When I began sensing the Lord leading me to write a message on discouragement, I inwardly rejoiced. I have wrestled with this negative emotion more times than I care to admit. A good definition for "discourage" is: "to deprive of courage, hope, or confidence." Discouragement is one of Satan’s favorite weapons against believers because it can damage our witness and make us ineffective for God. Let’s look at some of the ways that discouragement can harm us as followers of Christ.
First, it can affect our whole outlook on life. It can make us feel as though there’s a dark cloud over us wherever we go. It can steal our joy, our motivation, and our God-given goals. One definition of discouragement is "depression." We sense a heaviness in our spirits that makes it difficult for us to be hopeful or cheerful. And what lost person in this world is going to want a relationship with a God whose followers always seem so miserable?
Discouragement can also cause us to play the "blame game." Part of us may become angry with God because He has allowed us to be hurt by circumstances or other people. We may even begin pointing fingers at others for not treating us the way we think they should. And there’s the possibility that deep down inside, we are angry with ourselves for making poor decisions or costly mistakes. The problem with all this is that it doesn’t lead to healing or restoration, and it keeps us stuck and unable to move forward.
If we don’t deal properly with discouragement, it can eventually cause us to become bitter. Once bitterness begins to take root in our hearts, it can lead us to act in spiteful, vindictive, and malicious ways. Then the Lord will have to allow us to suffer the natural consequences of our ungodly attitudes and actions, rather than coming to rescue and relieve us.
The wisest thing that you and I can do when we’re feeling discouraged is to go to God immediately and confess that we are struggling. The more honest we are with God in the matter, the more open we will be to His help and healing. Don’t ever think to yourself, "I shouldn’t let these circumstances discourage me; I should know better." No—turn to God and tell Him exactly what you are feeling, and ask Him to help you to cooperate with Him for your deliverance. Then make up your mind, in the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you, to put your trust in the Lord to bring good out of your painful circumstances. (Romans 8:28)
It gives our God great honor when we trust Him in times of trouble, and there are rich rewards waiting ahead for us when we do. The psalmist wrote: "O my soul, don't be discouraged. Don't be upset. Expect God to act! For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise Him for all that He will do. He is my help! He is my God!" (Psalm 42:11 TLB) Ask yourself today, "Am I expecting God to act on my behalf?"
Prayer: Lord, help me to take discouragement seriously from now on. Remind me of how destructive it can be, and how it can harm my relationship with You and others. Give me a trusting heart that really believes that You can bring good out of every situation. Thank You that as I put my hope in Your goodness, wisdom, and mercy, I will witness You working wonders on my behalf!
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