about them.
4. Rejoice in God’s faithfulness. God had delivered David from the hairiest of situations over the course of his life and given him impossible victories over lions and giants and bears (oh my!). Recalling God’s faithfulness to him in the past enabled him to rejoice in God’s goodness in remembrance of all that God had already done in his life.
5. Reject shame, repent of sins, and receive forgiveness. David did a lot of stupid things in his life (ahem, Bathsheba). But in order to receive God’s grace and blessing, he first had to do away with the shame that would have kept him from experiencing God’s goodness, confess his sin, and receive forgiveness.
6. Meditate on the FACTUAL reality of God. Focusing on the facts about who God is enabled him to believe in His goodness, even in the midst of suboptimal circumstances.
One final suggestion for when you’ve emerged: remember to give God thanks. So often, we get what we’ve prayed for and forget where it came from. But when we remember to give thanks, our praise feeds back into our own self-encouragement loop, making self-encouragement the gift that truly keeps on giving.
Prior to starting her own public affairs consulting firm, Denise practiced law at K&L Gates, worked for a San Diego-based renewable energy company, and served as a presidential appointee at the White House and the US Department of Justice, as well as a law clerk in the US Senate. Denise ran for Congress in 2016, and as a first-time candidate, earned 44% of the vote in California’s 52ndCongressional District. Today, Denise is a strategic communications consultant, as well as a published author and speaker on topics ranging from politics to business, leadership, and faith. In 2018, she completed a six-city tour with Propel Activate, a national conference focused on developing leadership skills in women. She has spoken at CPAC, delivered keynote addresses at political, religious, and business conferences, and written op-eds that have been published by local and national media outlets. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.