Battling Discouragement

We all battle discouragement throughout our life. It might come about because of a situation we are dealing with or something we see on the news. Sometimes it cannot even be explained, we just wake up one morning and feel discouraged. When it comes, it hits us like a wave and floods our soul with grief, worry, and hopelessness. It can quickly debilitate us and cause us to lose our passion and drive. How can we battle such a deadly enemy?

In Psalm 42, the Psalmist is experiencing deep angst and discouragement:

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

The Psalmist is facing tremendous turmoil. He’s discouraged and depressed. He’s been crying day and night (v.3) and pouring out his soul (v.4). Notice what he does next…he talks to himself by asking, “Why are you cast down?” He then encourages himself by speaking truth to his own soul.

Remind Yourself of Truth

One might think that talking to themselves is a sign of insanity. While that could be true, Psalm 42 shows it’s also a way to battle discouragement by reminding ourselves of truth. Consider the words of the powerful preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?…The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul, ‘Why art thou cast down? What business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself, ‘Hope thou in God’ instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then, you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, what God has done, and what God has pledged himself to do.”

What is Truth?

In Psalm 42, the Psalmist reminds himself that God is his salvation and has commanded his love toward us. Likewise, we remind ourselves of the truth of the Gospel. We remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness and fatherly care for us. If it’s true that God saved us and continues to love us, then we always have hope, even during the dark nights of the soul.

If you have been born again, you are a child of God. Your eternity is secure and your present and future are in the hands of a loving, sovereign Father.  That gives us hope, and that hope is not shattered by difficulties in our life, rather it helps us endure. “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:24-25).

However, this reminder doesn’t immediately make the Psalmist feel better.  He continues to ask God questions like “Why have you forgotten me?” It’s clear he’s still battling discouragement and hopeless feelings. Yet, despite his feelings, he ends the Psalm with encouragement: “Hope in God: for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Don’t Trust Your Feelings

Be aware that as we remind ourselves of truth, we may not feel it. Our feelings cannot always be trusted and they can lead us astray. They can take us down a dark path where there is no help. They set our thoughts on the hypothetical situation where there is no grace. Our feelings can be based on things which are not true, thus they tempt us to trust in what we see instead of what God has spoken. That’s why we must meditate and remind ourselves of things that are true (Phil. 4:8). Keep preaching the truth of God’s Word to yourself until your feelings are shaped by that truth.

Keep Fighting

As you battle against discouragement, there will be times where you preach the truth to yourself and see an immediate change in your disposition. Praise God for these instant victories! However, there will also be times when the battle wages on much longer. You might preach truth to yourself hoping to see your discouragement surrender, but it only regroups to attack again. Just because you don’t see a “quick fix,” don’t stop reminding yourself of the truth of who we are in Christ. Continue to wage war using the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

Here are some encouraging truths from Scripture to remind yourself as you battle:

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” -Psalm 55:22

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” -2 Corinthians 4:8-9

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” -John 14:1

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” -Romans 8:31-34

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