Discouragement: Why It Matters and How to Fight It

I had a really hard time getting going this morning. I took a few sips from my morning coffee and read my Bible, but I just felt like going back and taking a nap.

I have no clue why, but I was just feeling down in the dumps. And I struggle with this often.

It may seem strange to talk about discouragement on a blog about time stewardship, but nothing zaps my productivity quicker than losing my motivation. A deep, sinking feeling compels me to sit around and mope.

I’m Not Alone

The same happened often with Charles Spurgeon, although to a much more advanced degree. At just 22 years old, he was preaching to a capacity crowd of thousands in Surrey Hall. As he was praying, some conspirators began to shout that there was a fire. The crowd panicked and seven people were trampled to death.

Spurgeon was stricken with such a deep depression that he couldn’t preach for weeks and later recounted how he was close to just ending his ministry forever.

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah battles with discouragement and depression. After calling down fire on Mount Carmel and dramatically defeating the priests of Baal, he flees to the wilderness. At one point, he lies down and wants to die. He wants to call it quits. He wants to forget about anything else that God could do through him.

A Tool For the Enemy

Discouragement is powerful. It has the potential to stop us dead in our tracks like almost nothing else can. And the truly dangerous thing is that we rarely recognize this discouragement for the attack that it often is.

John Lawrence, in his book Down to Earth, tells a story about the day that Satan decided to sell his tools. The shoppers were thrilled to get a look at the usual suspects such as Hatred, Jealousy, and Pride. But over to the side there was one tool that seemed out of place. It was well-worn and didn’t look like anything special, but it was priced much higher than any of the others.

“The name of that tool?” asked a shopper.
“That is Discouragement,” replied the Adversary.
“And why is it priced so high?”
“Because it is more useful to me than the others. I can pry open and get inside a person’s heart with that one when I cannot get near him with other tools. Once I get inside with Discouragement, I can make him do whatever I choose. See how worn it is? That’s because I use it more than any other tool. I use it on everyone because very few people know it belongs to me.”

Ways of Fighting Discouragement

Let this inspire us to defend ourselves. But how can we fend off this attack? How can we battle discouragement?

  • Understand it’s common.
  • God’s people get discouraged. In fact, Spurgeon wrote a section about this in his book, Lectures To My Students, where he takes great care to thoroughly convince future ministers that discouragement will come.

    Don’t be caught unaware that sadness will strike. Prepare for its inevitable arrival.

  • Distinguish between disappointment and discouragement.
  • Mark C. Corts in The Truth about Spiritual Warfare describes a disappointment as an event where things don’t work out the way you had desired or planned. You can view this event as a reason to get despondent. Or you can choose to view disappointment in the context of Romans 8:28 and trust that God is in control and is working everything out for your good.

  • Don’t focus on yourself. Don’t focus on feelings.
  • In the aforementioned Lectures to My Students, Spurgeon puts it well:

    Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints. Live by the day—ay, by the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement.

    Keep your eyes on God and on the needs of others – not on your emotional state or your desire to be gratified.

  • Remember the good times. Remember coming through the bad times.
  • I keep a spiritual journal, and it’s edifying to read back through what I’ve been through. It’s easy to forget the thrill of victory, but reading back over my thoughts from those days brings back that memory in vivid details.

    It’s the same when I read over trials from the past. Once I’ve been rescued from a situation, it’s easy to just move on and forget. Reading back helps me remember how truly concerned I was at the time and how sweet my deliverance really was.

  • Cast your cares on others.
  • I’m so thankful for friends and family that will help me get out of the muck. Just knowing that I have them in my corner means a lot.

  • Cast your cares on God.
  • This is the last one and the biggest one. Pray. Share your concerns with the one who cares most – even if you just confess that you’re discouraged and you don’t know why.

    Have any of you struggled with discouragement?
    What has helped you?

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