Before we go directly to the issue of easy discouragement, I'd like to comment on the reality of discouragement. There's this false idea that Christians are immune from being discouraged.
- Your house burns down and you have no insurance? Hallelujah, praise the Lord anyways!
- You've just been informed that you have cancer? Nothing to worry about, God won't put anything on me that I can't handle.
- Your Christian brother has lost his wife and is very depressed?Get in there and cheer him up, he'll see her in heaven some day.
There is this unhealthy and unbiblical push to deny the very real truth that sometimes life is very sad, very difficult, very very discouraging. Of course we want to hope for a better day, relief from our sorrows, a happy ending, but when these are slow in coming or don't come at all - it is natural to feel discouraged.
Some people actually feel guilty because they feel they ought never to feel discouraged as Christians. Solomon said there was a time for everything and that includes discouragement. Discouragement is a natural feeling caused by adversity.
The key is to not allow this feeling to lead you into a loss of faith or hope or love.
Being easily discouraged is different than simply being discouraged. Being discouraged is a feeling that comes with renewed failure, consistent adversity, repeated rejection and loss. Being easily discouraged is becoming negative and unsure at the first sign of trouble; it's giving up without even making an effort. These two sound the same but are really different problems and require different approaches to resolve.
Overcoming discouragement requires less the adjustment of our attitude and more the adjustment of our approach. It's natural to feel discouraged if we're rejected or fail at something or are burdened with too much:
- Emotional stimulus
Feeling discouraged is our body's way of telling us we may be outmatched, outnumbered. Whatever is before us is more than we can handle (for some reason) and the discouragement we feel is our body's way of registering that fact.
Sometimes we have to go a long time before we feel this way. We've gone 8 or 9 rounds with the project, the illness, the relationship, the problem…before we start feeling discouraged. But when it comes, that feeling signals the fact that we may not be winning or succeeding regardless of our best efforts and strategies and prayers.
Here are three things to do when we are genuinely and rightfully discouraged by the situation we find ourselves in, or facing another round with a difficult opponent.
In some situations such as marriage or leadership roles, where a deep commitment is made and necessary, some of our problem may be that we're getting shaky in our commitment and it's affecting our actions.
Christians, who have a lifetime commitment, often get discouraged along the way because they secretly begin to doubt and as a result their commitment wavers and so does their ability to follow the Way.
Do I believe or not; am I going to follow through or not; till death do us part or not?
Many times a re-commitment to our core values will send a shot of adrenalin through the entire system which will in turn enable us to succeed where we once failed, or give us the strength to accept the situation or failure we have encountered, in a positive and hopeful way.
Only a fool will continue repeating the same methods when they repeatedly fail. When we're in the heat of battle we think, "If I just try a little harder, I'll win the day." So we exert more pressure, more energy, more will-power and still fail…and of course feel discouraged.
Hopefully, before we wear out and burn up all of our resources, discouragement will make us step back and look at ourselves rather than our problem. Many times the trouble is with us, the problem is our approach, solution, attitude.
This is a good time to ask for help, for a second opinion - Solomon said,
"Without consultation plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed." Proverbs 15:22.
Many times our discouragements are, as the great writer once said, "Much ado about nothing." We either overreact over small matters or get run over by a freight train of trouble we couldn't stop no matter how hard we tried.
Either way, we become emotionally exhausted and spiritually spent leading to that queasy feeling of discouragement. Our fatigue becomes our worse enemy because it makes us unable to deal with other issues leading to further discouragement and despair. We have to learn to relax (yes relaxing is a "learned" ability). Here are a few things you have to know in order to learn how to relax:
Know when to take a break.
- Unbroken effort leads to strain and loss of perspective.
- Allow yourself a "time-out" from your problem, challenge, whatever so you can regain your perspective.
- When I'm behind in my study or my lesson is just not coming together, I let it go and do something completely different for awhile before I come back to it.
- Jesus often took His disciples away to a quiet spot so they could recharge.
Know your limits.
- Every person has a "burn-out" point. It's different with each one.
- Discouragement is a yellow warning light that you're getting close to yours.
- Don't extend your limits, it will not help your discouragement nor will it solve your problems.
Know who is in charge.
- Much discouragement is the result of human effort without reference to God's presence.
- We push and we try and we grit our teeth but the rock of our discouragement won't move.
- And yet Jesus said, "If you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it shall move. And nothing shall be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20
Relax and remember to take a break realizing that you are a weak human being and that in the end God's will must be done I your life. And so discouragements will come because there is always adversity in life, but when discouragement comes: re-commit to your basic core values and beliefs; re-examine yourself and be ready to try a new approach; learn to relax - God is still in charge, He will give you the victory or the courage to live with loss - all according to your faith and trust in Him.
2. Being Easily Discouraged
As I said before, being easily discouraged is a different problem than being discouraged. Discouragement is a natural byproduct of repeated failure or on-going problems. Easy discouragement has a different source and cause. People become easily discouraged because they lack:
A. Core values and beliefs greater than themselves.
You see, what enables a person to persevere despite discouragement is usually the fact that they hold to a belief or value system greater than themselves. People die for their country, their ideals, to protect their home and family, as a witness of their faith. When discouragement comes, they look to their beliefs and values to sustain them and comfort them and motivate them to press on.
In Matthew 13:1-23, Jesus explains this principle in light of the Christian faith using the parable of the Sower and the seed.
3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear."
- Matthew 13:3-9
Note the seed on rocky places comes up fairly quickly, there's shallow dirt so the plant has to break through to survive, having no deep root system.
20 The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.
- Matthew 13:20-21
Immediately falling away is "easily discouraged." Why? No firm root within. In gardening, if the plant has no extensive root system to find water in dry times - it will dry up and die. In human terms the "root system" is our core system of faith, a faith that has broken the surface of our hard, sinful hearts and established itself firmly within us.
People can do the easy stuff of religion like go to church, enjoy the fellowship, hear the good news of heaven, receive ministry.
But when the hard stuff comes along like...
- Resisting fleshly lusts
- Doing the right thing, even if it costs us
- Serving others despite the inconvenience
- Persevering through difficult trials
…someone whose faith is only skin deep, who doesn't base decisions on their convictions about Christ - this person will become easily discouraged.
Another reason for easy discouragement is:
B. Self Reliance
If you're often easily discouraged, one reason may be that you rely on yourself too much. The Psalmists said of the Israelites,
"For by their own sword they did not possess the land and their own arm did not save them. But Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy presence, for Thou didst favor them."
- Psalm 44:3
Self-reliance, self-made, self-sufficiency is man's greatest goal and his greatest delusion. The Psalmists put this concept into perspective when speaking of man's position in regards to God in the matter of supplying needs:
"..For His loving kindness is everlasting who gives food to all flesh."
- Psalm 136:25
"..My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my position forever."
- Psalm 73:26
People who have only themselves to rely on, or rely only on human wisdom (doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc.) quickly lose heart when they realize how puny, how futile human wisdom and strength are. Oh, some may persevere for communism or laugh unrepentingly in the face of death caused by their AIDS - but they are simply more deluded than the rest. People who don't know God and His word are easily discouraged when their mask of self-reliance is quickly ripped off by a sudden calamity.
The final cause of easy discouragement is
I go back to Jesus' parable of the sower and the seed.
And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
- Matthew 13:22
Notice that what cost this person his soul was not some great immorality or a lot of adversity - he was distracted. He allowed the normal things that clamor for attention to divert his attention from where it should be. The word "worry" or "cares" in some Bibles comes from a Greek word which means to separate, to divert, to distract. He allowed the riches of this world to give him the false impression that they were worthy of his attention.
The net result was that he became focused on the wrong things and consequently the word; the Sprit; the kingdom began to lose its influence and power in and over him. One of the fruits of the Spirit is perseverance. We are left to conclude that when adversity did come, he quickly became discouraged in Christ because he had lost his focus.
The danger of so much "busyness" in the world is that it leads us to distraction and distraction ultimately leads to discouragement.
Discouragement is normal.
- It's our emotional alarm that we are fighting a losing battle.
There are things to do in cases of legitimate discouragement.
- Re-examine your core beliefs and reasons for where you're at.
- Re-commit to valid promises.
- Relax, let go and let God.
Being easily discouraged is not normal. Often caused by:
- Lack of core values/beliefs.
- Self reliance
One main thing to do to overcome easy discouragement:
Focus and stay focused on God's word.
- It will instill a bed-rock faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior - Romans 10:17.
- It will reveal God's eternal promises that will provide comfort and hope in every time of your life - Ephesians 1:3-14.
- It will help you remain focused and fruitful as you await the return of Jesus Christ - Matthew 13:23 (the seed sown in the lowest heart bearing fruit).
- Focus and stay focused on God's word.
If this is your problem and you want to do something concrete to overcome - commit yourself to becoming a regular Bible reader and see how your life will begin to change because of it.