Lucia's Blog: OVERCOMING DISCOURAGEMENT AND DISSAPOINTMENT
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

OVERCOMING DISCOURAGEMENT AND DISSAPOINTMENT

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing... And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are irresponsible, 
comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 
I Thessalonians 5:11-14


Discouragement is like a brick wall.  It stops the best of us in midstride at the moment of doing wonderful things. The Lord shows us the secrets of success over this darkness. He has raised up great men to show us how they faced their own disappointments, got back on their feet, and returned to active duty. There is too much to do and too little time to do it, for us to waste our time looking back. Let's study together God's recommendations to His saints who fall into disillusionment and inaction.

We all get discouraged sometimes. Disappointments are inevitable in our life.  No Christian is exempt from the dark clouds in their lives.  They can debilitate us in our walk with the Lord.  Great men of God like David, Job, Jeremiah, Elijah and even Jesus experienced discouragement in their lives.  It can manifest in many ways and be caused by many things.  The way we view and respond to disappointments will determine how we press on and persevere with joy.  God's grace equips us with all that we need to respond adequately.  Disappointment is often the result of our expectations.  We seem to have no choice or control.  

According to Webster's dictionary, the word discouragement means deprivation of confidence, hope or spirit.  Its antonyms are encouragement, edification, and exhortation.  How can one be deprived of confidence, hope or spirit?  The answer to this question will enable us to understand how to defeat discouragement.  

A person may be discouraged because of sin and Satan's influence in his life, (Matt. 13:39; Acts 10:38).  You see, sin causes us to feel guilty and be discouraged for doing such things, (Romans 3:19).  This is God's way of helping us deal with sin and pursue the right course of action.  Sadly, many don't take the appropriate course when it comes to their sinful lifestyle.  They choose to ease their conscience through psychotherapy or psychology methods which often fail to do the right thing. They need to confront and eliminate their sinful behavior.  These psychotherapies can temporarily help to deal with discouragement but eventually cannot provide the right solution, (Isaiah 5:20).  The good news is that they can repent and accept God's standards for behavior and have a much happier life, (Acts 26:18-20; Hebrews 10:22).
  1. Some become discouraged when their coping mechanisms are not strong enough to support the demands of life.  
  2. Others lose their focus on what's important in their life (the kingdom of God and His principles of righteousness). 
  3. Some refuse to go on because they feel robbed of life's meaning.  
  4. Parents can become discouraged because of constant worry over their children.  
  5. Illness can be another source of anxiety as well as financial insecurity.  
  6. As Elijah said, “It is enough.”  I will be discussing him later in my study.  
  7. Some choose to abandon the Lord and pursue false religion or even return to the world.  
  8. Many just give up and quit!  

Indeed, disappointments can cause many unwelcome and harmful emotions for us and those around us:  anger, unforgiveness, frustration, bitterness, etc.  It can also cause us to feel hopeless, helpless, weary, depressed, lacking enthusiasm, pessimistic, bored, and half-hearted. Discouragement affects our worship to God since we lack enthusiasm.  Our worship becomes a duty and obligation.  Our light becomes darkness.  In a few words, there is not much of the Spirit of God in times of discouragement.  It is then that we must approach God's throne for help.  Discouragement is one of the most powerful weapons in Satan's arsenal.

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” (Luke 11:34-46).

Indeed, life is hard. We are constantly reminded of disasters, tragedies, heartaches, the failing economy, the decline of moral principles, lawlessness, family struggles, etc.  These troublesome times make us pessimistic rather than optimistic.  Many fixate on things that are tragic and negative. We must learn to see the big picture and be able to be of good cheer.  No matter how bad things might appear, we Christians know that God loves us and will be there for us in our time of need.  I can assure you, this will lift us up during our difficult times.  But we must focus on God Almighty and what He can do for us.  We must learn to be Christians who always rejoice because we have the hope of heaven as our home.  Our God is there to strengthen us in our time of need.  So let us draw nearer to God in prayer addressing all of our worries, fears, pessimism, and problems to Him alone.  I assure you, He will answer our prayers according to His kindness and mercy.


I.   LEADING CAUSES OF DISCOURAGEMENT

  • The Heart is Still in the World:
For some, the world tempts them and weighs them down with its music, entertainment, media, coworkers, peer pressure.  The world (those who live according to the flesh) sets “their minds on the things of the flesh,”  (Romans 8:5).  Indeed, the battle between the flesh and the spirit can cause discouragement since the flesh seems to be always winning.  Weaknesses such as alcohol, drugs, immorality, dishonesty, apathy and laziness can be the cause of discouragement.

  • Pressure to Conform:
Many cannot resist peer pressure. They talk, think, and act like the world.  They refuse to be different. They want to be accepted, included and belong.  They get discouraged when they feel left out, ignored, and overlooked.  They claim, “but everyone does it.”  They forget why Christians must not do it!  (Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 4:4; Luke 6:23).

  • Double-Mindedness:
The world overwhelms many and moves on them.  They neglect to purify their hearts, (James 4:8).  Their heart is divided. Their loyalty is divided causing great discouragement and unhappiness. Many return to the old man of sinful habits when they become discouraged.  They behave in the same way the Israelites did when they left Egypt, (Numbers 21:4; 14:3).  They serve two masters, (Matt. 6:24).

  • Opposition, Persecutions, Criticism and an Antagonist Environment:  Standing Alone
Some get discouraged when the vast majority (even Christians) opposes, excludes and persecutes them for standing for God and Christ.  So few true followers stand with them through difficult times. This can be overwhelming and discouraging, but it should not keep us from taking a stand.  They are a minority who take a stand for Christ and God (God's highest standards of morality and purity). They get discouraged when, more and more, our society puts pressure on them because they will not conform to this world.  

Indeed, in our times, most choose to follow their own path.  Their hearts are their only guide.  This leads them to reject God and His principles of righteousness as their guide.   Likewise, we live in a world of materialism, secularism, skepticism, pessimism, degeneracy and hypocrisy.  There is often very little encouragement for the furthering of the Gospel.  This was also a problem in the days of Jesus, the apostles, and the early church.  Remember that both Jews and Gentiles were exceedingly sinful, (Romans 1:18-32; 2:1,17-24;3:9-10; Eph. 2:1-3).  Their people were ignorant and vile.  The rulers were bigoted and politically motivated.  Their priests were oppressive and unmerciful.  Not to mention, it was the skepticism, traditionalism, and hypocrisy that reigned.  Yet amidst such terrible, troublesome and abominable conditions, Jesus and the apostles began and continued their work. They refused to be discouraged in their efforts.  Persecutions are certain to those who desire to live godly in Christ, (2 Timothy 3:12).  Every Christian must be aware of this fact so that he may be able to stand for Christ in the midst of a perverse generation and persuade others to come to the obedience of the Gospel.

  • Fear:
Sadly, many are persuaded to back off a little by their friends or family.  They are afraid to be excluded or rejected because of their faith and convictions.  They fear being left out.  When Jesus walked this earth, many feared that they would be excluded by others and would not confess Him, despite the irrefutable evidence.  Some of the rulers would not confess Him for the same reason, (John 12:42-43).  Today, many do not confess Christ because of a lack of faith in God, (Deut. 31:6; Deut. 1:21, 28; 20; 1 Samuel 17:32; Mark 6:49-50).

  • Spiritual Matters:
Some get discouraged when their convictions for the Truth cause them to be in conflict with relatives or friends.  Others get discouraged because of the hypocrisy, carnality or apostasy of preachers, elders or other influential Christians.  Spiritual discouragement may result because of the church's failure in furthering the gospel, converting the lost and edifying of the members.  Faithfulness to God and His Word is not enough guarantee for one not to become discouraged.  In fact, the more a Christian is involved in the Lord's work (locally), the greater the possibilities of getting discouraged for him.  So often those who strive to live godly and teach God's Truth, are faced with many discouragements. What faithful Christian, teacher, and preacher has not come face to face at one time or another with the question, 'What's the use?'" -- when his efforts to live godly and teach others seem to accomplish nothing and be unappreciated?

It is then that one must remember that many before us have traveled that same road of discouragement and disappointment.  Think of Jeremiah who encountered extraordinary disappointments and discouragements, (Jer. 9:2).  Yet, he stood tall and was faithful to God even to the last. In the midst of opposition, trials and weary years, he longed to leave.  Jesus and the apostles are also examples of those who faced discouragements.  There is no sin in feeling discouraged at times.  And while one might feel he is losing courage and confidence, it may be because of real problems.  The real and hopeless issues of life are too broad to pretend that nothing is ever bad for heartaches and tears.

  • Physical Affliction:
Fatigue, loss of sleep, illness and even some medicines can cause us to feel discouraged.  The truth is that we must learn to focus on what we have, what we can do instead of on what we cannot do, (2 Cor. 4:16, 12:7-12; Prov. 18:14).  Paul said, “there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:7-9).  What was Paul's conclusion?  “10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  So, “tribulation brings about perseverance;4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.”  (Romans 5:3-4).

  • Unsolved Problems:
Some refuse to find the solution for every problem through the Scriptures.  They reject the Scriptural solution.  They would rather fight, sue and go to court; divorce or divide the church.  Few want to do things God's way (the Scriptural solution).  For example, if a brother has something against you (Matt. 5:23-24), go to him, (Matt. 18:15).  He sins against you, go to him.  This is the Lord's way, the right way.
“16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  

All of our problems in the home, in the church and in the world around us, must be resolved with the Scriptures.  Some prefer not to solve their problems and instead are contentious trouble makers and stir up controversy causing misery.  They complain saying, "they hurt my feelings," “they mistreated me,” or “they were very unfair to me.”  But at the same time, they don't seek the solution to their problem as stated in Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15-17.  Instead, they choose to get discouraged and quit.  The Bible has the solution to all of life's problems.  Take heed!

  • Decreased interest Because of The Perception of Failure:  
When things are going our way (interest and enthusiasm are high and growing), we feel elated and very happy.  But when our expectations are not met, our interest and enthusiasm lags and decreases. Some will ask, “what's the use?”  What they don't realize is that Jesus the Son of God experienced discouragement and disappointment because of the lack of interest shown by those He was teaching. When He began His ministry, large crowds followed Him, but they considered His teachings as being “too hard,” so they abandoned Him and lost interest.  Only a handful of His hearers remained at the end of His three years of ministry. Our Lord did not quit or allow His discouragement to control Him.  Instead, He continued His ministry to bring it to fruition, because He loved the souls of mankind.  He knew one soul was worth more than all the riches of this world, (Matt. 16:26).  

Many get discouraged when their personal work is not fruitful, and no one seems to be interested.  
    • Is it our fault perhaps?  
    • Do you continue in your studies more eagerly so that you may be a more effective teacher, perhaps?  
    • Do you have the proper attitude when you approach your hearers?  
    • Do you try your best to work at it?  
    • Or do you just quit and give up altogether?  
Remember that our work in the Lord is never in vain, (1 Cor. 15:58), and we must do it with all long-suffering, in season and out of season, (1 Timothy 4:2).  Likewise, keep in mind that God is the one who gives the increase, though you're planting the seed, (1 Cor. 3:6).  We cannot force the seed to sprout.  Why not simply sow the seed, cultivate it and water it that it may grow effectively?  God's Word never returns to Him void.  It will always accomplish what God wants it to be, (Isa. 55:11).  So let us not grow weary because “in due time we will reap.”  (Gal. 6:9).

  • Cares of This Life:
 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.”  (Luke 21:34).

Jesus replaced the cares of this life, with its dissipation (carousing), drunkenness!  All the worries of this life like materialism, debt, ambitions, evil desire can destroy us, (1 Timothy 6:9).  In other words, our lifestyle: wanting more and more and better and better and never satisfied with what we have.  We tend to put our personal desires before the Truth, (John 11:47-50; Matt. 12:22-24).  Why not get busy in the Lord's business, spreading the gospel, helping others?!  Think about that!


II.   GREAT MEN OF GOD THAT HAVE OVERCOME DISCOURAGEMENT:

Consider some great examples of discouragement and disappointment that some great men of God had to endure and let us see what we can learn from them.

  • Joseph:
Joseph's discouragement and disappointment could have brought about very real emotions. Discouragement affects the heart, (Proverbs 13:12). It can result in bitterness, a hardness of heart, callousness, and an unforgiving spirit.

In Genesis 42:21 we read of Joseph's anguish of heart.  His soul was anguished.  Throughout the Scriptures, we read of anguished souls.  Jesus was the greatest example, as He prepared to die on the cross for our sins.  And though we can trust God in the midst of our discouragements and disappointments, that does not prevent us from experiencing anguish.

Throughout Joseph's disappointments, he never complained.  That is remarkable!  He was a man of quiet and mature character.  He trusted in His God, knowing that He was in control.  It is vital that we have this heart when we are discouraged and disappointed.  We must realize that our disappointments serve a purpose in our lives.

Though Joseph experienced profound disappointment in his relationship with his brothers, he focused on honoring God in every circumstance of his life, (Genesis 39:2-3; 39:21-23).  In Genesis 39:6-13, Joseph:

  1. Resisted the temptations of Potiphar's wife, because he was unwilling to sin against God.  
  2. He trusted in God even though he was beaten with disappointment. 
  3. He trusted God at every turn.  
  4. Joseph chose not to worry about that which he could not control.  
  5. Though he experienced disappointment, he didn't become absorbed with life's worries: those things that were beyond his control.  
  6. He acknowledged that no matter what might happen, God was going to be glorified through him.  
  7. He likewise bloomed in every situation.  He chose to bloom where he was planted.  Even in prison, he trusted in God in the hope that “all things work together for good to those who love God,” (Romans 8:28).

You see Joseph’s disappointments carried out God’s providential plan to save both him and his family.  God used disappointment to change Joseph's character.  Remember Joseph's brothers did not appreciate his attitude.  As a young man, Joseph's conduct was not the best.  Remember he “tattled” on his brothers and boasted about his position and dreams.  It looks like he lacked humility, wisdom, and sensitivity.  You see pride and insensitivity produce jealousy and hatred in others.  And as God looked upon Joseph, He knew he could mold and shape him into a great man of God and used him in a mighty way.  Joseph's disappointments resulted in him becoming humble and sensitive to others. What is the lesson here?  That we must learn to lose before we can win.  That we must trust in God no matter our disappointments.  That we must stay on the right course and allow God to work in our lives.  That we must learn to train ourselves to rejoice when we are disappointed and appreciate the disguised blessings that come with it.  We must learn not to see our disappointments as disappointments but rather as an opportunity to bloom wherever we are found and to fulfill God's will in our lives.  We cannot do that without being humble.

God can use disappointments to shape our character but also to change our circumstances.  Joseph's events in life led him in the right direction, into the arms of God.  God saved the lives of many by using Joseph, a man who trusted in God through many disappointments.  

  • Moses:
Moses was overwhelmed and discouraged because he had been given a great responsibility for God's people.  All they wanted to do was complain.  Moses was at his wit's end!  He was so discouraged at one point, that he wanted God to end his life if nothing changed, (Numbers 11:11).

Some in Moses' shoes would have given up and walked away or taken their own life.  But Moses did not do this!  He instead went to God in prayer when he felt overwhelmed, (Numbers 11:16).  We can rest assured that if we pray to God, He will provide relief.  In Moses' case, God allowed 70 men to share Moses' responsibility.  We must learn to share some of the responsibilities with others when we feel overwhelmed and when there is more than we can handle.

  • David:
When David was still a young man (a shepherd), the army of Israel was afraid.  He came to the battlefield, not as a participant but to visit his brothers and bring a report to his father.  While he was there, he heard the mockery and the insults of Goliath. He began to wonder why no one was answering.  Sadly, the entire army was acting cowardly, (1 Samuel 17:11, 24).  But David was not afraid!  He dared to go after this giant alone.  He trusted in His God rather than in his military strength or tactics, (1 Samuel 17:37, 45-46).  And though he used his sling, he still trusted in God!

Today we need to remember that God is with us!  So when we feel discouraged, let us remember that we are not standing alone.  God is with us as He has promised it, (Heb. 13:5).  He will never leave us!  With God, there is no need to fear since we are standing with Him, (Romans 8:31, 35-39).  So let us not be discouraged or lose heart.  Let us stand with courage, knowing that God is with us as He was with David.  Through Him, we will gain victory!

  • Joshua:
When Joshua was fighting against the small city of Ai, he expected an easy win.  To his surprise, it did not happen.  He starts blaming God for their defeat.  Does that sound familiar when we are disappointed and discouraged because things go wrong?  But, what we refuse to acknowledge is that there is something else to blame.  Joshua found this out when he prayed to God.  God told him the real problem, (Joshua 7:10-12).  So what kept them from defeating Ai?  Sin!  As soon as they took care of the sin, they were able to defeat Ai.  So let us not blame God when troubled times strike us.  Instead, let us acknowledge that God is there to help us succeed so that we may rejoice in Him.  Sin in our life is often the cause of our problem, and we need to take care of it.

  • Elijah:
A unique and successful man of God in many ways.  He found himself (unexpectedly) floundering in a big well of discouragement.  When he killed all the false prophets of Baal, he found himself in trouble.  When Jezebel was after him, he felt alone and discouraged, (1 Kings 19:4).  

His troubles began when a new king, Ahab, ascended to the throne of Israel, (1 Kings 16:30).  This king was a corrupt ruler.  He had a wife, Jezebel, who was very wicked.  “Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.”  (1 Kings 16:33).

Discouragement often begins when there is a change in the power structure, a change that seems to conflict with our principles of righteousness.  The point is, every change in the power structure can result in frustration which one must cope with it.  Discouragement is in the wind when you feel like you have done your very best and yet it seems like the world is just passing you by.

While Ahab and Jezebel were on the throne, they made new rules for the kingdom of Israel and its religion, changing everything, even the job of the elders.  They were murdering all those who stood up to them (Naboth, for example, who wouldn't sell Jezebel his vineyard).  Anyone who would stand up to them in God's name would have to have enormous courage.  No half-hearted person would do!

Indeed, Elijah was one of the greatest men who ever walked this earth.  When Elijah told Ahab and Jezebel that it would not rain in Israel until they repented of their wicked ways, Ahab didn't like it, especially when it came true.  Jezebel put a price on the prophet's head.  Elijah hid and was fed at first by ravens in the wilderness.  Then he was hosted in the home of a poor widow in Zarephath.

After three years in the wilderness, Elijah was told by God to show himself one more time to Ahab so that rain could come to the parched land of Israel.  Ahab accused Elijah of bringing all this trouble upon Israel, (1 Kings 18:18).  Isn't it something how defensive people lay blame on others who are trying to find a solution for their troubles?  Sometimes they are covering up their sin!  They unjustly and unfairly accuse us all because one dares to tell it like it is.  That in itself is plenty cause for discouragement and disappointment!

When Elijah went to the people, he did not beat around the bush.  He said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word, (1 Kings 18:21).  There is no political double talk here! He simply said:  we have been compromising our morals long enough.

In response to Elijah’s demand, the people did not say a word.  Maybe they were afraid.  Perhaps they believed their opinions did not count since they had been silenced for so long.  Sadly, this pattern is seen in the church at times.  Those often in authority silence members so that they lose their voices.  When they feel silenced and with no hope for change, they feel helpless and become discouraged.  

How do you suppose Elijah felt when he asked the assembled congregation for a decision, and all he got was silence?  When he asked for action and all he got were blank stares?  Whatever his reaction was, it did not stop him, (1 Kings 18:22).  Elijah proposed a contest:  he set up two altars on Mount Carmel, with two sacrificial bulls and wood for two fires.  He let each group perform their rituals but without lifting a match.  Let's see whose altar the true and living God chooses to set aflame!

The fire of the LORD fell upon Elijah's altar and consumed the sacrifice, the wood, and everything. The people fell on their faces and worshiped God.  The crowd then fell on the 450 false prophets with swords, killing them.  You see, it was a success for Elijah.  The people came around, and shortly it begins to rain in the land after a 3-year drought.

Elijah runs away to Beersheba and asks to die when he should have been rejoicing as the faithful prophet he was.  He brought the people of Israel back to God!  So what does he do instead?  He sat under a tree and deeply discouraged said, “It is enough, O Lord, Take my life... !”

He ran away when Ahab told Jezebel about the killing of her false priests.  She sent a message to Elijah saying that he would be killed. But think for a moment.  There was a price on his head for the previous three years that did not break his spirit.  So what is the difference now?

First Elijah had gone through some traumatic events.
  1. He stood up to the King, face to face, making his case clearly.  
  2. He gathered the people and presented the case before them.  
  3. He challenged them to claim their identity and dignity as followers of the true and living God.
  4. And after all was said and done, he got no response for his efforts.  
I am sure Elijah's feelings were hurting!  How many times have you felt like Elijah, thinking you were standing alone with your problems and no one seemed to care?  And though he felt this way, he was not alone because God was right there with him, (1 Kings 19:15).

Second, Elijah's other traumatic events:
  1. The great contest.
  2. The fireball from heaven.
  3. The massacre of the priests.  
Don't you think that was plenty of trauma to handle?  It has to be processed and might short circuit our emotions.  Stress plus adrenaline!!

Elijah was overworked and worried and overcome by fear and fatigue. That would be enough to bring on depression and discouragement. Don't you think?  Wait, that's not all!  Elijah seems to have gotten a bit “stuck on himself” too.  He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away."  (1 Kings 19:14).  Me, me, all alone, only me!

The truth is, he was not alone.  God was with him.  It was evident to everyone except for Elijah himself. Furthermore, there were 100 others hidden in the caves of Samaria thanks to Obadiah, an officer of high rank in the court of Ahab, (1 Kings 18:3). Toward the end of chapter 19, we find out that God knew of 7,000 others that shared His cause:  “18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”  (1 Kings 19:18).  Isn't that remarkable!!

Elijah had miscalculated big time when he thought he was the only faithful one left.  He was 7,000 times mistaken.  Never deceive yourself believing you are doing all on your own. It gets lonely standing up for righteousness.  When God is working along with us, we've got all the help we need.  And though His help is invisible, you can rest assured that His help is real!  Let us learn from Elijah to take it one day at a time, keep pressing on, stay involved in the Lord's work even when things seem too hard.  It is not the right moment to run away when righteousness is at stake.  Let us join the fabric of the faithful and don't try to do it all on your own.  You don't have to.  We are in this together.  We are part of God's kingdom.

So, let's not allow pessimism and discouragement defeat us.  I know it is tempting to fall prey to discouragement and pessimism like Elijah did.  In a culture full of so much darkness and unbelief, it is easy to be a pessimist rather than an optimist.  Likewise, it is easier to feel depressed, discouraged and pessimistic when divisiveness, apathy, indifference, and compromise with sin, or religious error seem to reign. Modern mass media is not off the hook either.  They appear to be focused on the despicable; glorifying all kinds of lawlessness; belittling and ridiculing the righteous.  Let us not run away in fear like Elijah, feeling sorry for ourselves.  Instead let us be courageous, trusting in our God and getting busy in His vineyard.  

Even though many things are not what they should be, there is still hope in the Lord and His Gospel to change and mold the hearts of men.    There are still many precious and faithful souls who have not bowed down to Baal (the wickedness of the world).  Let this be our motivator when we are tempted to be discouraged and tempted to be a pessimist.  Perhaps this was a crash course for Elijah and for us as well, to rid us of discouragement and disappointment.  Elijah needed to listen to that “still, small voice,” to get his life back on track. Therefore, let us take courage and take a stand and take it one day at a time without running away; leaving some empty spaces in our day, for the Lord's "still, small voice" of wise counsel, to give us a word of encouragement that we might not drown in self-pity, but continue living for God in all holiness and righteousness.

Good cheer is something we must exercise and train ourselves in.  If we perish for serving God, then so be it.  But let us never surrender to discouragement or depression over negative circumstances that are beyond our control.  Remember we are not alone, and all is not lost!!

  • Jeremiah:
Jeremiah was well acquainted with discouragement and sorrow in his life.  He is known as the “weeping prophet.”  He was given the responsibility of preaching to God's people just before the Babylonian invasion.  His message of repentance and God's judgment upon them was not well received by God's people.  Despite his pleas and cries for their repentance, they did not heed or turn from their wicked ways. 

The prophet Jeremiah was overwhelmed with discouragement and despair. He began to curse the day he was born and wondered why he did not die before birth inside the womb. This is what he says: Why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow so that my days have been spent in shame?” (Jeremiah 20:18).  Do you think this is an exaggeration? Not at all! We read in chapter 20 that the chief officer had him beaten (the Law allowed 40 lashes) then placed him in stocks. Possibly, he was tortured with such a device that caused his body to bend double. 

Imagine this happening after he was beaten!  Why did he suffer this? Was he guilty of any crime? Absolutely not! He had simply declared the Word of God. He did what was right, but in return, what he received was punishment. His once-trusted friends mocked him, throwing his own words back at him, calling him the name that God by prophecy had given to Pashur, the priest, Magor-Missabib, meaning "terror on every side.”  That hurt him, no?  His prayers were full of loneliness and complaints: “O LORD, Thou hast deceived me and I was deceived; Thou hast overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.... for me the word of the LORD has resulted in reproach and derision all day long.” (Jeremiah 20:7-8). 

His constant loneliness and rejection caused him to be discouraged.  Jeremiah was emotionally spent, even to the point of doubting God, (Jeremiah 15:18), but God was not done with him.  He felt alone, useless and discouraged lacking faith, (Jeremiah 15:19). 

From his life, we can find comfort in knowing that even great prophets of God like Jeremiah experienced rejection, discouragement, and disappointment as they walked with the Lord.  This is a normal part of growing spiritually.

We can surely see a discouraged man in despair and anguish. Have you ever felt this way when you were tried, tested and low, feeling as low as you can get, sunk in the mud?  Yet Jeremiah obeyed because of his great faith, humbleness, compassion, courage and perseverance.  He remained faithful even when he stood alone (like Noah, Joseph, Daniel and many others) in the midst of so much turmoil.  He rose above discouragement!

  • Paul:
Paul who always said to rejoice, (Philippians 4:4) must have been discouraged when he said he had "become the scum of the world, the dregs of all things," (1 Cor. 4:13).  Jesus told Paul to take courage when he was in prison.  "But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, 'Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.'" (Acts 23:11).

He learned to see the positive side of everything; all the good things that could come from imprisonment, (Philippians 1:12).  Paul trusted in God despite his antagonistic environment and the circumstances he found himself in.  He knew God was with him, (Acts 27:25).  Paul always knew how to listen to the voice of God, (Acts 27:23, 24).  Indeed, he received a lot of encouragement to keep his spirits up. He trusted in the Word of God.  That helped him to be encouraged, (Acts 27:33-36).


III.   WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN DISCOURAGED AND DISAPPOINTED:

  • Don't Quit Attending Church:
Some neglect to attend all the meetings of the church.  They say, "I am going to stop coming only for a time to reexamine my life, and then I will be back."  But Hebrews 10:25 says, "not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another... "   "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread."  (Acts 20:7).

What they don't realize is that they are forsaking the assembly altogether, they are failing to participate in the Lord's Supper, and failing to contribute, (1 Corinthians 16:2).  Have you ever noticed how some make up the contribution they didn't give for the time they neglected to come? Sometimes it has been for two or more years.  Likewise, they neglect to sing and worship God in songs, "teaching and exhorting each other."  (Ephesians 5:19).  They are not nurturing their soul with the Word of God, so their souls grow weaker for lack of nourishment.

  • Don't Blame Others:
Why not be honest and blame yourself?  Because the real problem lies within you!  It is your fault for your loss of interest and faith. "You are the man!"  (2 Samuel 12:7).  Blaming others is a very common tactic many use to cope with discouragement and disappointment.  Others blame God for everything, even their discouragement, apathy, and disappointment.  In the Bible, we have many examples of great men who underwent disappointments and got discouraged but never blamed God. One of them is Job.  Blaming others sometimes works, (Acts 6:1-5) but worsens the circumstances most of the time, (2 Kings 6:30-31).

For their discouragement, they blame someone who:
  1. Doesn't greet them.
  2. Didn't visit them when they were supposed to. 
  3. Hurt their feelings.
  4. Didn't care about them, 
  5. Did not miss them when they didn't come. 
  6. Preached an offensive sermon.
  7. Is too boring (preachers, song leaders, Bible class teachers), and 
  8. Does not please them.

The tragic thing is that they plunge back into the world.  Their attitude is a negative one.  They say, "What's the use?"  "I might as well eat, drink and be merry."  The danger with this negative attitude of heart is that it will be much harder for them to repent and return to the Lord.  God sees it as "The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire."  (2 Peter 2:22).


IV.   WHAT TO DO WHEN DISCOURAGED AND DISAPPOINTED:

Discouragement and disappointment demand our immediate attention.  “Neither God or man can use a discouraged person.”  Indeed, this is a true statement.  Discouragement and disappointment affect our faith and renders us unprofitable.  It can infect others.  It is one of the weapons in Satan's arsenal.  He will try at all cost to deceive us and devour us if we let him, (2 Cor. 2:11).  So we need to understand that discouragement as well as disappointment is one of his devices, but if we take action before it is too late, we can have victory.  We cannot give him the opportunity to drag us down.

In times of discouragement, God will be there to help us.  But we must determine not to remain discouraged or disappointed.  Consider what to do when dealing with discouragement and the lack of encouragement.

  • Determine Not to Remain Discouraged:  
We need to determine that we will not stay down. We must use mental discipline.  The Bible speaks a lot of physical discipline and self-control.  It also encourages us to use mental discipline, (Proverbs 23:7; 2 Cor. 10:5). So it is crucial for us to determine that we are not going to be discouraged.  God has given us His will and His Word so that we can overcome discouragement and disappointment. 

  • Insist on Finding the Good in Every Circumstance: 
This is crucial to defeating discouragement.  David said, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”  (Psalm 119:7).  Sometimes affliction in our life causes us to turn our hearts back to the Word of God.  

  • Set Realistic Goals:  
Setting achievable goals is helpful in dealing with discouragement and disappointment.  So often those who become discouraged and disappointed find out that they have set their goals so high that they will never reach them.  On the other hand, if you set your goals too low, knowing in your heart you can do more, discouragement and disappointment may still set it in.  So don't set your goals too high or too low.  God knows our hearts and abilities, and He can make us become more than we can image.   One passage of Scripture that might help us to set realistic goals is found in Matt. 25. We read about a five talent man, a two talent man, and one talent man.  All three had abilities.   Let us follow Him both diligently and faithfully and become greater servants of God.  This should help us and comfort us in setting realistic goals that we can achieve.  So if we use our abilities in the Lord's service, this will bless us and bring comfort to us, (Mark 14:3).  

  • Cultivating a Positive Outlook on Life Helps Us with Discouragement:  
Some Christians’ outlook on life is so pessimist, gloom, and doom that they allow themselves to feel discouraged and disappointed all the time.  They forget to acknowledge that they are serving a living God who is all knowing, all powerful.  He has promised us He will make all things work together for our good.  So how in the world can a Christian go around with a pessimist attitude?!  As children of God, we need to be more optimistic.  Our outlook determines our outcome. 

  • Observe God's Dealings with His Children and Be Thankful:  
That is, count your many blessings and see what the Lord has done for you.  When we observe how God has dealt with us, it should encourage us.  When you think about how much mercy and love God has bestowed on us His children, it will help us not be discouraged and lose heart.  God stands on all His promises, and He will not forsake us, (Psalm 37:25, John 10:29).  So observing how God has never failed us should help us to overcome discouragement in our life.   


  • Use Difficult Times to Strengthen Your Faith:  
It is a fact that we all will have difficult times in our life.  We will use them to destroy or weaken our faith, or on the other hand, they will strengthen our faith.  Think of Paul and Job who faced difficult times throughout their lives but did not let their difficulties overwhelm them, (Job 14:1; 2 Tim. 2:3). Therefore, as soldiers of Christ is His army, let us endure hardship, learn and grow from them, grow in our faith.

  • Resist the Devil:  
As I said earlier, discouragement and disappointment are one of Satan's wiles.  So let us learn to resist him, (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9).  We are to resist Satan by being steadfast in our faith.  Through God's Word we have the assurance that if we resist the devil in whatever he throws at us, he will flee from us.  It should encourage us to know that our brethren are experiencing the same difficulties we are and are not allowing Satan to discourage them.  If they can overcome their discouragement, we can too.

  • Avoid Self-Pity at All Cost:  
This is where we get into trouble so many times.  It is important to understand that discouragement and disappointment are universal and that our brethren have experienced the same things that we are, (1 Peter 5:9).  So when you start thinking and feeling sorry for yourself, thinking you have it so bad, think of what our Lord Jesus had to endure for you and me on this earth, all of His sufferings, (Hebrews 12:1).

  • Get Involved in The Lord's Work So That You Can Overcome Discouragement: 
It is no surprise that Satan overwhelms us at times, simply because we are too stagnant and idle, making it easier for him.  Get involved in His work and be about His business and don't be idle.  The more work we do for God, the more focused we will be on Him, and the fewer times we will be discouraged, (Acts 26:20).

  • Encourage Others:  
This is another good way to defeat discouragement.  It helps a lot!  Encouragement is the best weapon to combat discouragement.  So encourage one another and learn to be more like Barnabas. He was a great encourager to the apostles.  His name literally means son of encouragement, (Acts 4:36).  Another great example is Timothy, (1 Thess. 3:1-3).  He encouraged the Thessalonians tremendously to remain faithful to God through their many afflictions.  So let us be encouragers like Timothy and Barnabas.

  • Make Prayer a Daily Habit:  
Surrender yourself to prayers.  Let us make prayer a daily habit so that we can thoroughly overcome discouragement, (Luke 18:1).  We lose heart when we don't pray the way we ought to.  And that is exactly what discouragement is, losing heart.  I assure you that if you pray and study the Word of God when you are discouraged, you will not lose heart either.  I have noticed this in my life.  So pray, pray and don’t faint.  Take it to the feet of Jesus.  He will rescue you.  Remember that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer and we should too.  In fact, Jesus advised His apostles to do the same.

  • Escape The Past:  
Take heed to what Paul said, "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead."  (Philippians 3:13).

Paul is urging us not to hang on to the past.  We must put our past behind and not allow it to drag us down.  Likewise, we must be continually growing and reaching forward to the goal that is set before us, heaven.  

As Christians, we must be hungering and thirsting for righteousness always, (Matt. 5:6).  We live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God, (Matt. 4:4).  We need to esteem God's Word more than our earthly needs, (Job 23:12).  When one is pressing forward,

  1. He will devote himself to learning more and more about God's will and ways.  
  2. He will do his best to follow Christ's footsteps.
  3. He will faithfully strive to please God and not himself.  
  4. He will have a strong desire for his goal, heaven.  Nothing will impede him from this goal.  
So let us always look forward to heaven and keep pressing on to reach heaven and not allow our past to discourage us and rob us of our goal. 

  • Nurture a Patient Spirit Within Yourself with The Emphasis on Yourself!  
As we grow in Christ, we must realize that this is a process that's not going to happen in 1 or 2 days. It is a lifetime commitment of devotion to the Lord.  So don't become discouraged thinking that you're not growing as fast as you should.  Remember that as long as you’re striving hard to grow, that is all that matters to God from you.  So try to be patient with yourself and with others as well.  It will leave no room for discouragement and disappointment, (1 Thess. 5:14; Ezra 10:13).

  • Take Life One Day at a Time, (Matt. 6:34): 
 Often we allow ourselves to be discouraged and disappointed because we are constantly thinking about tomorrow.  The Bible tells us to redeem the time for the days are evil, (Eph. 5:16).  It is important to grasp this to focus on what really matters.  Today we have enough problems to distract us so let us not drag in tomorrow's problems.

  • Study Your Bible to Find Encouragement, (Lam. 3:22; Micah 7:8; 2 Thess. 6:16-17):  
It is healthy food for our souls.  Have Bible studies in your homes even if there are no visitors.  Go more frequently to gospel meetings to be edified and be with brethren of the same precious faith.  “from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.  Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”  (Psalm 62:1).

  • Surround Yourself with Positive and Godly People:  
When Job was undergoing moments of grief and loss, his friends offered prayers and comfort.  They also tried to convince Job that the reason for his suffering was sin.  In their efforts to try to help Job, they ended up pulling him away from God.  Can this be us at times?  The advice of our friends or family may take us further from the Lord.  On the other hand, what really helps and edifies us is the company of positive and godly people when we are low or discouraged, (2 Cor. 7:6).  It is such a blessing to have the company of those who love the Lord, are bound to frequently pray and love the Word of God with all their heart.  This is priceless and of great help to the faint hearted.  It can be a well of strength, comfort, and refreshment to the weary soul.


CONCLUSION:

Discouragement and disappointment are a reality that every Christian must deal with and embrace. With God's help, we can overcome both.  We can choose to mope, groan and laze around or we can opt to be positive and seek God for help.  

Jesus is our perfect example of conduct and attitudes.  We must imitate Him, (1 Cor. 11:1).  While Jesus was here on earth, He also had to face discouragement but did not give up.  He recognized that the key to His circumstances was in Him not in the obstacles.  And He faced it!  Discouragement is a condition of the mind and not of one’s circumstance.  Happiness does not depend on our circumstances but us.  Keeping a good spirit is the solution to discouragement.  Jesus saw things from God's viewpoint, and that viewpoint is not discouraging.  He urged His disciples to have the same perspective.  In John 4:35, He told them to "lift up your eyes."  So, no matter what happens in our lives, everything will turn out positively and well if we are faithful in doing God's will.  All things will work out for good to all faithful Christians, (Romans 8:28).  Jesus kept working when He found obstacles in every direction.  He always tried to find the solution to all His obstacles.  Nothing was left for Him to do but to die.  He went to the cross willingly and confidently.

Learn to deal with your emotions (anger, resentment, frustration, bitterness, hopelessness and depression).  They can cause many unwanted and harmful things.  Don't blame others for your discouragement and disappointment.  Don't allow room for the spirit of blame in your life. Understand why you are discouraged.  Discouragement does not depend on others but us, (Phil. 4:11).  Learn to see things from God's viewpoint and in light of eternity.  How will it look in view of heaven or hell on Judgment Day?  Remember that in times of discouragement and disappointment we must cast all of our anxieties on Him because He cares for us, (1 Peter 5:7).

Though things may not turn out the way we have planned or would have wanted them to be, look to Jesus and follow His example.  You may feel so discouraged and disappointed that you want to quit or give up, look to Jesus and follow His example.  Keep doing your best to reach your goal, heaven and keep doing God's will with all your might.  So pray and pray and do not faint. Pray like Jesus always did.  When faced with discouragement and disappointments, pray and don't give up, (1 Thess. 5:17).

Our Lord Jesus will be there in times of discouragement and disappointments to calm us.  Take courage, knowing that our God is with us.  Even in the midst of discouragement and threats, we can still be examples of holiness and righteousness.  So do not despair. Know that our God and our brethren can help us through our difficult times.  Do not let discouragement, disappointment, doubt, and worry pull you away from God.  It is very dangerous to let yourself be discouraged because of problems.  So, when the world says give up, God whispers, try it one more time and don't give up, I am with you.  Why not trust in God and pray to Him?  He can see us through anything.  He is our Rock that will lift us up when we are down.  We can confidently “pant” for Him as a deer pants for the cool refreshing water.  Therefore, do not be weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not, (Gal. 6:9)

May we rest in the Lord's unfailing love when overtaken by discouragement.  May we turn the eyes of our hearts to our tender and loving Savior who does not break the reed that is already bruised.  And may we be sustained by God's strength to overcome our distresses.

The following is a beautiful Psalm for the discouraged.  God cares and can help us overcome doubt and discouragement.  He will give us the strength to overcome our discouragement and disappointments.  He will command His lovingkindness on us to heal our hearts.


Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?  (Psalm 42)

42 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?

3 My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

4 These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation 6 and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.

8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”

10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Luci