April 1, 2017
by Maria Fontaine
I was thinking about discouragement the other day. I had experienced some bouts with discouragement over not doing as well as I wanted to with some needed changes in my daily regimen of work and health habits. This experience of feeling low and downcast, and the effort it took to break free, led to my writing down some of my personal thoughts and other related points on this topic. It turned out to be therapeutic for me, so I thought I’d share them with you, in case this could be a help for you also. At the end I’m including some words of related encouragement and wisdom that Jesus gave in prophecy.
- Discouragement can cover a pretty wide range of feelings, from relatively minor, as mine were, to so overwhelming that we feel crushed, and as Paul described it, “despairing, even of life.”1 If you look in a thesaurus, the list is very long of the emotions that can be associated with discouragement, from feeling disappointed or gloomy, to crushed, overwhelmed, sorrowful and hopeless. The word “discouragement” literally means to lose heart. It’s something that touches all our lives at times. No one is completely immune to these hindering and sometimes debilitating emotions.
- Discouragement can grow out of problems, failures, difficulties, obstacles, loneliness, traumatic situations such as a friend or loved one’s death, the loss of a job, the need to move far away from family and friends, the loss of a beloved pet, diagnosis of a serious disease, being gossiped about, and on and on the list goes.
- When I’m discouraged, all I really feel like doing is thinking of myself and my problems. But that only exacerbates the downward spiral. Breaking that spiral is crucial to conquering discouragement.
- Jesus knows our weaknesses and that we can’t always see past the emotions we’re being deluged with. He walks with us through those times, sharing our load and encouraging us to look up so that we can find our way out.
- God does not look down on me for experiencing these human emotions. As the Bible says: “For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.”2
- He has provided many practical and spiritual ways to fight discouragement.
- I think having overcome discouragement once does make it easier to overcome it in the future, but each new fight against discouragement has its own challenges to face and benefits to be gained in overcoming them.
- Something encouraging that can result from a struggle with discouragement is that we can become more understanding and compassionate toward others who are fighting their way through difficult challenges in this area. I feel that’s been true in my case.
- It’s encouraging to me and I’m sure it’s been an encouragement to millions of others to know that the Bible is full of people who had to fight to overcome similar experiences when they were down in heart and mind. Their circumstances may have been different, but the root causes were much the same as those that we encounter now. If you study the lives of people such as Job, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Elijah, Peter, Paul, etc., you will see that they also went through some pretty hard times when their spirits were cast down and they were feeling hopeless or as if everything was lost.
- When you read about the lives of some of the well-known men and women of faith and determination, at times they all battled with deep sorrow or loss, or mountains of discouragement blocking their way forward. Yet, time and again, in spite of what they went through, they clung to Jesus and He became their strength.
- Everyone is going to face times of discouragement when they may feel pummeled and beaten down, whether they’re doing everything right or not. In fact, when we are striving to do what is right in God’s eyes, we may be even more the target of the Enemy’s attempts to hinder us through discouragement.
- I believe that Jesus Himself would have struggled with discouragement at times. Think of the times when even His disciples who He was counting on to carry the message to the whole world couldn’t grasp things that He was trying to teach them. They at times were even squabbling among themselves about who would be greater. John 6:66 tells us that after Jesus expressed some things that were hard to take, “from this time many turned back from following Him.” Don’t you think that that would have been discouraging for Him, in His humanness? I’m quite sure that I would have been discouraged if that had happened to me.
- The Bible is very clear in telling us that He was tempted in all things just as we are, and yet without sin.3 It’s not a sin to struggle with sadness, grief, or discouragement.4 He even endured such torment of spirit in the garden of Gethsemane that He sweat drops of blood, yet those with Him couldn’t even seem to stay awake praying for Him, after everything He’d done for them and was about to do for them.5
- Jesus ultimately went through the unfathomable despair, the agony of experiencing separation from the Father as He took the punishment for the sins of the world on Himself. There’s no way I can even begin to imagine the hopelessness that He passed through, when He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”6 So I know He fully understands the discouragement that I’m going through, even in the most difficult times.
- Those deep, dark emotions that this life at times floods us with seem like they’ll never end when we’re immersed in them, but He is always right there to bring us through them, one way or another.
So what do we do when we feel like we’ve been hit by a tidal wave of troubles, or we’ve been broadsided by a truckload of suffering, or we’ve just stumbled and fallen into a bottomless pit of grief or remorse, whatever the cause? This is our reality. How can we recover?
The ideal is for us to have some goals to work toward, to get busy taking action, to resist the Enemy, to fill our lives with positive thoughts and actions in order to push out the discouragement, the depression, etc. It sounds really great in theory, but how much does the Lord expect us to do when we feel so low that we can barely muster up any strength or motivation?
Jesus gave the following message in prophecy to help us bring things into perspective:
Whatever the cause, overcoming discouragement can be a short journey or a very long one. What matters is that you don’t allow yourself to just give up and sink further into the pit of melancholy and despair, as that will just make matters worse. You have to do what you can each day.
Even if all you can do is sit down and weep and grab hold of Me, do that. Even though you can’t imagine why you should, still do whatever you can, big or small, to hang on. As you do that, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, you move a little closer to the victory of eventually casting off the chains of discouragement that can grow from grief or sorrow or loss, or even during those times when you can’t understand what it is that you feel discouraged about.
What matters is not how big a step you take each day but the fact that you take that step. What matters is that you do the best you can do at that point. Even if it’s only to raise one finger from the depths of what is overwhelming you, that is progress.
Think of Job. He sat there in that pile of ashes, in the depths of discouragement. He couldn’t just jump up and be all cheery and get out there and do something positive. Sometimes he would sink into despair, anger, self-loathing, and even questioning and challenging and accusing Me. Even then, he was trying his best to cling to Me. He was expressing his despair, trusting that I would understand the confusion and torment in his heart.
You’ll pass through times when you seem to be making progress and times when you seem to be crashing back into defeat. But each time you make the effort, no matter how difficult, to take another step, even if it’s just curling up in a ball and crying out to Me for help, I will be there to carry you through those times, no matter how long it takes. I’ll never leave you or forsake you.7
Even when Job would fall back into the pit of discouragement and despair, he kept trying. Overcoming most of life’s hurdles is rarely quick and simple; it’s a process. What matters above everything else is that you don’t give up. Sometimes, wanting to move forward is all you can do in the moment. At other times, a great deal of action and determination and fight is what you are capable of. In that case, that is what I expect.
You do what you can do, and know that however little or big it is, I am there with you, sometimes cheering you on and sometimes just holding you in silence. Sometimes it’s enough for you to just allow Me to sustain you. Sometimes, just allowing that comfort to flow into your heart is huge progress.
There is a beautiful picture that someone drew of Me holding a man in My arms who is so weak, so beaten down that he can’t even muster up the strength to hold on to Me. Yet he is allowing Me to hold on to him. I don’t look at how upbeat and positive and cheerful you are in the face of discouragement. I see your heart.
I will always be near to you, supporting you, helping you, and caring for you. I am proud of you, even if all you can find in the moment is the strength to allow Me to hold you close. My love for you is unconditional and eternal.