ARE YOU FEELING DISCOURAGED?
If so, you are not alone. While courage, makes us feel energized, motivated, envisioned and we boldly move forward; everyone experiences seasons in life when we feel discouraged. I have never met anyone who has not at one time felt so discouraged that they haven’t wanted to give up. It’s part of the human condition under the fall, that life is pressured and difficult, and in our brokenness, we often lack the resources to stay focused, positive and fruitful for God.
If that is how you feel today, this message is for you.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN YOU ARE DISCOURAGED
I think it is important that we ‘normalize’ the experience of discouragement. Some people, even some Christians who should know better, like to present an image to the world in which they are invincible, and unstoppable – and never experience discouragement. Very often however, beneath the surface they experience both mild discouragement (bad days, frustrations, setbacks) and strong discouragement – when it seems just impossible to keep going.
Many people have reached the end of their strength, and just feel like hiding away, lamenting their lost dreams, faded hopes or anxiously ask why the wicked prosper, while the righteous suffer.
What you need to know if you are in the midst of discouragement today is that not only are you not alone; but you are not beyond God’s reach. When God’s people in the Old Testament had reached the end of their tether, God told the prophet Isaiah to ‘Comfort, comfort my people’ (Isa 40:1). God spoke tenderly to his anxious people then – and still does today. So here in the middle of this discouragement, don’t turn in on yourself and focus on your woes; but look to The Lord, and seek His comfort.
David was one of the great leaders of the Old Testament. Everyone knows the stories of his conquests, of the defeat of Goliath, and the way he was chosen ahead of his brothers, anointed by Samuel, wrote many Psalms, and ruled Israel from Jerusalem. 1 Samuel 27 tells us about another side to David’s life, which we need to hear about too. After he was chosen and anointed, but before he became King, there was a time when David was so discouraged that he completely gave up, gave in, and ran away from his people, his country and his calling from God. The context is that King Saul, in his sinful jealousy had turned against David – and sought to kill him.
David thought to himself, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.” 2 So David and the six hundred men with him left.
Now, bear in mind that Goliath was the champion of The Philistine armies! So David wasn’t merely having a rough day, or having a few doubts about his calling, or was a bit grumpy! He must have been at his wits end – so discouraged that he was taking desperate measures.
If today you are feeling utterly discouraged –please do not turn to the world for answers. This world will promise you so much, but will leave you off worse than you ever were. I have known people who have even turned to sinful pleasures to alleviate their sense of agonizing hopelessness. Friends, the world, the flesh and the devil are lying to you – turning to the things of this world may look enticing, but it a dead end. The story of David had a good ending, he eventually was strengthened by The Lord who brought him back to his people, his family, his calling and his responsibilities.
But perhaps as you read those words, your heart sinks within you because you have already run away. If you have sought refuge not in The Lord, but in this world with all its entertainments and pleasures (never mind downright sins), then there is good news for you here. David may have run away, but his calling, anointing and God’s purpose for his life remained intact. The door was always open for him to come running home, like the Prodigal Son. You’ve seen The Lion King? The little lion Simba runs away, but comes back home to pick up his calling which had been put to one side. He’s called back when he sees a vision of his father saying “Simba – remember who you are!” It’s a cute kids film, but listen – if you are a Christian who is so discouraged that you have run away from all that God wants you to be and to do for Him; Remember Who You Are! You are a child of the Most High God, adopted into His Holy family by the work of Jesus on the cross. His Spirit indwells you and His callings are irreversible! God’s hand is upon you, the good works he prepared in advance for you to do are still there! God is not fickle like a human being, He is utterly reliable and unchanging. He has not given up on you. So call out to Him, and ask Him to lead you back home.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO WHEN YOU ARE DISCOURAGED
Before I tell you about the 5 Keys you need to unlock discouragement, there is something foundational you need to grasp. Before you try and fix problems in your life, you need to make sure that you are in a right relationship with God. It may be that that like David, you have run away from God, because of discouragement. You may be hiding from God and His calling on your life because of deep disappointments.
The other side is that sometimes discouragement, discontentment and a lack of joy, can be driven by sin in your life. I knew a man who was good pastor but for a decade lapsed into dreadful sin. One of the things about him during that period was that he looked utterly miserable. He was forlorn, joyless, and without direction. He was called to ministry, but had managed to get himself disqualified from it by moral failure. Friends, sin can shipwreck our spiritual lives.
Today, if you are grieving the Holy Spirit by continuing with ongoing sin in your life that is unconfessed, and which you are refusing to bring to God, then you will never find God’s reinvigorating encouragement, because that sin is forming a blockage between you and Him. If I am describing you, then there is good news for you too. You might think your sins are overwhelming, but Jesus is a great saviour. In the words of the great hymn, O for a thousand tongues to Sing! He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me.
If unresolved sin is your issue; turn to The Lord now, in humility and repentance, saying sorry and renouncing that sin. 1 John 1 says:
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
So first draw near to God, unblock the channels and seek His forgiveness, and His encouragement will flow into your life.
FIVE KEYS TO OVERCOMING DISCOURAGEMENT
GET A FREASH ENCOUNTER WITH GOD’S WORD
Discouragement is a feeling which will pass, but it does not define you, and does not have the last word! If you are deeply discouraged, you will not feel like opening the scriptures. In fact you might have to impose Bible reading on your reluctant emotions with a disciplined decision of the will. The temptation is to turn to Netflix, to drown out the sound of your thirsty soul calling for water. Instead open the Bible in quietness, and listen for the still, small voice of God as He speaks through His word into your life.
David wrote of his experience of facing discouragement like this, in Psalm 40
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
Follow in his footsteps. Wait for The Lord, call on The Lord. He will set your feet on the rock, and give you a new song to sing.
BEGIN WITH BABY STEPS
Sometimes deliverance comes with a mighty act of God. The Red Sea parts, and the waters stand up like a curtain. More usually the good things of God start to flow gently back into our lives as we gently abide in Him. As you turn to the Lord, He may grant you instant deliverance. Never underestimate what The Lord can do – He very often surprises me.
Yet if progress seems slow to you, then keep in step with the Spirit. God’s people did not take the promised land in a day, a week, a month or even a year. It was a process which took time, and several setbacks before they enjoyed their God-given inheritance.
So don’t be impatient, a great ship cannot be turned on a dime. It takes an arc of many miles to turn round a great ocean going tanker. So, as you walk with the Lord back into His joy and His purposes, be grateful for every step taken in His direction.
GET UP AND GET GOING
Deep discouragement causes a paralysis of the soul. I have known musicians who have stopped singing, artists who have stopped painting, and preachers who have become silent – all frozen by discouragement.
The great Elijah, the mighty Old Testament prophet experienced this. Although he had summoned the fire of God down and won a great spiritual battle at Mt Carmel; in 1 Kings 19 we find him discouraged, running away, hiding in a cave and saying to God, “I’ve had enough, end my life!”
Now that is state of deep, deep discouragement.
Beautifully The Lord sent an angel to minister to Elijah. But have you seen what the angel says to him? He doesn’t lead with rebuke (Elijah you are a failure, you’ve le the whole nation down!”). Neither does he lead with flattery (Elijah, you’re amazing, so gifted, so powerful….). Rather the angel says, “Get up and eat”.
So simple, so practical – yet that is what you need to do. Stop hiding away feeling sorry for yourself, picking old wounds and rehearsing grudges. Get up and do something useful! It doesn’t have to be huge, impressive or spectacular – but you do need to make the first practical step to getting on.
LET THE SEASON OF DISCOURAGEMENT PRODUCE PERSEVEAERANCE IN YOU
We all go through difficult season in life. While times may be hard, God still wills the best for you – and has a purpose even in this. Romans 8;28 assures us that, 28 in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose.” And that includes the things you face today. Sometimes the most difficult times produce in us the most wonderful harvest of godly character in us. Times, seasons and the scenes of life are not permanent, but the blessings of a godly character are of eternal value. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us, it says. And Paul who wrote those words knew days of deep and profound disappointment, setbacks, discouragements and worries in his life.
So be assured of this, as you walk through this experience with God, looking to Him and trusting Him. Look for the work He is doing in you, shaping, refining and transforming you. The enemy of your soul wants to harness the force of negative experiences to make you bitter. Jesus wants to use these experiences to make you stronger, wiser and more gracious! And Jesus is LORD!
FOCUS ON FUTURE GLORY
2 Corinthians 4;17-18 says, 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
So today, lift your eyes up from the ground and look for Jesus! Look full in His wonderful face! Today may be hard, but our home and our destiny is to be with The Lord, forever. Remember that today your feelings are real, but they are not final. The word of the Lord lasts forever.
Discouragement comes to us all. But as Christian people, dearly loved by The Lord – it will not have the final word, The Lord will bring you through, and put a song back your heart. And you will be stronger, wiser, more godly, and ready for eternity because of this season.
As ever, if you would like me to pray for you personally – about any of these things, please do get in touch.