The Oxford dictionary defines discouragement as “A loss of confidence or enthusiasm; dispiritedness.” I could not agree more. For the believer, it’s that feeling when everything feels grey and dull. God feels far away. Satan bombards our minds with thoughts such as – you are doing badly with your walk with God. You have hidden sin. God is mad at you. Why bother to pray, read your Bible or go to church- it makes no difference. God will not help you. This is your fault. Satan’s arrows at first may be subtle, but if we pay attention, the voices get louder and more condemning, drowning the voice of the God who loves us.
One of the biggest lies that needs to be exposed about discouragement is that IT IS NOT FROM GOD. The Lord already says in the Bible that He is for us (Rom 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Rom 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.) The Bible also says that Satan is the accuser of the brethren who accuses us night and day before God (Revelations 12:10).
This is one of the main truths that has set me free when that feeling comes upon me, sometimes out of nowhere, sometimes because of circumstances. So, now that we know it is not the Lord who discourages us, what next?
- We make up our mind that we will not receive it. Let me explain. We receive things from God in our spirits (encouragement, revelation of the Word, hope for the future, joy, peace and every spiritual blessing we have in Christ (Ephesians 1:3) through our spirits, before they manifest in the natural. Similarly, discouragement happens in the supernatural realm, where the devil exists, therefore the heaviness comes upon our spirits. But our bodies also feel sluggish, and everything about life and the future seems dull and grey. When discouragements starts to come upon me from the evil one, I can make a choice that I will not receive it in my spirit because it is not from God. That is, I set my heart and mind not to yield to the negative thoughts and lies from Satan. Usually, Satan will convince us that we have hidden sin, that is why we are discouraged. One thing I love about God is that He nails issues. We can go round and round trying to figure an issue out, asking people for counsel, and not make any progress. Then when we go to God, and He shows us exactly what is wrong. Even when I have sinned, if I am born again, then God does not condemn me; the Holy Spirit convicts me and leads me to repentance. He does not shame me. He may discipline me, and even if it hurts, God’s discipline always leaves you with the sense that God loves me even when correcting me. Condemnation on the other hand is marked by an overwhelming sense of I am horrible, I always do this, there is no way out of this, I always make this mistake, God is mad at me, I am messing up in everything. Condemnation also makes you want to avoid prayer, bible study and fellowship. For more about the difference between the conviction and condemnation, check these links out:
- We have established that it is not God who discourages us. God, is our helper. Because God is my helper, I turn to Him and ask Him for help. In times of discouragement, God feels far far away. But we know He is not far away. So I turn to Him and ask Him for help.I have found the following Psalms helpful when discouraged.
- Psalm 142: 5-7 I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, “You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living. Attend to my cry, For I am brought very low; Deliver me from my persecutors, For they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of prison, That I may praise Your name; The righteous shall surround me, For You shall deal bountifully with me.”
- Psalm 143: Hear my prayer, O Lord, Give ear to my supplications! In Your faithfulness answer me, And in Your righteousness. Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no one living is righteous. For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in darkness, Like those who have long been dead. Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart within me is distressed. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah. Answer me speedily, O Lord; My spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, Lest I be like those who go down into the pit. Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; In You I take shelter. Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness. Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake! For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble. In Your mercy cut off my enemies, And destroy all those who afflict my soul; For I am Your servant.
- Psalm 3: Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O Lord; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongs to the Lord.Your blessing is upon Your people.
- I stand firm on God’s Word that He loves me no matter how I feel. I recognize that God loves me even when I am discouraged. John Piper says during times when we are overwhelmed, it is not time for long theological arguments about suffering, why it happens, whether this is God or the devil etc. Such arguments in our minds only lead us to further confusion. During such times, it works to declare simple truths that we have learned over time. God loves me. God is with me. God is lifting me. God is good. God is helping me. God is for me.
- I avoid temporary solutions. Sin, excessive entertainment, food, shopping sprees etc. Seeking temporary solutions will numb but not lift your discouragement. When the high from the ‘solution’ ends, the heaviness will still be there. If you must do something, do something constructive – exercise, read a good book, talk to a friend, talk to a child. Note that these cannot lift your heaviness only God can. For me, a chat with my nieces and nephews (even the 2-year-old who can only baby talk) always cheers me up 🙂
- Pay attention to other factors – sleeplessness, fatigue. Like it or not, exercise, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, drinking enough water contributes to our overall well-being. You are most prone to discouragement when you are tired and going without sleep. I will just leave it at that.
- The enemy will tell you what he told David.. this is your lot and nothing will change. David turned to the Lord as in Psalm 3 above. Believe that the Lord will lift you and expect Him to
I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.