Saturday, February 26, 2011

Digging Out of Discouragement

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” Ps. 42:5a

We all get discouraged from time to time. Life is just plain hard at times, whether this comes from troubled relationships, health issues, or merely the “hassles” of life such as mounting bills, a computer failure, or a cancelled flight. Sometimes we find ourselves discouraged, or even depressed, and not really know why. Our emotions can be a weird thing!

So, what do we do? How do we dig ourselves out of discouragement? Let me offer six suggestions:

1. Speak truth to your soul.

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Ps. 42:11

When the psalmist says, “put your hope in God,” it is as if he is speaking truth to his soul – “come on soul, put your hope in God. You can do it.” I get the feeling this was an act of his will. He probably did not feel this inward excitement to trust God. After all, he already told us he was confused as to why his soul was downcast. He was discouraged and didn’t know why. However, as an act of his will he talked to himself. And he talked truth to himself.

There was a popular book years ago titled, “Telling Yourself the Truth.” This title says it all: we need to tell our self the truth when we are discouraged. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Speak to yourself the truth about God, your identity in Christ, forgiveness, life, heaven, etc. Do this until you feel different. I had a counselor tell me once, “Act your way into a new way of feeling.” This doesn’t mean you fake it and live a plastic life, but what it does mean is sometimes you have to will to do something that will help, even when you don’t feel like it.

2. Give thanks.

I realize this sounds like a cliché, but bear with me here. Recently our pastor introduced communion by sharing a neat insight on Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. The bible says, “On the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus took break, and after giving thanks….”(1 Cor. 11:23). Did you catch that? He gave thanks on the night He was betrayed. When someone close to you betrays you, giving thanks is not the thing you naturally want to do. Yet, this is exactly what Jesus did. We are not told what He gave thanks for, but there is always something to thank God for, regardless of our circumstances or emotions. Therefore, make the choice to rejoice and put on an attitude of gratitude, especially when discouraged, and see what a difference it makes! “In all things give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18).

3. Dwell on God’s character.

Here is faith at its finest. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebr. 11:1). Focusing on God’s amazing attributes will get our eyes off our selves and onto the One who is most able to strengthen and help us. Give praise to God that He is eternal, strong, loving, faithful, gracious, unchanging, forgiving, and patient.

Notice in this Psalm how this is exactly what he does to encourage himself in the midst of being downcast: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan … “(Ps. 42:5). Be sure to remember God!

4. Fight the fight of faith.

Living for Christ is a battle. We fight with the world, the flesh, and the Devil. On top of that, we are aliens and strangers in a place that is not our true home. We can retreat or stand up and fight. I suggest it is time we make war! Ask God to give you a warrior spirit to fight against that besetting sin, anxiety, fear, and depression. Stand up and claim the victory that is rightfully yours. Don’t sit there and let Satan beat you up. Get up, receive God’s forgiveness, and move forward. Satan gets one victory if he can knock you down, but he gets a greater victory if you stay down. God is all about picking us up and encouraging us to get back on the field to finish the game. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12).

5. Ask others to pray.

One of the biggest temptations when discouraged is to isolate your self. We often don’t want to be around others. We want to be alone and sulk in our depression. But what we need to do is ask others to pray for us. Paul did this in 2 Cor. 1 when he said, “we were burdened beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life …. and you helped us by your prayers” (2 Cor. 1:8, 11). He opened himself up by talking about his pain, and as a result, others prayed, and he benefited from their prayers. Avail yourself of the power of prayer from others. God gives grace to the humble, and it takes humility to admit to others that you are in pain.

6. Take physical care of yourself.

The Bible does say to “love others as you love your self.” One way to properly, and not selfishly love your self, is to exercise and eat right. There is an unavoidable connection between our spirit, soul, and body. If you are seriously depressed, one of the first things you should do is schedule a physical with your doctor. There may be a chemical imbalance or other medical issues that need attention. I find it interesting that the way God dealt with Elijah’s discouragement was telling him to “get up and eat” (1 Kings 19:5).

Once again, it is normal to go through times of discouragement, doubt, and even depression. Living for Christ is not easy in the least. Do not beat yourself up for being downcast, but do take steps to dig out! God is the lifter of your head. He wants to help you in your time of need!