Torchbearers for Christ
Monday, April 23, 2018
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COPING WITH DISCOURAGEMENT

 
Few Christians escape bouts of discouragement. These “down” times seem to be a normal part of the Christian life. We learn from the Bible that some of God’s most prominent characters experienced times of keen disappointment. For example, we have Moses telling the Lord in Numbers 11:15, “If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now....do not let me see my wretchedness. Then we have Elijah, after his extraordinary supernatural experience on Mount Carmel, on hearing that Jezebel wanted to kill him, ran into the wilderness and prayed saying, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4). Jonah, feeling wretched after the Lord spared the city of Nineveh said, “I beseech you, Lord, to take away my life from me.....it were better for me to die than to live: (Jonah 4:3).
 
David, after having been assured that one day he would be King over Israel, experienced constant hatred and persecution from King Saul, and began to doubt whether he would last for much longer. In desperation he expressed his feelings in 1 Samuel 27:1, “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape into the land of the Philistines”. It proved to be a very unwise decision with disastrous consequences and teaches us that it is always better to wait until the mind is calm before making a major choice. 
 
During bouts of discouragement, people make decisions they would never entertain under normal circumstances. Some have given up serving God, left their families, spoken unwisely, become violent and have even contemplated suicide. There can be a significant link between our physical, emotional and spiritual states. When one is overtired, stressed or in poor health, we sometimes lack the emotional and spiritual resources to cope. A weary mind can be a target for Satan and discouragement follows.
 
We can think of some of the situations which can bring on discouragement. These include unanswered prayer. We may have prayed long and earnestly for God to answer, but nothing appears to be happening. Proverbs 13:12 reads, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. Frequently in the Psalms we find the question being asked. “How long, Lord”? Then there are times when believers feel they are falling short of their own ideals in what they would like to be and what they would like to do for the Lord. This can create feelings of inadequacy, a lack of self-worth and discouragement. Unfortunately, some believers have partners who are disinterested, or even hostile, when it comes to serving the Lord and this too can be discouraging.
 
There are no doubt many other difficult situations we could think of that can cause discouragement, but we now ask the question, “How are we to cope when we feel discouraged”? In the first place, we can take comfort in the fact that the difficult times do not last forever. They are only “for a season, if need be” (1 Peter 1:6). God asks us to be “patient in trial” (Romans 12:12) and to remember that “we will not be tested above that we can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
 
It is a time to be absolutely honest with God and appeal to Him for help. Throughout the Psalms we read how men, in their extremity, implored God for support. In Psalm 62:8 we read, “Trust in Him at all times you people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us”. It has been well said that when one is going through difficult times it is easy to start questioning God’s character, asking ourselves, “Does God know how I feel: Does He care”? The only way to counteract this negative thinking is to fill our minds with what the Scripture tells us about God’s character; that He does understand, He know exactly how we feel and He is there to help. A Scripture in which I have found comfort for many years is Nahum 1:7, which reads “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He know them that trust in Him”. Hallelujah! We could do well to memorise some of these helpful verses from the Psalms like Psalm 34:6, “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. God can be safely trusted at all times. His presence is always there to help.
 
This article was written by Pastor Geoffrey Davies. He is a frequent contributor to this column. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he pastored a church for over twenty-five years.  For many years, he has traveled widely, continuing his ministry of encouragement and Bible teaching.