No matter what’s discouraging you today, know this: You’re not alone. The greatest missionary in the history of the church faced all kinds of discouraging circumstances. In 2 Corinthians, Paul describes being shipwrecked, flogged, beaten, stoned—and much more.
But Paul also gives us seven, time-tested principles for overcoming discouragement. If you’re in a difficult season, take some time to consider his words.
Never forget how much God loves you.
You know God loves you. You’ve preached about it and shared it many times. But do you feel it in your heart? When you stop feeling the love of God, you’ll get discouraged. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:1: “We don’t become discouraged, since God has given us this ministry through his mercy” (GW).
You can’t feel discouraged and feel the love of God at the same time. You have to choose between the two. Some people don’t feel God’s love because they think God is angry at them all the time. Pastor, if that’s the voice you’re hearing, it’s not God. He’s not mad at you; he’s mad about you!
The number one purpose of your life isn’t to love God. It’s to let God love you. When you’re discouraged, focus on that love.
Don’t fake it.
Be yourself. Just because you’re a church leader doesn’t mean you have to pretend you’re not hurting. Be who God made you to be. Nothing is more discouraging than trying to be something you’re not.
God doesn’t bless fakes or phonies. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:2: “We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this” (NLT). Fear often keeps us from being vulnerable. We’re afraid we’ll ruin our ministries if we’re honest about our pain. I’ve found the opposite is true. It is in our weaknesses that we actually help people the most.
Remember, it’s not about you.
You’re more likely to be discouraged when you’re self-focused. Paul reminds us: “Our message is not about ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:5 The Message). Pastor, your name may be on the sign in front of your church, but your message is not about you. It’s about Jesus.
Some days I have to say that to myself 20 times. Whether I’m praised or criticized, I whisper to myself: “It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus.” Discouragement happens when we forget the why. Jesus is the why.
Relax in your limitations.
We get discouraged when we try to do more than humanly possible. We all need a realistic view of what we can do. Paul describes his own physical weakness in 2 Corinthians 4:7 when he writes: “We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us” (CEV).
Paul compares himself to pottery that can easily crack. He’s just being honest about his weakness. God often puts his greatest gifts in the weakest people so it’s clear that he is the One who is at work. That’s why we can relax and be honest about our limitations.
Use your pain to help others.
Study after study shows us that humans can handle an enormous amount of suffering if they believe there is a purpose in it. Paul described this from his own life in 2 Corinthians 4:8: “In every way we’re troubled, but we aren’t crushed by our troubles. We’re frustrated, but we don’t give up” (GW). He then tells us why in verse 15: “All this is for your sake so that, as God’s kindness overflows in the lives of many people, it will produce even more thanksgiving to the glory of God.”
It’s called redemptive suffering. Sometimes God lets you go through pain so that it will help others. Your greatest ministry will come from your deepest hurt. Keep going because God will use your pain.
Take time for renewal.
Until you figure out how to find regular refreshment, you’ll always be discouraged. No matter what project you’re working on, you won’t see it through without taking time for renewal.
For the third time in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul writes in verse 16 about why he isn’t discouraged, “That is why we are not discouraged. Though outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 CWT)
How do you renew yourself daily? Spend time in God’s Word and in prayer. It’s like hooking up the jumper cables to get your spirit recharged.
Stay focused on eternity.
Look beyond the present and focus on what’s next. The “here and now” can be discouraging. But when you focus on all God has planned for you in heaven, you won’t get discouraged.
Paul, who had been through unimaginable suffering at this point, writes: “Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine. We don’t look for things that can be seen but for things that can’t be seen. Things that can be seen are only temporary. But things that can’t be seen last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 GW).
Paul kept his troubles in perspective, and it helped him persevere.
I don’t know what’s discouraging you, but I know God wants to bring you peace. Pastor, God wants to use your pain to help many other people.
Will you let him?