When You Feel Discouraged
By Dr. Charles Stanley
It’s natural to experience discouragement when someone lets you down. But unfortunately, this emotion can be a breeding ground for bitterness and resentment. If we blame God for what happened, our devotion to Him may suffer. We might forsake spending time alone with Him or give up on the dreams He gave us. Eventually, we could give up on Him altogether. Disappointment has the potential to poison our entire lives. Unless you and I respond to it wisely, we can become overwhelmed by hopelessness, cynicism, and depression.
David experienced discouragement. Samuel had anointed him king of Israel, but for years the former shepherd had to live in the wilderness, running from Saul. Through that difficult time, he looked to the Lord for encouragement. Psalm 23 gives us insight into how David coped with unexpected setbacks.
First, David turned to God with his discouragement. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (v. 1). He didn’t ask, What am I going to do? He knew Who the source of his strength was. God would both show him how to deal with the situation and reveal any feelings of disappointment.
David went on to write, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters” (v. 2). When our hearts are in tune with the Lord, we will have peace. Even though we may be in the middle of a trial, we will be able to walk through difficulty without becoming overwhelmed by fear.
You may not know why God has allowed disappointment, frustration, or deep sorrow in your life. Regardless, what matters most is the focus of your faith. Is it set on God or your ability? The Lord has good plans for your life, but they will likely include more than just mountaintop experiences; you must be willing to walk with Him through the valleys as well.
Second, David admitted there was a problem. He did not try to deny or ignore it. We have to wonder how many times Satan whispered, “You are never going to be king” or “You will die in battle before you take the throne.” The Enemy’s tactic is to draw us away from God by planting seeds of doubt. However, David resisted. He had a personal, loving relationship with the Creator of the universe and knew that the Lord would fulfill His promise at the right time. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
Third, David understood that the Lord had allowed his trials, and there was purpose in his suffering. Instead of sinking into despair, David immediately turned to God, admitted there was a problem, and acknowledged his inability to face it alone. He refused to let the Enemy’s attack overwhelm him. And He realized the Lord wanted to teach him a lesson.
The same is true for you. When trouble comes, you can know without a doubt that God plans to use it for good (Rom. 8:28-29).
Fourth, David kept his focus on the Lord. There will be times when you receive conflicting information. For instance, a friend’s advice may clash with what your mind tells you. In cases like this, ask God to make His will perfectly clear.
Open your Bible, get on your knees, and cry out, “Lord, speak to my heart. Help me hear Your voice so I will have clear guidance through this stressful time.” Sometimes the Lord will lift the discouragement immediately and completely because you have turned to Him in faith. When that happens, thank Him for the truth of Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
David often recalled the times God had delivered him in the past. The cornerstone of his confidence was the Lord’s faithfulness. Time after time, he had witnessed God’s goodness at work in his life. Therefore, he could say, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Ps. 23:5).
Finally, David confessed with his mouth that God would fulfill His promise. “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Ps. 23:6). When it came to devotion, there was no question that David was committed to God.
You can overcome discouragement by proclaiming biblical truth. Turn to God’s Word and study about His faithfulness, attributes, and promises to the church. Dig deep and you will gain an awesome perspective of His nature—who He is and the depth of His intimate love for you. The Father listens when you pray to Him, and He will come to your aid, just as He did for David.
Adapted from “Landmines in the Pathway of the Believer” (2007).
Are you tired of feeling discouraged? Whether or not your situations change, you can experience joy, peace, and contentment. Circumstances don't have to dictate your emotions. You have Someone on your side who is always available to help you, strengthen you, and uphold you. (Watch Overcoming Discouragement.)
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