Overcoming Discouragement

Discouragement happens for a variety of reasons. Maybe that’s why it’s addressed so frequently in the Bible.

  • Job was discouraged because of his family and friends. (Book of Job)
  • Elijah became discouraged after a huge victory. (1 Kings 19)
  • Jeremiah was discouraged with God. (Lamentations 3)
  • Jesus’s disciples were discouraged after his death. (Luke 24:20-21)
  • Peter was discouraged with himself. (Matthew 26)

The insight gained from these individuals along with other Scripture gives us valuable instruction for dealing with our own discouragement.

Honestly acknowledge feelings. This happens with all of the individuals listed above. Being honest with yourself is crucial for opening your mind and spirit to encouragement and hope. In fact, it may just be the first requirement for transitioning from being discouraged to being encouraged.

Take care of yourself physically. God sets the example for this with Elijah. Before addressing Elijah’s discouragement, God makes sure Elijah is nourished, hydrated, and rested. We simply cannot overcome discouragement without taking care of ourselves physically too.

Think about what you’re thinking about. Both Jeremiah and Elijah do this, and we are encouraged to do so as well both through their examples and through other Scripture that addresses our thought lives.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Retrain your brain. This is especially important if discouragement has become like a shadow. Retraining your brain essentially involves cleaning out unhelpful thought patterns and replacing them with ones that promote growth and open you up to encouragement.

A mindset that is able to ward off continued discouragement is one that acknowledges and accepts that life is hard and that focuses on knowing that God will create value and purpose out of what you’re going through.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-18)

“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14)

Press in close to God. Life is hard. People disappoint. And, God’s ways aren’t always clear or make sense. Pressing close to God acknowledges your trust in him regardless of circumstances.

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” (Nahum 1:7)

Chase out negative feelings. Getting rid of negativity is important, but it only works long term if we replace it with thankfulness.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

When I get discouraged, I revisit the stories in the Bible of others who also experienced discouragement as well as the many verses that speak to how to defeat a mindset of discouragement. Doing so reminds me of God’s activity as well as gives me specific ways to move away from a mindset of negativity and discouragement and toward one of hope and peace in Him.

The Avenger

The Avengers

One of my family’s current favorite movies is The Avengers. We even have all the related movies (The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man & Iron Man 2, and Thor), and we like to watch the series to make connections between the different stories.

An altruistic super-soldier fights alongside a narcissistic man of iron. An immortal god joins forces with an angry, seemingly indestructible, mutated scientist. And two uniquely skilled humans operate with seemingly fearless intensity. Together, the are considered “The Avengers“?

To “avenge” means taking vengeance or exacting satisfaction for some perceived wrong. Quite often, vengeance comes for someone on behalf of another, such as when The Avengers unite to defeat the narcissistic, power hungry Loki.

Vengeance involves inflicting harm, injury or humiliation on someone who has harmed another. Vengeance is at times also described as “violent revenge.”

We enjoy fictional stories like The Avengers, I think in part, because we find comfort in the idea of a hero coming to our rescue when all otherwise seems lost. This type of story connects with us at a deeper level and goes to a part of us that wants to know we can survive impossible odds.

In addition to being entertaining with action and humor, The Avengers satisfies a deeper need in all of us to know someone is keeping us safe. We like the idea of a hero willing to protect us at all costs, one willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good.

While Captain America may be called “The First Avenger” in Hollywood, Christians know that isn’t true. Let’s explore that fact further.

The Avenger

The character of God is vast and awesome. I often find myself completely stupefied as I contemplate all of what scripture says He is. God never changes (Hebrews 13:8). God is love (1 John 4:8). God is patient (2 Peter 3:9). God is light 1 John 1:5). God is healer and redeemer (Psalm 103). God is the creator, and He is everlasting (Isaiah 40:28).

AND God is vengeful and jealous. Wait! What?

3-2-13 Nahum 2The LORD is a jealous and vengeful God; the LORD is vengeful and strong in wrath. The LORD is vengeful against his foes; he rages against his enemies. The LORD is very patient but great in power; the LORD punishes. His way is in whirlwind and storm; clouds are the dust of his feet. He can blast the sea and make it dry up; he can dry up all the rivers. Bashan and Carmel wither; the bud of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake because of him; the hills melt away. The earth heaves before him— the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can confront the heat of his fury? His wrath pours out like fire; the rocks are shattered because of him. The LORD is good, a haven in a day of distress. He acknowledges those who take refuge in him. With a rushing flood, he will utterly destroy her place and pursue his enemies into darkness. (Nahum 1:2-8)

I love to think of all of who God is until I come to vengeful and jealous. I struggle with this. But, I also realize that it’s as much a part of who He is as are all His other character traits.

Yes, God is THE Avenger. He caused the walls of Jericho to fall at the trumpet blast (Joshua 6). He caused the armies of 3 nations surrounding Jeoshaphat and the Israelites to fight themselves instead of attacking the Israelites (2 Chronicles 20). God caused the altars to be completely consumed even though they were drenched with water in Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). The Old Testaments holds story after story of supernatural victory over the enemies of God’s people.

What’s more, scripture clearly indicates over and over again that God will avenge all evil.

“Celebrate, nations, join the praise of his people. He avenges the deaths of his servants, pays back his enemies with vengeance, and cleanses his land for his people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43)

“Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” (Luke 18:6-8)

“Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’” (Romans 12:17-19)

When evil overwhelms, when dishonest people seem to prosper, and when all hope for this world seems lost, I need to remember all the times God has avenged His people and all the promises He has for doing so again in the future.

DISCUSSION: So much could be said about God as The Avenger. What does this aspect of His character do for your perspective?

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