What About Discouragement?

It is not unusual for those who have chosen to follow the Lamb whithersoever He leadeth to experience discouragement from time to time. Often, when that occurs, the discouraged one can be tempted to question the sincerity of his commitment. He is prone to ask himself, “Am I failing in my Christian walk because I occasionally experience times of discouragement?” But didn’t some of our patriarchs go through times of discouragement?

Adam was undoubtedly a bit discouraged when he and Eve were banned from the Garden of Eden. More discouragement must have followed when Cain slew Abel.

Was Noah jubilant when the whole world rejected the message that God had told him to share? For 120 years, he delivered the message of warning to the world, to have only seven others accept it and join him on the ark.

How about Moses? The murmuring and complaining of the children of Israel during their wilderness journey surely discouraged him from time to time. There were certainly times when, although he was following specific directions from God, he was less than totally happy—the golden calf, the complaints about their diet, the blame heaped upon him because of the length of the journey, the lack of water!

Scripture tells us specifically that the Israelites themselves were discouraged. “And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.” Numbers 21:4.

Consider Job. When he lost all that he had––home, livestock, and children––and his own wife told him to curse God and die, how happy do you think he was? When even his three best friends tried to convince him that he was responsible for his afflictions, there were probably at least a few fleeting thoughts of discouragement from time to time.

Elijah fled in discouragement when Jezebel threatened his life, even though he had just seen fire come down from heaven as a testament to his faith in God.

Perhaps the most striking and memorable example of discouragement we have is that of the disciples after Christ’s crucifixion.

“After the death of Christ the disciples were well-nigh overcome by discouragement. Their Master had been rejected, condemned, and crucified. The priests and rulers had declared scornfully, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.’ Matthew 27:42. The sun of the disciples’ hope had set, and night settled down upon their hearts. Often they repeated the words, ‘We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.’ Luke 24:21.” The Acts of the Apostles, 25.

In each of these cases, however, let us not lose sight of the fact that faith eventually prevailed.

What if Elijah had given up in discouragement after praying six times? By faith he prayed the seventh, and rain came (I Kings 18:42–45).

Because of Job’s love for his persecutors and his unfailing faith in the resurrection, God restored to him two-fold his losses. “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Job 42:10.

The disciple Mark was so discouraged at one point that he gave up his evangelistic efforts and returned to Jerusalem. Mark had been a publican and was undoubtedly wealthy. His home was probably large and well-maintained, staffed with servants to do his bidding. For a brief time, he was overcome by culture-shock and abandoned the call to return to the comforts that he had known so well. We can read about that in The Acts of the Apostles, 169, 170:

“As faithful shepherds in search of the lost sheep, they [the disciples] gave no thought to their own ease and convenience. Forgetful of self, they faltered not when weary, hungry, and cold. They had in view but one object—the salvation of those who had wandered far from the fold.

“It was here that Mark, overwhelmed with fear and discouragement, wavered for a time in his purpose to give himself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s work. Unused to hardships, he was disheartened by the perils and privations of the way. He had labored with success under favorable circumstances; but now, amidst the opposition and perils that so often beset the pioneer worker, he failed to endure hardness as a good soldier of the cross. He had yet to learn to face danger and persecution and adversity with a brave heart. As the apostles advanced, and still greater difficulties were apprehended, Mark was intimidated and, losing all courage, refused to go farther and returned to Jerusalem.”

By faith he stepped into the field again and eventually wrote an inspiring account of Christ’s work. (See Ibid., 170.)

When the faithful in Corinth were experiencing discouragement, Paul wrote to them to remind them of the experiences of the children of Israel. Because of their sin and rebellion, the judgments of God had come upon them. The apostle instructed the Corinthian believers to heed the lesson contained in Israel’s experiences. “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” I Corinthians 10:6.

Paul showed how love of ease and pleasure had prepared the way for sins that had brought the vengeance of God upon the Israelites.

Yet Paul would not have them yield to despondency or discouragement. He gave them the assurance: “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10:13.

Well, how is it with us today? Do we sometimes allow ourselves to be led into discouragement and despair by failing to grasp the sure promises of God? It is only by faith that we can grasp those promises, and it is only by faith that we can meet the condition on which those promises are given: obedience. When we turn from the path of righteousness and for one reason or another disobey the counsels, precepts, and commandments in God’s word, He must then breach His promises. (See Numbers 14:34.) And it is then, overcome with discouragement and depression, that we are most susceptible to falling under Satan’s shadow.

In The Acts of the Apostles, 363, we read the following:

“Satan’s craft is most successfully used against those who are depressed. When discouragement threatens to overwhelm … spread out before God [your] necessities. It was when the heavens were as brass over Paul that he trusted most fully in God. More than most men, he knew the meaning of affliction; but listen to his triumphant cry as, beset by temptation and conflict, his feet press heavenward: ‘Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.’ II Corinthians 4:17, 18. Paul’s eyes were ever fastened on the unseen and eternal. Realizing that he was fighting against supernatural powers, he placed this dependence on God, and in this lay his strength. It is by seeing Him who is invisible that strength and vigor of soul are gained and the power of earth over mind and character is broken.”

“Into the experience of all there come times of keen disappointment and utter discouragement––days when sorrow is the portion, and it is hard to believe that God is still the kind benefactor of His earthborn children; days when troubles harass the soul, till death seems preferable to life. It is then that many lose their hold on God. … Could we at such times discern with spiritual insight the meaning of God’s providences we should see angels seeking to save us from ourselves, striving to plant our feet upon a foundation more firm than the everlasting hills, and new faith, new life, would spring into being. …

“For the disheartened there is a sure remedy––faith, prayer, work. Faith and activity will impart assurance and satisfaction that will increase day by day. … In the darkest days, when appearances seem most forbidding, fear not. Have faith in God. He knows your need. He has all power. His infinite love and compassion never weary. … And He will bestow upon His faithful servants the measure of efficiency that their need demands. …

“Did God forsake Elijah in his hour of trial? Oh, no! He loved His servant no less when Elijah felt himself forsaken of God and man than when, in answer to his prayer, fire flashed from heaven and illuminated the mountaintop.” Conflict and Courage, 213.

There is no spiritual strength for us in constantly brooding over our weaknesses and backslidings and bemoaning the power of Satan. The great truth of the worth of the offering made for us must be established as a living principle in our minds and hearts—that God can and does save to the uttermost all who come unto Him, complying with the conditions specified in His word.

I would like to suggest that that is the great failing of a great number of churches today. Little if any emphasis is placed on complying with the conditions specified in God’s word. We must confess our sins to Jesus as He pleads our cause in the Most Holy Place. That confession must be accompanied by repentance––turning from our sins and following the Lamb.

“Our work is to place our will on the side of God’s will. Then, through the blood of the atonement, we become partakers of the divine nature; through Christ we are children of God, and we have the assurance that God loves us even as He loved His Son. We are one with Jesus. We walk where Christ leads the way; He has power to dispel the dark shadows which Satan casts across our path; and, in place of darkness and discouragement, the sunlight of His glory shines into our hearts.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 741.

“Then let us not gather together all the unpleasant pictures—the iniquities and corruptions and disappointments, the evidences of Satan’s power—to hang in the halls of our memory, to talk over and mourn over until our souls are filled with discouragement. A discouraged soul is a body of darkness, not only failing himself to receive the light of God, but shutting it away from others. Satan loves to see the effect of the pictures of his triumphs, making human beings faithless and disheartened.” Ibid., 744, 745.

It is by beholding that we become changed (II Corinthians 3:18). By dwelling upon the love of God and our Saviour, by contemplating the perfection of the divine character and claiming the righteousness of Christ as ours by faith, we can be transformed into the same image and dispel the doubt and discouragement that Satan so ruthlessly longs to cast over us.

John Pearson is currently the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. After retiring as chief financial officer for the Grand Canyon Association, he moved to Wichita to join the Steps to Life team and may be contacted by email at: johnpearson@stepstolife.org.