Three Suggestions for Discouragement

discouragement.jpgI called him one Sunday evening and told him that I really needed to talk.  I admired my father-in-law and really wanted his advice.  (He was a longtime minister and president of a small Bible college.)  I was a young minister working with my first church and living in middle Tennessee.  My in-laws lived about an hour away.  

I don’t remember the circumstances.  I don’t remember what was taking place at the time.  I just remember that I was glad that I could talk with my father-in-law.  He invited me to come to his office the next morning. 

The next day, I sat down in his office and began talking.  He listened intently and then asked me a few questions.  One of the most helpful things he did was to remind me that I was not stuck or trapped and didn’t have to do this kind of work.  He also reminded me of God’s love for me and his promises.  There was no pressure from my father-in-law to handle all of this in a certain way.  I found this to be very freeing.

If you have been a Christ-follower for any length of time, you probably know what it is to become discouraged.  Discouragement is draining.  It zaps you of any energy.  Discouragement has a way of causing a person to lose hope.

I don’t become discouraged very often.  Yet, I certainly know what it feels like and want to be aware of those situations in my life that are difficult and have the potential to become discouraging. 

The following are some common issues that can become discouraging:

1.  Loneliness and isolation.  You may feel very lonely as a single or married person.  You may feel lonely as a parent, not sure what to do regarding a situation with your child.  You may feel lonely in your role as a minister, wishing there was someone who understood.  Perhaps you are a graduate student.  You have papers to write and books to read and you wonder if you will ever complete this work.

2.  Financial stress.  Perhaps you are in debt.  You have a huge mortgage.  You wonder what you were thinking when you bought your house.  You wonder why you bought that new SUV.  Perhaps you are facing a mountain of credit card debt, some of which may have come about due to impulsive buying.

3.  Family issues.  Perhaps you are deeply concerned about one of your children.  This may be an adult child who has long been away from home but who still has your heart.  You are concerned about some of his/her decisions.  Or, perhaps you are concerned about your own marriage.  Things just are not going well and you wonder whom you could talk with.  Maybe one of your parents is dying.  This is a deeply emotional time and you sometimes feel discouraged as you think about life without this person.

4.  Church.  You feel so disappointed.  You feel let down over the behavior of a person you looked up to and admired.  You feel betrayed and duped.  You wonder how you will be able to trust anyone else.   

5.  Friends.  You thought a certain family would stand by you as you went through a difficult time.  Your child was in the hospital, and they never even called.  Or perhaps your dad died and they never acknowledged your loss.  Maybe you lost your job and some friends seemed to have pulled away from you instead of drawing near.  Perhaps it has been difficult to make friends in the place where you live.  You wish you could have close friends again. 

The following are some suggestions that might be helpful when you feel discouraged:

1.  Avoid spending too much time with negative, life-draining people when you are already discouraged.  Often these people will only help to intensify your discouragement.

2.  Look for godly counsel in someone who will both listen and yet offer some perspective.

3.  Remember the calming assurance of God.  Over and over he assures his people of his presence and provision.  One example of this was his word to Joshua:

"No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you"  (Joshua 1:5).

What have you found to be especially helpful when you are discouraged?  What habits or practices have been particularly helpful?

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14 thoughts on “Three Suggestions for Discouragement

  1. I think it’s important that Christians realize that it’s normal to get discouraged at some point in our Christian walk. Isn’t that what Abraham faced in Genesis 15? Isn’t that what Elijah faced after defeating the prophets of Baal? Isn’t that what a lot of the Psalms are about? Yet people often feel that they are "losing their faith" when they get discouraged.You offer some great practical tips. Thanks!Grace and peace,Tim Archer 

  2. When I am discouraged I spend a great deal of time in the Psalms. It is such a comfort to read how David speaks to his soul and admonishes himself not to be discouraged. I just love the fact that he is so open expressing his feelings – and if he can do, that somehow gives me permission, lol. I’m also learning to be kind to myself, giving myself space and time, and waiting upon the Lord to teach me something as I focus on Him.  It’s ok to come apart and sit alone while, before I fall apart.  I also express my feelings in poetry without criticizing what I’ve written.  The Lord has always been beside me and brought me through. 

  3. Jim,
    Thanks for being there for me so many times when I have been discouraged. So many times you have done for me what your father-in-law did for you. You have often been that person who would listen and also offer perspective. Thanks. I have not been discouraged for several months now.

  4. Thanks Jim, these are really helpful reminders, I can particularly vouch for point 1, some people can just drag you down with them! I was also wondering, Ive often found myself listening to two sides of an argument in a disagreement and both sides referencing verses with the theme of Joshua 1:5, both sides use the verse as ‘I am Israel and the ‘other’ is my advisary who God promises to give me justice over. How do you pastor something like that? How do you convince someone there disagreement is not a fight of good over evil? The Lords people against his adversaries? Because I often find myself wanting to offer someone an encouraging verse but then wonder if the verse really should be an encouragement to that person or whether it is creating a false dichotomy. This obviously is more pertinent to arguments where people are upset and much less to your subject of discouragement which seems like a ploy to take us into depression just to disable in God’s Kingdom. 

  5. Thanks very much Tim.  You are right.  Becoming discouraged does not mean that a person is losing her/his faith.  Thanks very much.

  6. Karin,  Thanks very much.  You re so right.  The Psalms have been helpful to me as well–and to countless others who desperately need to hear about the love and presence of God. I like your practice of writing poetry during times of discouragement.  I have not heard of anyone doing this before during a time of discouragement.

  7. Wade, It is good to hear from you.  Thank you for your very gracious words.  I am grateful for whatever way God has worked to encourage you.  You are a great guy!

  8. Way back when I was about 20 years old, a discouraging circumstance came my way and it seemed the sadness would never end. My friends were all aware and praying. One day while we were singing from the hymnbook in church, a girlfriend simply pointed to the words on the page she felt were applicable and helpful to my situation. I deeply felt her caring and concern, and it pointed me right where I belonged – towards God's strength. I have never forgotten that incident, and hoped I could be as encouraging to someone else. Yes, things turned around for me in a marvelous way that is still in my life today. But, I like to think I learned from those dark days. So, I would add to the excellent points you made, when discouraged it is helpful to actively try to grow from the experience. Also, when a person is down, any bit of love you can sense anywhere is more exquisitely beautiful than normal. PS Nice blog!

    • Sunny,
      Thanks for the kind words regarding the blog.

      I like the phrase that you used– "…to actively try to grow from the experience." For many of us that will probably come in the form of a conscious decision. Otherwise, many of us will just say, "I just don't feel like doing this."

      Very good comment, Sunny