Winning Over Discouragement, Part I
Let’s be honest. Most, if not all of us reading this, have battled times of discouragement. There may be many reasons for these inner struggles, some of which we will note as we go. We must be honest enough to also recognize that at times this battle requires us to talk to someone, to be able to get help and advice on how to deal with discouragement.
In the next couple of blogs, we are going to share some thoughts that hopefully can help each one of us in winning over discouragement.
As we shall see, there are a few things we can learn from the life of the prophet Elijah (as found in the pages of the Bible) that I hope will help us to deal with those very hard times when we just feel hopeless, down, and discouraged. What we will see as some helpful advice is found in 1 Kings 18-19, specifically chapter 19.
We must also recognize that some people wrestle with discouragement more than others. We are looking at things more from a general point of view and trying to gather Biblical help so that we can deal with discouragement.
We are all journeying through life and stuff happens as we know. For some, things may be hard at work, in fact, they may be just flat out difficult. Or a family situation, health issue, financial hardship, has come upon us and we are wrestling with all that is going on. These things can be discouraging.
Other things can cause us to struggle. Fear, for example, can lead to discouragement. Fear drains the life out of us and paralyzes us (see Pro. 29:25; 1 Ki. 19:3). We don’t move forward and soon we get discouraged because things just seem hopeless.
Circumstances, many times beyond our control, can lead to discouragement. They cause us to take our focus off of God and the reality that He is still in control of our lives, that nothing catches Him off-guard. This is why the recognition of God’s work in our life is so important in helping us go and grow in life.
Exhaustion can lead to discouragement. We see this in the life of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:3-5. After a great victory on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18 over the false prophets of Baal, Elijah finds himself in a situation that simply exhausted him. When exhausted, we can’t think straight, we can’t focus, we are simply worn out.
What we could call “fuzzy vision” can also discourage us. This is the “woe is me” syndrome. When we look at the life of Elijah, he had completely lost his focus. In fact, Elijah got to the point that he was done caring or trying.
There are many other things that can cause discouragement, but let us mention one more. Disappointment can lead to discouragement. Things sometimes do not turn out as we had hoped. We have a certain idea about things, and well, it just did not happen as we were wanting.
I believe Elijah was optimistic that the events that happened in 1 Kings 18 would bring a change to Israel. They didn’t. No doubt that disappointment, that shattered hope, very well could have led to his discouragement.
Disappointments, no matter how “small” or “big” someone may think they are, are still big to us, even though they, in the big picture of life, should not be. That is why we have to keep a proper perspective on life. God is there with us. He is not silent and He has not abandoned us. He is with us.
With that in mind, what can we do when we get discouraged? I believe there are some helpful tips that we can learn from looking at how God helped Elijah deal with his discouragement. My prayer is that these will be of help to all reading this also. In this blog we will look at two practical thoughts and finish up in the next writing.
The first thing to keep in mind is this – do not condemn others or ourselves when discouragement hits. We see that God does not condemn Elijah as the prophet wrestles with this dark time in his life. God will correct the prophet as we shall see but he does not judge him.
You may have heard the following. I know I have. We hear that “so and so” is discouraged, and soon we are hearing that the reason they are in such a state is because they are “spiritually weak.” People connect discouragement with someone who must be, in their minds, a weak believer if they are a Christian. I would be careful to go down that road.
There are lessons to be learned in times of discouragement, but simply because someone has a time in which they are struggling with this, I would not necessarily categorize them as “weak.” Every situation is indeed different. Some people never move beyond discouragement and I think that is an issue that must be addressed out of love for the person because God does not want us being controlled by this. Just something to think about.
In 1 Kings 19:4 we read that Elijah claims to be no better than his fathers. He most likely was saying that he had no more success than the prophets before him in seeing Israel leave idolatry behind. He was condemning himself as a failure. This is something that we must not do. Condemning ourselves does not help the situation. In fact, it makes it worse.
We must also make sure that we do not feel sorry for ourselves. We must not pass blame for our discouragement on to others. We must decide to not condemn ourselves or others. The one thing you see throughout 1 Kings 19 is that though God will challenge Elijah to help him deal with his discouragement, but as previously noted, He does not condemn the prophet.
The second thing we need to do when it comes to discouragement is this – get rest and recharge ourselves. The one thing we see in 1 Kings 19:5 is that Elijah was exhausted. I think sometimes we push and push and we don’t take time to relax. We don’t simply sit back and read a book, watch a movie, be with our kids or family and friends and we don’t recharge, physically or spiritually. I have been guilty of this at times. We need to rest and we need to recharge.
Years ago Tim Hansel wrote a book titled, “When I Relax I Feel Guilty.” Have you ever felt that way? I have. Yet, if we do not take time to relax, we wear ourselves out and that does no one any good. We read in 1 Kings 19 that the prophet fell asleep under a tree. He is tired. He needs to recharge.
Discouragement hits at times when we are the most vulnerable physically and spiritually. We have a hard time focusing on the facts of a situation and instead we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed.
It must be said that when we are recharging, make sure that we are in the Word of God, praying, being around those who encourage us, and be open about our need to recharge. Put time down just to rest and have fun. This is a choice that we make. Note also that God fed Elijah (1 Kings 19:5-8). Take care of ourselves physically, spiritually and emotionally. Recharge.
In our next blog we will finish up looking at how to win over discouragement. My prayer is that each one of us would be aware of the things that may lead us down this road and get the help we need to get back up and keep moving forward. God bless.