George, a minister in a local congregation, sat slumped in a chair with his chin on his chest and his eyes gazing at the floor. His breathing was shallow. It was his initial visit to the biblical counselor’s office. When asked why he had made the appointment, he replied, “I don’t think I can take it anymore.”
“Take what anymore?” the counselor asked as he looked over his intake paperwork. “Please share with me.”
“I’ve been in the ministry for 18 years, most of which have been happy years but in recent months all has changed. I am so discouraged and struggle with bouts of depression. I don’t know what to do. I need help.”
Discouragement strikes again. I can relate to George’s concern about discouragement. I have lost count of how many times I have thought about quitting full-time ministry; especially on Monday mornings while reflecting on Sundays.
I am often asked, “Do you ever get discouraged?” One of my stock replies both in and out of the pulpit is, “Sometimes I get so discouraged that could walk under the carpet doing side-straddle hopes and never touch the carpet over my head.” However, the key is not to stay in a state of discouragement.
When was the last time you were discouraged? Don’t tell me that as a leader or as a human being, you’ve never gotten discouraged? Discouragement is one dis-ease, sooner or later, every person will experience. Especially, leaders. Why? Because we are human and above all having to deal with people can be very discouraging.
Those who lead in the 21st-century aren’t alone or a new species that’s never appeared in history. Many of God’s outstanding servants, in both Testaments, experienced discouragement: Moses, Job, Elijah, Jeremiah, Peter, the Psalmist, etc.
In the 42nd and 43rd Psalms we have a graphic picture of discouragement presented to the Chief Musician; a contemplation of the sons of Korah:
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are
You disquieted within me?...O my God, my soul
is cast down…Why have You forgotten me? Why do
I go mourning because of the oppression of My enemies?
… Why are you cast down, O my soul…Why do You
Cast me off? Why do I go mourning…Why are you
Cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted
Within me? (Psalm 42:3, 5, 9, 11; 43: 2, 5).
Why Do Our Souls Become “Cast Down”—Discouraged?
I think the number one reason is because we are human and have to deal with people over and over every day of our lives. People disappoint, hurt us, abuse us, criticize, and sin against us. That’s what humans do to one another. Discouragement is a choice. Sometimes it’s the so-called pillars in the church, leaders as well as followers who contribute to our choice of being discouraged.
Here’s a quick list of reasons why we get discouraged:
- Life and people tend to treat one another in unfair ways.
- People tend to use freedom to step on the toes of others, as well as seek to limit the freedom of others.
- When we get tired and feel run down physically and emotionally, we slip into discouragement.
- When people lie to us, especially when they are close to us, it is discouraging.
- Any behavior or attempt to do something can create discouragement because of not doing it just right.
- The fear of rejection; not being invited or left out of the conversation can send discouragement through our emotional system.
- Sometimes even our best efforts aren’t enough, we fail and it creates a deep sense of discouragement and many times depression.
What tends to create discouragement in you quicker than anything? Who tends to discourage you the most often? Why do you continue to choose to be discouraged?
Keys to Overcoming Discouragement
- Recognize discouragement when it comes. You can deal with something you are not aware of. It starts with a thought.
- Always remember discouragement is a choice you make; likewise you can choose to reject it. No one can force you to be discouraged.
- Research WHY you are experiencing discouragement. Be specific in identifying the WHY. Why the thoughts?
- Rest your body. It’s amazing how relaxation will change your perspective of events and people.
- Restore your energy. This relates to a balanced diet, resting, diverting your attention, and exercise.
- Reorganize your life. Clutter and disorganization is a discourager. Organizing helps you find stuff and eliminates discouragement
- Resist the discouragement. This back to recognizing it when it seeks to enter your peace of mind zone. Just say STOP!
- Remember God’s word. Here are a few specific Scriptures:
- John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage. I have overcome the world.”
- Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
- Hebrews 4:16, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
- 1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will. He hears us.”
- John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
- Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the LORD.”
Leaders, above all people, need to avoid and fight against discouragement. Why? Because like any dis-ease it can infect others.
What are you going to do to intentionally fight against discouragement?