Discouragement is an emotion common to all of us, regardless of one’s ethnicity, cultural and/or religious backgrounds and upbringing. A misleading thought and surely one that has caused much grief among the children of God is that we are immune to trials and tribulations. This is not the case; we learn certainly from the book of Job that sufferings befall the righteous and wicked alike.
What is discouragement? To put it simply, it is to find one in a state where courage, hope and confidence so essential to face the challenges of life are lacking or missing. Discouragement, when not dealt with, could lead to further complications: physical illness, lack of appetite, inability to sleep well, loss of interest in usual activities, withdrawal, etc. Discouragement is a very real and present part of life but with awareness we can prevent it from overtaking us.
CAUSES OF DISCOURAGEMENT
There are many causes for discouragement, and no two persons experience it quite the same. Some of the common causes are the following:
Threats to one’s well-being, whether physical, emotional or mental.
David experienced discouragement when his son Absalom staged a rebellion against him and he was forced to flee Jerusalem. “LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God (Psa 3:1-2).”
Loss of health, security, property, loved ones, opportunities, etc.
Job was depressed when he lost everything. “After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. And Job spake, and said, Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived… Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?… For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest… (Job 3:1-3, 11, 13).”
The disciples had very much expected Jesus to restore Israel to its past glory.
When Jesus was arrested, their courage left them and they fled. “…Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled (Mat 26:56).” They were actually hiding in fear when the resurrected Lord appeared to them. “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you (John 20:19).”
DEALING WITH DISCOURAGEMENT
When discouragement comes as a result of sin, the only remedy is repentance. Realisation of sin ought to generate godly sorrow, the awareness that it is God whom we first and foremost sinned against. Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of (2Co 7:10) and repentance and confession of sins are conditions for forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1Jn 1:9).”
We can better deal with discouragement by altering our attitudes.
Much discouragement happens because we are overly sensitive, overly concerned about our feelings. Some may stop serving or even quit the faith because his or her feelings are hurt. It is a form of creeping pride to put our feelings above Christ and the cause. Put Him first and others second, serve the Lord and other people.
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he (Pro 23:7).” Be careful what goes on in our minds and what intellectual food we partake. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Php 4:8).”
Be realistic. Things cannot possibly happen as we’d like them to every single time. It also takes time to resolve problems and difficulties. Be realistic and patient with yourself and others.
Remember the Lord cares. Jesus our Lord gives us assurance of His care. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me (John 14:1).” “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (1Pe 5:7).” We read earlier in Psalm 3 about David’s discouragement. But in the same psalm David went on to say, “But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about (Psa 3:3-6).”
Hold fast to the end. Peter encourages the saints in times of trial to hold fast. Look toward the coming of the Lord. “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls (1Pe 1:6-9).”
Our caring Father provides a way out for us. We have no reason to allow discouragement to defeat us. Lean on Him and trust in His promises. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1Co 10:13).”