It happens to all of us. Things are going great, and then they're not. And then they're not again. And again. And we get discouraged.
The last year and a half was tough for me. It started at the outset of 2017 with budget challenges here at the church. I was discouraged. We made cuts, did a budget catch up offering, and started to gain ground. However, my discouragement escalated to desperation when we almost lost our youngest son Evan in March 2017. Then, just when it seemed the budget was o.k. and Evan was healthy, things got worse as we faced several staff transitions at church and some other disappointments and heartbreak.
Dealing with all of that sucked a lot of joy as well as spiritual and emotional energy out of me. Discouragement crept in, sat down in the recliner of my life, and kicked back. Suddenly, everything started to look dim (even if it wasn't)!
Thankfully, I've wrestled discouragement out of my life recliner (should I add, "for now"?). Here are some things I've learned along the way. I shared these with our men early this morning at our monthly breakfast:
First, discouragement is a distraction of the enemy.
Discouragement is one of Satan's most deceptive tools. He uses discouragement to get us off track of the mission God has given us.
One day the devil was auctioning off his tools. They were highly priced - laziness, pride, hate, envy, and jealousy. One tool was not for sale. One person asked, "Why is that tool not for sale?" Satan whispered, "I can't afford to get rid of that one. It's my chief tool - discouragement! I can pry open any heart with that tool, and once I'm inside, I can do anything I want!"
There is a reason:
- Moses wanted God to kill him (Numbers 11:13-15)
- Joshua had to be told repeatedly to be strong and courageous and do not be discouraged (Joshua 1)
- David wrote songs of lament
- David had to tell his son Solomon to not be afraid or discouraged (1 Chron. 28:20)
- Jeremiah wrote Lamentations
- Moses was discouraged by the griping Israelites.
- Joshua was discouraged as he looked to fill the shoes of Moses.
- David was discouraged as he fought for his life from Saul.
- Solomon was discouraged as he faced leading the kingdom into a new day.
- Jeremiah was discouraged as he preached, no one listened, and Jerusalem was destroyed.
Second, to dismiss discouragement, we must dismiss the distraction and regain the right perspective.
Elijah is the classic example of this for spiritual leaders. After Elijah had the great victory over the prophets of Baal, he went into what is often called a “Preacher Monday”. A preacher Monday is when the endorphins crash, you realize the results of Sunday weren’t quite what you had hoped, and discouragement sets in. For Elijah, it was worse than that, though.
After his victory, Elijah had to flee for his life from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. It was then that he said, "Lord, I wish you'd just kill me" (1 Kings 19:4). Pretty rough, right? I've never been that low (Well, there was that one stomach virus when I was lying on the bathroom floor and said, "Lord, Rebecca and the boys will be fine, just take me now!)
What we find, however, is God ministers to Elijah in his discouragement. The angel of the Lord comes to Elijah and ministers to him in his time of need. He gives him direction. And, just when Elijah thought he was the only faithful person left, God reminds Elijah that there are still 7000 people who are faithful (See 1 Kings 19:5-18).
Elijah wasn't alone after all! Consequently, he was able to dismiss discouragement as he regained the right perspective.
We have to gain the right perspective to defeat discouragement. A few years back, I came into my office to find a print that had a quote from R.C. Sproul: "God has entrusted the ministry of the word to us, not its results." I still don’t know who put it in my office, but they did so during a time when I was discouraged whether they knew it or not. I framed that statement and have it in my office where I can see it every day from my desk.
I’ve never worked in the “secular” world, but I’m pretty sure the same lesson can apply. Insert your God-given task at “ministry of the word”, and I think you will begin to gain the right perspective.
Third, if you allow discouragement to humble you, you have turned the enemy’s weapon on him.
One of the greatest personal take-a-ways I received from teaching on spiritual warfare last year was this statement:
When something Satan meant to destroy you starts being used to improve you, he’ll back off.
Isn't that great? That can apply to sin, Satanic attacks, and more. And it applies to discouragement. One benefit of discouragement is humility. Discouragement is going to get you down. While your down, you might as well bow down to God. When you start doing that, Satan wants to get out of there! Then you’ll find yourself looking up at God instead of being pushed down by Satan and suddenly you’ll find yourself encouraged. What did David say?
Psalm 55:22 22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
Be encouraged today. God is still on His throne and He loves you more than you can imagine.
Praying for you and your leadership,