by Dr. Charles Stanley
Everyone experiences disappointment from time to time. But some people tend to wallow in negativity, dwelling on painful memories or situations. Others quickly recover their joy, sometimes with apparently little effort.
King David knew how to overcome feelings of discouragement. Even in the face of tragedy, he “encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (1 Sam. 30:6, KJV). He had learned how to put his hope in God in the midst of adversity.
From studying the book of Psalms, we can discover the method David used to overcome discouragement. Let’s take a look at some principles that show us how to encourage ourselves in the Lord.
I. Be honest with God. Life can be painful. Godly believers get ill, lose their jobs, and grieve the loss of loved ones. When you feel discouraged, share your true feelings with God: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Ps. 145:18). Talking to Him about your struggles is often the first step to healing.
From each passage below, list a few negative thoughts that David expressed to God:
Do you feel comfortable pouring out your heart to God, regardless of how you feel? Explain why or why not.
II. Don’t dwell on the negative. This might seem like a contradiction to “be honest with God.” But there is a difference between expressing your negative feelings to the Lord and dwelling on them day after day.
So how do you change your focus? One of the best ways is to thank God for what He has done for you.
- On what occasion did David write Psalm 18?
- Name at least 3 things he thanked God for in Psalm 18.
- What has the Lord done on your behalf that you are thankful for? (For this question, think about what He has done in your life personally, rather than what He’s done for all believers.)
III. Trust the Lord to take care of your needs. God’s faithfulness is great, unchanging, and true. His Word reveals that anything He’s promised, He has always fulfilled. Therefore, you learn He truly is a God you can trust as He proves His faithfulness to you.
Mediate on the following verses. Write down the ways these Scriptures encourage you to trust Him more:
IV. Focus on encouraging spiritual truths.
As believers in Christ, we have incredible spiritual blessings that cannot be taken away or destroyed. When life gets you down, remember to thank God for the benefits you enjoy because of your relationship with Christ.
- Write at least one uplifting spiritual truth from each passage:
- What other eternal realities lift your spirits when you feel discouraged?
V. Look for specific passages that speak to your situation.
Aside from helping you focus on spiritual principles that apply to all believers, the Holy Spirit can guide you to encouraging promises that take on special meaning for your situation.
For instance, someone who has been feeling discouraged by the success of wicked people around them could find peace in these words: “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46:10).
- List five attributes of Scripture, according to Psalm 19:7-11.
- Can you relate to verse 10? Explain why or why not.
- Right now, in what area(s) of your life do you most feel the need for specific biblical encouragement?
VI. Put your hope in God—not in a particular outcome, another person, or even your own abilities.
Although our families and friends can be wonderful resources in adversity, we must be careful not to place all of our hope in them. People will disappoint us at times. However, our heavenly Father is always available to counsel us, provide strength, and work on our behalf (Ps. 73:23-28).
- What are a few benefits to trusting in the Lord, according to Psalm 37:1-11?
- What can you learn about handling discouragement from Psalm 42 (see verses 5 and 11 especially)?
- Psalm 146:3 teaches, “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” What are some advantages of trusting in God instead of another person? (See Psalm 146:4-10.)
Closing: The next time you feel hopeless, ask God to show you how to be encouraged in Him. Place your faith and trust in the Lord, and discouragement will not gain a foothold in your life.
Prayer: Ask God for a specific scripture that will speak to your situation. Then, listen quietly for the Holy Spirit to bring a passage to mind. You may want to open your Bible and begin reading prayerfully. (Psalms, Proverbs, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the New Testament are particularly good places to start.) Once God “highlights” a passage to you, turn it into a prayer about your situation. You may also want to write it on a 3x5 card to carry with you or display where you can read it often.
Also: Find more resources to help you apply biblical teaching to your life on our You page.