Discouragement is something which virtually everyone faces at some point in their life. It’s causes can be wide and varied – including loneliness, criticism, pressure and even success.
In the Bible, numerous characters struggled with it. Elijah was one of them. It’s pretty ironic when you think of it. He was a man of huge charisma who called fire down from heaven and even saw the dead raised. He embodied all the traits of a ‘successful’ ministry. Yet he still experienced profound discouragement, so deep that he became reclusive and isolated. This teaches us an important lesson. Discouragement is no respecter of persons. It can happen to anyone, no-matter how ‘successful’ they might appear. In the New Testament, the writer James summarises the life of Elijah in one sentence by telling us, ‘he was a human being, just like us’ – James 5:17.
So how do you deal with discouragement? Here are 4 thoughts:
1) Allow yourself some breathing space
This is not about becoming reclusive. That was Elijah’s big mistake. It’s about establishing rhythms of time & space in your life where you can process the reasons for your discouragement. While external factors can trigger discouragement, ultimately it’s a heart matter. So you need to allow your heart some space to breathe in the oxygen of God’s grace. This never needs to be a long time. Resting too long is unhealthy. It’s amazing how your perspective on life can change after just a short period of rest. So be kind to yourself and factor in rhythms of rest which help you to breathe.
2) Surround yourself with encouragement
The world is full of discouragement. How many offices are dominated by negative vibes? How many businesses are influenced by pessimistic culture? How many families are laden by doom and gloom? These things feed discouragement. Therefore, it’s critically important to FIND a community of encouragement. At the Junction Church, that’s exactly the kind of culture we’re passionate about building. We’re investing our whole lives into shaping a community into the values of God’s Kingdom. We understand that encouragement isn’t just a few nice words. It’s an environment. It’s a culture. It’s what draws greatness out of people. The smart people will want to get into an atmosphere like that.
3) Trust through the fog
Discouragement is a bit like a thick fog. As blinding and gloomy as it can sometimes feel, it will eventually pass. God’s grace will always make a way. Of course in the midst of the mist, this can seem like a life time. However, this is where faith comes into action. As the author Jeff Lucas puts it, we need to have ‘faith in the fog’. When we can’t see the way ahead, that’s when we must trust God like never before. Discouragement is not the end. You will get through it.
4) Be firmly planted in God’s house
Don’t just be seated in church. Get planted in it. Develop strong roots which will sustain you in the long term. This was a lesson I had to learn in my life. A number of years ago, I struggled with discouragement. No-body would have been able to tell. I had a reasonably ‘successful’ speaking ministry, travelling to events in the UK, the USA and across Europe. Yet during one of the most fruitful times of ministry that I’d ever known, I struggled with deep discouragement. Looking back, I believe that the root cause was loneliness. It’s not that I didn’t have lots of friends in my life – I did. But the loneliness I felt was a consequence of not being firmly planted in a local church. This is one of the reasons why I now feel so passionate about the truth of Psalm 92:13 which says ‘Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God’. Being planted doesn’t mean that we won’t face discouragement. However, it provides us with a solid foundation that will sustain us through every discouragement and keep us sane, healthy and growing.
There is no reason for any of us to struggle with discouragement on our own. Remember, whatever you are going through, God is with you. Listen to his voice. He spoke to Elijah in a ‘gentle whisper’. In the midst of your discouragement, he wants to speak to you too.
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