Discouragement is defined as “a feeling of despair in the face of obstacles; a state of distress and loss of sense of enthusiasm, drive, or courage.” Has that ever described you?
Discouragement has always been real, but I think recently, we’ve seen it in new levels. With the economic crisis, there are hundreds of thousands of discouraged people looking for jobs and ways to feed their families. Homes are being foreclosed. Companies are shutting down. Extremely qualified business men and women are standing in line to fill out applications at local fast food chains. Yes, discouragement is all around us.
To illustrate just how much discouragement can change our outlook, I want to share with you two quotes that I found. Read them carefully.
It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels he is worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him.
I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the human family, there would not be one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall be better I cannot tell. I actually forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better.
Isn’t it amazing that two people could have such different views of life? You want to know what’s even more amazing? The above quotations were both spoken by the same person in different times of his life. Yes, even Abraham Lincoln knew what it was like to face discouragement. While there is no true “cure” for discouragement, there are some things we can do to keep it at bay.
First of all, we need rest. Yes, I’m speaking of physical rest. It is an accepted fact that when our bodies are tired, we are more susceptible to mood changes and stress. However, as important as that is, it is also important to get our spiritual rest. Psalm 37:7 says, Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him. To rest in the Lord means to lean on Him, to cast our cares upon Him. The word “rest” implies peace and comfort—two attributes that can be found by going to God, sharing with Him the source of our discouragement, then leaning on His strength to see us through.
Second, we need to reflect. This takes some practice, but it’s worth it. Reflecting is the process of taking all of our negative thoughts and turning them into positive ones. For example, the work and ministry to which the Lord has called me requires a lot of hard work but pays next to nothing. That’s a very negative thought, and dwelling on it leads to discouragement. Reflection teaches me to turn that thought around and look for the good in it. No, my position is not a well-paid position, but I love what I do, and the best part is that I get to do it from the comfort of home. Do you see the shift in outlook? Bad circumstance? Yes, but what good can come from it? Sometimes, we have to look hard, and when all else fails, reflect on Romans 8:28 that reminds us if good hasn’t come out of it yet, it will!
Third, we need to resist the devil who will be shouting at us constantly. No, it’s not an audible voice, but sometimes it feels like he’s sitting right on our shoulders, filling our ears with complaints and negative thoughts. It’s easy to listen to him without even realizing we’re doing it. That’s why we need to become more aware of his presence. If the thoughts we’re having are negative and leading to discouragement, they’re not of God. II Corinthians 10:5 speaks of bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. When we resist the devil, that’s the first step in getting our thoughts straight. Once he’s no longer shouting in our ears, it’s easier to bring those thoughts to where they need to be.
Do you have any tips on handling discouragement?