Life is like a journey. Even when the weather is favourable, the mode of transport we use is in top notch condition and we are adequately prepared for the journey, we still discover that the journey of life isn’t a smooth ride with no uncomfortable moments. In this journey of life, we will come across bumpy roads, unpleasant scenarios, unnecessary stops and protracted delays. In John 16:13, Jesus said ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ Meaning that in this world you will come across so many things that can get you discouraged, but when they come, please don’t lose heart, don’t give in to discouragement. The trouble Jesus was referring to in John 16:33 range from losing your job, being robbed, the death of a loved one, the latest breaking news, financial pressure, a persistent refusal on the part of your spouse to understand your point of view, your child announcing to you that he is gay, your colleague being given a major appointment and promotion when you are the one that does all the work, to your always being the bridesmaid at weddings never the bride.
These are circumstances that can get anyone sad, worried, fearful and discouraged. Discouragement is much more than not feeling happy or not being in a good mood. Proverbs 17:22 describes it as the opposite of having a merry, hopeful and cheerful heart. It is having a broken spirit which can affect your bones; which can affect your physical and mental state. ‘A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bone.’ Discouragement can lead to depression, it can make you lose your zest for life which can lead to suicidal thoughts. This is why we must fight it with everything in us.
The Bible is a timeless book on how to fight discouragement. There are verses to strengthen and comfort us when we are feeling down, there are various accounts of women like us who went through bouts of discouragement and overcame. Hannah was discouraged by the silence of God and the damaging and hurtful words of her rival, Peninnah, that she cried bitterly and couldn’t eat a thing for days (1 Samuel 1:1-7). Hagar was discouraged by the harsh treatment of her mistress Sarai that the she ran away from home to the wilderness (Genesis 16:5-8). Sarai herself was so discouraged, tired and worn out from waiting and hoping for a child that she couldn’t think straight. Getting her husband to have a child through her servant Hagar seemed like the most sensible thing to do in the circumstance (Genesis 16:1-5).
Here are 4 things that can help us resist and overcome discouragement:
Go to the Lord when you are weary, sad and discouraged. Jesus says ‘Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28). This is a call to everyone that is discouraged to come to Jesus. To come and lay their issues and problems at His feet. God won’t kick away your problem. He will pick it up, attend to it, and give you peace of mind so you are no longer disturbed and agitated.
2. Take your eyes off the problem, focus on other things God has done for you and given you. When you focus on problems and on all the things you do not have, your heart sinks and you lose hope. When you focus on what God has done; His mercy and goodness to you, your spirit is lifted and you have hope. Lamentations 3:19-23, says something very instructive about discouragement. ‘Remembering my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’ The prophet says that when he remembers his affliction; the problem he is facing, the needs in his life, the painful times he has been through, his soul or heart sinks. His spirit is low; he is discouraged. But when he recalls to mind God’s mercy to him which has not allowed him to be consumed or swept away by any situation, he has hope. He is encouraged. Thinking of problems brings discouragement, thinking of how God has helped you and been good to you brings encouragement.
3. Redirect your worry energy on someone else who is going through a difficult time and do something no matter how small to cheer the person up. You will receive strength and joy, you will discover that the greatest blessing is not to receive a blessing, but to actually be a blessing. In prison, Joseph had every reason to be discouraged. It’s bad enough for anyone’s spirit to be locked behind bars. It’s a totally different level of discouragement when you are even locked up for a crime you never committed. Though Joseph found himself in circumstances that could crush anyone’s heart and spirit, Joseph didn’t allow discouragement imprison his heart. Joseph still found the courage to be a blessing and help interpret the dreams of Pharaoh’s officials while facing an unpleasant and discouraging situation. The blessing and lifting that came from this would never have been his if he allowed discouragement hold him down and weigh him down (Genesis 39- 41).
4. Keep reminding yourself that no matter what you are going through today, it is nothing compared to the blessing, lifting and glory God will bring your way if you refuse to give up.
Hebrews 12:2 tells us that for the joy that was set before Jesus, He endured the cross. You can’t talk about being in unfavourable and unpleasant situations without talking about Jesus. Isaiah 53:3 describes Jesus as a man acquainted with grief. Trouble, pain, hardship, harassment, distress and difficulty were very familiar to Him. Jesus experienced more than enough things to get Him discouraged. But for the joy set before Him, but for the blessing, lifting and glory God was going to bring His way after His death and resurrection, He endured. He refused to give in and give up. He refused to allow discouragement deter Him from His goal and purpose. Let’s not allow the pain and discomfort of today blind us to the joy, honour and glory of tomorrow. The Word of God must be our everyday companion in this fight against discouragement. Even when the spirit of discouragement wants to convince us that Jesus is a hoax, the Bible is a sham and God is not doing anything about what we are going through, we must not let go of the promises and assurances in God’s Word. If God’s Word says that God is with us and He is working out all things for our good, then that is exactly what He is doing. So, let’s daily soak in God’s Word, cheer up and be encouraged because something bigger and better than what we see today is coming our way.
Do you have other things you do when you are feeling down and discouraged? Please add your own tips.
PHOTO CREDIT: Christina@wocintechchat.com