I honestly don’t believe anyone chooses discouragement. Though I do think it’s possible to choose to stay there. Strangely, I often feel “blind-sided” by discouragement; I am generally positive, confident and optimistic even when faced with difficulties. This was exactly the case recently, as I struggled to identify the oppression I felt. It took a few days to realize that the Lord invited me on a walk through discouragement. You may wonder why I chose expressing a walk through discouragement as an “invitation” from God. It’s simple, God wastes nothing in our lives. In His sovereignty He redeems every single event, experience, situation and tear for our good and His glory.
He does not author everything we encounter, but nothing touches us that He does not permit. Every human enemy or tragedy sifts through His hands and goes only so far, and lasts only so long. Not even the enemy of our souls has liberty to attack and oppress us; his chain only extends as far as God exacts. Howard Hendricks accurately said, “Discouragement is the anesthetic that the devil uses on a person just before he reaches in and carves out his heart.” Does that sound as sobering to you as it does to me? Does it bring new meaning to the description of the devil in I Peter 5:8? It also cemented in my mind the reason for God’s invitation to take a walk through discouragement.
I must say, until recently I viewed discouragement as rather benign. Everyone gets discouraged from time to time and eventually shakes it off. It’s just a bump in the road on an otherwise routine journey. Little did I know, this invitation to take a walk through discouragement was actually a walk behind enemy lines. I believe God intended for my eyes to see why discouragement is the most effective tool of the enemy.
Of course God promises never to leave us nor forsake us, (Hebrews 13:5) and was present with me at other times of discouragement. But this time He chose to make His presence known while opening the eyes of my understanding. Previously, it seemed as though I could not find Him until I came out on the other side. This time He guided me. He allowed me to experience the darkness, confusion and disillusionment of the lies so subtly planted. He watched as fear took hold and just as my unbelief began to render familiar promises ineffective, stepped in and revealed the truth to me through His Word.
the dangers of discouragement
Generally stated, discouragement is a loss of perspective. Viewing it that way, is the reason I believe no one really chooses discouragement. We don’t intentionally choose to see things incorrectly. Alternatively, we can choose to keep the incorrect perspective, which is where the danger lies. Discouragement is based in lies, that’s why we lose perspective. It’s also the reason why discouragement is dangerous. Discouragement not only clouds our view of the situation, it robs us of the very tools to defeat it.
I think that’s what makes the quote by Howard Hendricks so powerful. Discouragement’s effect on us is anesthetizing; it literally paralyzes us, keeping us from moving in the direction we headed previously. Since we can’t move forward, fear sets in, we second guess if we should move forward. Lies cloud our judgement, confusion results and we lose hope. Discouragement fosters unbelief rendering the promises of God ineffective. Which is exactly the point; we become weak, fearful, confused and unarmed. In a word, “DEFEATED”.
One alarming side of discouragement is confusion; it almost feels like insanity. You begin questioning things you never questioned before and can’t determine which way to go. That’s how it felt to me for several days. I tried to step back and remind myself of God’s calling on my life, of all of the reasons for my ministry, yet it all somehow rang hollow, empty. Naturally I prayed, I sought clarity, direction, but the lies appeared more real than the truth. Finally, I determined I had no words and chose Psalm 27 and prayed those words as my own. That’s when my faith became sight.
I distinguished the lies and covered them with truth. Each step brought more light until the discouragement disappeared. Psalm 27 isn’t magic, or the only portion of scripture designed to dispel discouragement. But it did reveal to me the source of my own discouragement and the lies that fueled it.
Psalm 27-The Lord is My Light and My Salvation
- Verse 1 reminded me that the Lord is my light, my salvation and my stronghold, I had nothing to fear. I am helpless to defeat discouragement in my own strength.
- Verses 2 and 3 showed me enemies and dark battles come, evil will arise, but it is they, not me that will fall, and because of verse one, I have confidence.
- Verse 4 centered my desire on Christ; Him would I seek, freely dwelling with Him, inquiring of Him. Beholding His beauty; with my heart set on these things, my vision cleared.
- Verse 5 reminded me that in times of trouble Christ would hide me, set me on a rock, I could rest in His perfect protection at all times. I could cease striving, struggling, trying to get it “right”.
- Verse 6 spoke of the triumph over my enemies that He gives, and the praise I offer as a result. He would lift my head, He would bring the victory.
- Verse 7 encouraged me to cry out to Him and know He hears. I need not hesitate when confused and lost in discouragement to call to Him.
- Verse 8 was the most beautiful for me. The psalm urges the reader to “seek God’s face”. The reader responds “my heart will seek your face”. The Hebrew renders it “my face will seek your face”. The very thought of His face looking into my face transforms discouragement into intimacy.
- Verse 9 is the realization of what life offers when His face is hidden. Feeling His displeasure at disobedience. The remembrance of His salvation keeps me seeking Him when I lose my way in discouragement.
- Verse 10 no matter who forsakes me, even my own family, He will welcome me. No matter how isolated I feel, He will receive me.
- Verse 11 seeking Him to teach me His way, and to lead me in a plain path. When I lose my way, and can’t see forward, He will guide me.
- Verse 12 He hears my pleas for rescue from those that slander and seek to do evil to me. He is my help when I am under attack.
- Verse 13 reminded me that I would faint, I would fall, without belief in His goodness all around me.
- Verse 14 the ultimate promise in a walk through discouragement, wait on Him, my light and my salvation. He will come, He will strengthen, He will not forget me.
a walk through discouragement
Taking a walk through discouragement with God as my guide showed me how dangerous discouragement is to the believer. It opened my eyes to how vulnerable I am to discouragement and the need to recognize it quickly. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think anyone chooses discouragement, but they do choose to stay there. When that happens, the results render us spiritually ineffective. Our relationship with God becomes distant, our service sidelined and our emotional well-being shaken.
The sooner we recognize discouragement, the sooner we can cry out for God’s help. The truth of God’s Word is the only remedy against the lies of discouragement planted by the evil one. Discouragement is far from “benign”, it is a powerful weapon meant to destroy both us and our work for God’s Kingdom. Discouragement is rooted in unbelief and must be counterattacked with the Word of God. Yes, we may feel weak and helpless, but we must not yield. We can turn to the Word of God and pray those words back to God, believing He is our strength and portion forever. And in so doing, our soul is revived, our faith strengthened and satan defeated.
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