How can I overcome discouragement?
When you are discouraged or depressed, what should you do? Should you sit around and wait for God to act, or is there something you can do to resist the devil and reject his influence in your life? Sometimes the Lord asks us to wait on Him to take action on our behalf, but there are many ways you can take initiative to defeat the enemy of discouragement.
1. Deal with any guilt in your life.
In I John 1:9-9, we are told, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Dealing with guilt is an essential step in gaining freedom from discouragement.
If you are guilty of wrongdoing and have not yet dealt with it, repent and confess your sin to God. He will forgive you. Do not be deceived by Satan’s efforts to prevent or postpone your repentance. Instead, humble yourself before God, repent, and ask Him to restore your soul. (See James 4:6-10, Acts 3:19, and Psalm 23:3.)
Receive the full forgiveness of God, which does not lead you into condemnation. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
2. Put your faith in God.
In Ephesians 6:16, God instructs us, “Above all, . . . [take] the shield of faith . . . to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” You take up the shield of faith when you choose to believe God’s Word rather than the lies of the devil.
Declare truth by quoting Scripture. This is what Jesus did when the devil tempted Him in the wilderness, and Jesus defeated the devil. (See Matthew 4:1-11 and II Corinthians 10:3-5.)
For example, if you are tempted with the thought that God has abandoned you, declare to your soul God’s promise recorded in Hebrews 13:5: “[God] . . . hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that [I] . . . may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Meditate on those verses; personalize them in prayer.
As you speak truth to your own soul, God will bring deliverance through His powerful Word.
3. Encourage your heart in the Lord.
Satan often attacks us with discouragement just before God fulfills our expectation in Him. (See Psalm 62:5.) David was severely tempted to lose heart just a few days before he was finally established as King of Israel, but he responded wisely to that attack of the devil: “David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, . . . but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (I Samuel 30: 6).
David made a conscious choice to trust in the Lord and to reject fear and discouragement; you should make the same choice when you are distressed.
How can you encourage your heart in the Lord? Meditate on His Word. As you feed your soul and spirit with truth, God will strengthen you and give you hope. (See Psalm 119:28, 31:24, and 20:1-2.) Find a quiet, private place to meet with God. Ideally, this “place of refuge” should be far removed from telephones, work, or other pressures. (See Psalm 91:2, 62:8, 94:22, and 57:1.)
4. Correct a wrong focus.
When you are discouraged, it is important to evaluate whose reputation will suffer—yours or God’s. If your reputation is your primary concern, then your focus is in the wrong place. (See Matthew 6:9.)
Always do your best to make sure you are doing God’s work in God’s way. If you are confident that God led you to do what you are doing, then it His reputation that is at stake. As you rely on the Lord, “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (II Chronicles 16:9).
5. Offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise to God.
It is important to recall God’s blessings and thank Him for what He has done. “By him [Christ] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name: But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:15-16). (See also Psalm 50:14-15.)
As you think about God's goodness in your life, take time to thank the people who have invested in you. Contact family members, teachers, friends, mentors, and others to express your gratitude for what they have done for you. Let them know what a difference they have made in your life. Writing one thank-you note each day is a healthy habit that will battle against depression.
6. Ask for prayer support.
Often we are reluctant to tell others that we are discouraged, because we want them to believe that we are strong and able to quickly overcome setbacks. This can be an indication of pride. However, as you humble yourself and ask others to pray for you, God will give you more grace. (See John 4:6 and Hebrews 4:16.) As you walk in humility and faith in God, you can bring glory to God. (See I Peter 5:5.)
7. Remember the principles of the birth, death, and fulfillment of a vision.
Scripture records many occasions on which God gave a vision of purpose to individuals, families, and nations. Although God’s purposes were often fulfilled without delay or obstacles, on some occasions His people experienced “death of a vision” when fulfillment of God’s purposes appeared to be impossible. Inevitably, God did carry out His purposes, even when it seemed impossible, and He still does that today.
In the face of discouragement, recall these truths:
- God will give you a vision of how you can effectively serve Him. (See Jeremiah 29:11-13.)
- God may allow you to experience the “death” of that vision (i.e., allow circumstances that appear to remove all hope of seeing that vision fulfilled) in order to build His character in your life. (See Psalm 37:1-9.)
- In “due season” God will fulfill His vision, for His glory. (See Galatians 6:9 and Psalm 37:39-40.)
8. Read biographies of faithful Christians.
Every person whom God has used mightily has experienced times of severe discouragement. As you read the testimonies of faithful men and women of God, the Lord can help you see your discouraging situation from a bigger perspective that can illuminate His purposes. As you read about Christians who remained faithful and obedient to God through times of great discouragement and confusion, your heart will be strengthened and comforted.
After the death of Moses, Joshua was given the challenging responsibility of leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land. Surely Joshua was tempted with thoughts of discouragement. However, God spoke these encouraging words to Joshua: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9).
When you are overwhelmed with feelings of discouragement, put your trust in God, for the Lord is with you, just as powerfully and faithfully as He was with Joshua. Take these steps to victory, “that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:7).