One day, Satan decided to have a yard sale in order to purge a number of his tools. There were envy, deceit, malice, sensuality, enmity, thoughtlessness and many other tools that he had used successfully (priced very low). One piece, however, Satan priced very high. It bore the label… Discouragement.
“Why do you want so much for this tool?” asked a shopper.
“This tool,” replied the old tempter, “has always been my most useful one. You can see it has had more wear than the rest. I use it as a wedge to get into a man’s mind when all other means fail. Practically every human being has had this tool used on him, although very few know that I’m the one wielding it.” As it worked out, none could afford the price Satan demanded for Discouragement … so he is still using it to this day.
Defined as: “to lose courage, confidence and energy; having run out of strength, patience, or endurance; a lack of inner drive and motivation,” discouragement is felt by all.
The New Testament describes it: “to faint” or “grow weary” (II Cor 4:1, 16; Luke 18:1).
Although we all experience discouragement, few know the root causes.
The 4 root causes of discouragement are:
- Fear – the expectation and apprehension of impending danger; dread or anxiety. Someone once defined fear as: “False evidence appearing real” (Psalms 53:5). Fear makes us weak (Hab 3:16). It paralyzes (Job 32:6).
- Fatigue – (Neh 4:10) Fatigue affects us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It is commonly called BURNOUT. It occurs when we have depleted our strengths and have no reservoirs from which to draw more strength.
- Frustration – (Ezra 4:4-5) When our to-do list is longer than we can handle and the unfinished tasks far outnumber the completed ones. When trivial matters or distractions interrupt and keep us from completing essential tasks, frustration can set in. Frustration leads to a loss of moral (Isaiah 19:3), burnout (Hebrews 12:3), and rash actions (Acts 19:36), and may eventually lead to discouragement.
- Feeling alone, abandoned or forsaken (Matt 27:46).
- Failure – sometimes your best intentions fail (Exodus 18:18, Neh 4:10).
The enemy uses discouragement to keep us ineffective for the Kingdom. God uses the discouragement test to transform us into powerful warriors!
What is the purpose of the discouragement test?
To cause one to find joy in God, not just circumstances.
To show that we are not self-sufficient—we need God and people.
To show our motivation—whether for self-glory or the glory of God.
To allow opportunity for OTHERS to minister.
To teach us to “wait” upon the Lord to renew our strength.
How to pass the discouragement test:
“Faith must always pass the test of discouragement.” TD Jakes
Take responsibility (I Sam 30:6)! When faced with discouragement, we often look to others to lift us up. When they don’t, we get angry. We need to go to God on our own. We need to go to the well daily, and be refreshed by the water of the Word. It might not “feel” like we are accomplishing anything at first. However, as we plant the seed of God’s truth in our heart and as the Holy Spirit waters that seed, eventually, our feelings will catch up with truth. You need to do what is right despite how you are feeling.
Take hold unto the promises of God (I Peter 5:12). Claim and cling to one or more of the 8000 promises written in God’s Word.
Take time to listen for God’s voice (I Kings 19:12-13).
Take time to rest! Take time to eat properly! Our bodies need sleep, food and times of relaxation. If you are burning the proverbial “candle” at both ends, you will, most likely, not pass the test (I Kings 19:1-10).
Take some time to reorganize your life. Evaluate how you spend your time, energy and resources. Prioritize. Even things that we consider “good” may still not be the best choice. For example, being active in your local church is a good thing, being active in your community is a good thing, having your kids involved in extra-curricular activities is a good thing; but, if we become overwhelmed with too many “good things,” we miss the “best” places God had intended for us to serve. Ask God to show you where He wants you to be and where He wants you to step back. Ask Him to give you wisdom as you pick events and activities for your family. Separate the essential activities from the nonessential. It is okay to say “no” sometimes. Maybe, rather than doing 10 things tired, we can focus on 2 or 3 areas where we can serve with energy and God-ordained focus and strength. As ministry leaders, ask yourself, “What tasks can I delegate to others?” Others may do thing differently than you, but more gets accomplished. As leaders, empowering others to serve is necessary if we are to be good stewards of our time, energy, and purpose.
Make sure to stay connected to your home church (Hebs 10:25).
Never forget the power of PRAYER (Neh 4:3-4)!
“When a problem forces you to pray, then it has achieved its goal.” Anonymous
When facing discouragement, prayer gives us assurance by plugging us into our power and energy source—GOD (Isaiah 40:28-31)! Prayer assures that God is still in charge and that He knows more about the situation than we do. It assures that every storm will end, and that God has not forgotten us. Prayer assures that He still has a job for us to do, even though we may feel discouraged and beaten down. It helps us to plough ahead and not quit.
“The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.’ “ Billy Graham
We will face discouraging situations, but feeling discouraged is a choice.*
Will we allow the enemy to use discouragement as a weapon against us, or will we allow God to use it as a test to strengthen us?
*Discouragement is not the same as depression. Depression can be a result of medical issues and does require treatment.