OUR HOPE IN DISCOURAGEMENT IS THE LORD
Psalms 39:7 — But now, O Lord, upon what am I relying? You are my only hope!
The last two weeks were full of stress and pressure as we were approaching a major event at my workplace. Being in charge of the choir had put me under immense pressure, but more than all of this was the hard blow of discouragement that set in through the disheartening words of my bosses and some colleagues in charge of the event.
You may not have had an experience exactly like the one I had, but I have no doubt that you have felt the crushing weight of despair at some point in your life. Perhaps it happened in your place of employment when a project about which you had great expectations came to a disastrous end. It is possible that it was connected to a once-close connection that became estranged because of a misunderstanding. Or, it is possible that you were disheartened because you felt you were failing to live up to the standards you set for yourself based on what you know God expects of you.
The feeling of discouragement is surprisingly widespread. How can we get beyond this obstacle? How can we overcome our discouragement, and perhaps benefit from it in some way?
FEEL FREE TO LET YOURSELF BE DISHEARTENED
Allowing oneself to feel disheartened is the first step in overcoming that emotion and achieving your goal of overcoming it. No, I do not think it is a good idea for you to stir up unpleasant sentiments that are not really there. However, if you are feeling sincerely down, you should not pretend that you are not. You must have sufficient faith in God to feel what you really feel.
Some Christians hold the view that the state of being discouraged in and of itself is something to be ashamed of, almost as if it were a sin. A line from “What a Friend we have in Jesus,” which is one of my favourite hymns, exhorts us:
“Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.”
Perhaps in a perfect world, there would be no such thing as feeling disheartened. But the truth is that feeling discouraged is a natural part of the human experience. The Psalmist cried out to God for aid while they were in a hopeless situation.
Psalms 42:1-11 — As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God! I thirst for God, for the living God. I say, “When will I be able to go and appear in God’s presence?” I cannot eat, I weep day and night; all day long they say to me, “Where is your God?” I will remember and weep! For I was once walking along with the great throng to the temple of God, shouting and giving thanks along with the crowd as we celebrated the holy festival. Why are you depressed, O my soul? Why are you upset? Wait for God! For I will again give thanks to my God for his saving intervention. I am depressed, so I will pray to you while in the region of the upper Jordan, from Hermon, from Mount Mizar. One deep stream calls out to another at the sound of your waterfalls; all your billows and waves overwhelm me. By day the LORD decrees his loyal love, and by night he gives me a song, a prayer to the God of my life. I will pray to God, my high ridge: “Why do you ignore me? Why must I walk around mourning because my enemies oppress me?” My enemies’ taunts cut into me to the bone, as they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you depressed, O my soul? Why are you upset? Wait for God! For I will again give thanks to my God for his saving intervention.
The disciple Paul acknowledged his own profound sense of hopelessness.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 — For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, regarding the affliction that happened to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of living. Indeed we felt as if the sentence of death had been passed against us, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.
If we choose to ignore our feelings of despondency and act as if everything is OKAY, we will not be able to triumph over them.
UNDERSTAND YOUR DISCOURAGEMENT
Why do you feel disheartened, if that is the case? In most cases, a failed attempt at achieving one’s goals would lead to feelings of discouragement. For instance, I had hoped that my boss would encourage me in times of difficulty. Instead, he gave up on me, stopped interacting, and started screaming in front of everyone which left me feeling disheartened and hopeless.
The first step in overcoming discouragement is gaining an understanding of what causes it. It is possible that your expectations were too high and that you need to improve your ability to make sound decisions. It is possible that those you put your faith in let you down. Or, it is possible that your pessimism is more systemic, a symptom of burnout or a more overall discontent with your life.
An underlying case of depression, which is itself a sign of more fundamental emotional disharmony, may be the cause of discouragement. If you are able to precisely identify the source of your discouragement, you will be well on your way toward overcoming it.
[blockquote align=”right” author=””]”The first step in overcoming discouragement is gaining an understanding of what causes it.”[/blockquote]
BE OPEN AND HONEST WITH THE TRUSTED ADVISORS YOU HAVE
If you are feeling disheartened, it is best not to keep it to yourself. Do not allow your pride or shame to prohibit you from being honest with individuals who will listen to what you have to say with empathy and reply in a smart manner. Your courageous willingness to share will not only provide comfort to you but also freedom to everyone around you.
Throughout the course of my journey in life, I try to emulate the practice of freely discussing all aspects of my life, including the highs and lows, the highlights and lowlights, the triumphs and the failures. This level of honesty has made room in our hearts for brand-new encounters with the grace of God.
In my personal experience, I have discovered that the sheer process of venting my frustrations about my job to my wife or to another close friend will often result in a reduction in the degree to which I feel disheartened. Their insight enables me to comprehend why I feel disheartened and what I can do to combat that feeling.
BE TRANSPARENT WITH GOD IN YOUR PRAYERS
To put it in more everyday terms, you might pray about it. When it comes to this particular point, I could not agree with “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” more. If you are feeling down, “take it to the Lord in prayer,” as the saying goes. We are able to share anything with Him, even the fact that we are feeling down. When we do that, we start to feel the gracious peace that God has for us.
In addition, when we vent our frustrations to the Lord, we leave ourselves up to the possibility of finding that He is there with us even in the middle of our misery. It is possible that God has something important for us to learn during this time of trial and tribulation. It is possible that He is trying to refocus our efforts, our job, or even our life.
[blockquote align=”left” author=””]”We are able to share anything with Him, even the fact that we are feeling down.”[/blockquote]
We discover that our hope is redirected and renewed when we take our discouragement to the Lord in prayer and ask him to help us through it. We confess with the psalmist,
Psalms 39:7 — But now, O Lord, upon what am I relying? You are my only hope!
This does not imply that we never trust other people or depend on the assistance of others. However, it does serve to remind us that God is the only one who can be completely trusted and that His assistance is not only required but also completely dependable.
The more we put our faith in God and concentrate on His dependability, the more we will discover that our feelings of despondency are evaporating and being replaced with a sense of assurance in God. As a result, we cannot only overcome discouragement but also become a path for spiritual development.