Discouragement is unique to human beings, and it’s universal.
Eventually everyone feels it, including those in ministry. I have no doubt you’ve experienced discouragement at times. You might even be discouraged as you read this article.
Do you know how often I have wanted to quit being pastor of Saddleback Church? Every Monday morning!
So here’s what I’ve learned about battling discouragement:
4 Causes of Discouragement
When you’re physically or emotionally exhausted, you’re a prime candidate to be infected with discouragement. Your defenses are lowered and things can seem bleaker than they really are. This often occurs when you’re halfway through a major project and you get tired.
When unfinished tasks pile up, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. And when trivial matters or the unexpected interrupt you and prevent you from accomplishing what you really need to do, your frustration can easily produce discouragement.
Sometimes your best laid plans fall apart, the project collapses, the deal falls through, no one shows up to the event. How do you react? Do you give in to self-pity? Do you blame others? As one man said, “Just when I think I can make ends meet, somebody moves the ends!” That’s discouraging!
Fear is behind more discouragement than we’d like to admit. The fear of criticism (What will they think?), the fear of responsibility (What if I can’t handle this?), and the fear of failure (What if I blow it?) can cause a major onset of the blues.
4 Cures for Discouragement
There’s a fascinating story in the Bible about how a guy named Nehemiah mobilized the residents of Jerusalem to build a wall around the entire city. Halfway through the project, the citizens became discouraged and wanted to give up because of the four causes I’ve given.
Here’s what Nehemiah taught about defeating discouragement:
Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!” So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. Nehemiah 4:19-21 (NIV)
1. Rest your body.
If you need a break, take one! You’ll be more effective when you return to work. If you’re burning the candle at both ends, you’re not as bright as you think!
2. Reorganize your life.
Discouragement doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing the wrong thing. It may just be that you are doing the right thing in the wrong way. Try a new approach. Shake things up a little.
3. Remember that God will help you.
Just ask him. He can give you new energy. There’s incredible, motivating power in faith.
4. Resist the discouragement.
Fight back! Discouragement is a choice. If you feel discouraged, it’s because you’ve allowed yourself to feel that way. No one is forcing you to feel bad. Hang on! Do what’s right in spite of your feelings. No feeling lasts forever.
God never causes us to become discouraged. He may allow circumstances that are difficult, but his goal is always for our good and for his glory.
And while God isn’t responsible for the things that cause discouragement, he is the provider of all that cures discouragement. So stay close to him and keep going forward!