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.