Overcoming Discouragement

Elijah was a chosen prophet of God, who confronted a backslidden king with his sin, raised the dead, called down fire from heaven, and appeared with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration. He is referred to 30 times in the New Testament. However he reached the point where he wanted to give up: "He came and sat down under a juniper tree and he requested for himself that he might die and said, It is enough now, O Lord, take away my life" [1 Kings 19:4]. He was not the only servant of the Lord who got discouraged. David thought that God had forgotten about him [Psalm 22:1-2; 78:8-9]. Charles Spurgeon once said: "I am the subject of depression of spirit, so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to."

The causes of discouragement are many. Failing to achieve our goals, a sense of personal inadequacies, failing to live up to personal convictions, unwarranted criticism, sheer physical exhaustion, and satanic oppression are some of them. What are the practical things we can do to combat the discouragement that we will all experience at some time?

1. Look for physical causes:

Elijah was suffering from sheer physical exhaustion. The constant round of activities and the burden of busy-ness can drain the physical and emotional energies. An occasional medical check-up would do no harm, but a period of rest and relaxation is essential. Good eating and sleeping habits are important also. Notice that Elijah's first need was for sleep and food [1 Kings 19:5-6]. There is a threshold below which it is folly to let resources dwindle. Knowing our limits is humbling. There comes a time when resources must be replenished if we are to continue to operate in sensitivity towards God and people we encounter.

2. Listen to the Spirit for other causes:
  1. We cannot do what we want to.
  2. We cannot get what we want and need.
  3. We feel guilty over something we have done or left undone.
  4. We have lost someone or something we love.
  5. We have been hurt or criticized.
  6. We feel inferior, unloved, lonely or insignificant.
  7. It seems we do not have the answers others may need.
Now turn to God's word for the guidance in dealing with it, so that our attitude or framework of thinking can be changed. One of the marks of spiritual and emotional security is the ability to work on those things we can change and to accept those we cannot. God's grace is sufficient for us!
3. Be honest with both yourself and the Lord:
Elijah, David and Job were all tested but were honest in expressing how they felt, and God brought them through. Suppression of anger is always unhealthy, and clear, honest expression to our Father does not shock him. Being dishonest however, does disappoint Him. He meets us at the point of honesty and we can lean on Him. [Luke 8:15].
4. Beware of self-pity:
Self-pity is mercy turning inwards and we should refuse to come down from the cross to wallow in self-pity. Self-pity is mercy turning inwards instead of turning out towards others. It will make us think we are standing alone for God, and nobody else understands us. [Micah 6:8].
5. Watch your reaction to what other people say:
Elijah was struck by fear when he heard the message from Jezebel. He lost sight of what God's word was to him. Today many psychologists think that depression is caused, at times, by inward anger disguised as hurt. [Matt.5:21-26].
6. Let God's promises saturate your mind:
Philippians 4:8-9 draws an important connection between experiencing the peace of God and our responsibility to think positively about him! Discouragement is birthed from negative thinking and feeling. Elijah found that after rest and food, God's word came to him in a fresh way through a still, small voice. Discouragement will pass as you take hold of the promises of God. [Colossians 3:15-17].
7. Share your burden with a trusted friend:
Avoid thinking that discouragement proves that there is something wrong with you spiritually. Elijah found that help was sent in the form of Elisha. Certainly sharing with an honest friend will bring the matter into perspective. We often see it clearer just through expressing it to someone. It pays to humble yourself in admitting that you are not coping with every circumstance, and it is the key to defeating isolation. [Eccles.4:9-10].

8. See worry for what it is - Sin!

Worry is a leak on energy, faith, love, and rest. Confess it as sin, and receive God's deliverance from the fear that lies behind worry. Trusting Father is made possible as we bask in his presence

• Maximum Effectiveness with Minimum Weariness

The feeling of doing a lot and accomplishing very little creates great frustration and feelings of futility. Ask yourself why it is that you are involved in a constant round of activities. Your schedule may seem to meet a deep inner need for significance. A sense of self-worth, from doing something useful, helps compensate for our real hidden feelings of inadequacy and the fear of failure. The pressure builds up of concern about how others view us and our achievements. The fear of rejection propels us to more work. When our need for a sense of belonging, worth, security are unmet through deep, caring, loving relationships, work becomes a substitute. Work can become a defense to avoid close, personal relationships, which we find threatening.

• Answers to such an undesirable work-drive — driven or passionate?

1. Differentiate between the urgent and the important:

Evaluate your priorities and concentrate on those things that carry the significant priority. Wisdom, or know-how, does increase as we plan wisely [Psalm 90:12]. Satan is the author of confusion, which results in uncertainty, indecision, stress, and irritability. Proper ordering will bring a sense of knowing; decision-making is possible and peace rules in our hearts and minds.


2. Spend time alone with God:

Developing our relationship and communion with God is our first priority. By spending time with God daily we bring into focus and perspective the rest of the day's activities. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place, where he prayed.” [Mark1: 35]. He had no divinely drawn blueprint, which he followed, but day by day, through prayer, He discerned His Father's will. In this Kingdom, identity precedes function [John 8:35].


3. Learn to say `No'!

No one is indispensable. If we slow down long enough to listen to God, we might find that there are activities we should not be automatically doing. The regular evaluation of our time helps us to plan our activities so that we achieve maximum effectiveness with minimum weariness. Avoid the “Savior syndrome”. Jesus is savior and Lord.


4. Delegate authority to others:

Jesus modeled shared ministry when He fed the 5,000 people. He broke the loaves and fishes and gave them to His disciples, and they fed the multitude. The servant leader who shares his responsibilities multiplies his effectiveness.

• Overcoming Disorganization

Self-discipline is low when we are depressed, subjective, critical, and suffering from nervousness. Plan each day's work in advance [Psalm 90:12]. Carry over incomplete items to the next day. Do one item at a time and complete it. Get all available facts together and be decisive. Face up to problems, do not ignore them. Proportion your activities so that you have a balance between work, rest, relaxation and exercise, so that you function at your greatest efficiency.

Robert Mearns, 10/20/2009