Coping with Discouragement (Jeremiah 29:11)
Life can be discouraging at times. The raise you deserve doesn’t come through. Your diet isn’t working. You never seem to find time to exercise. Problems in your marriage are getting worse. Your car is making funny noises, but you can’t afford repair bills at the moment. Working all day and going to college at night is turning out to be harder than expected. Your daughter was caught using drugs at school. Your adult son has drifted away from the church. College has changed your only child, and not for the better. We all struggle with discouraging circumstances like these all the time.
To be discouraged is to feel hopeless, gloomy, dejected, or downhearted over circumstances in your life. Discouragement can sap you of your enthusiasm for life and rob you of your confidence. Prolonged discouragement can lead to depression. Because we live in a fallen world, occasional bouts of discouragement are unavoidable. While it is true that we often contribute to our own problems by making bad choices, discouraging circumstances are not always the result of our bad choices. Sometimes they are caused by factors over which we have no control. Consequently, it is important to know how to deal with discouragement in ways that will restore your enthusiasm for the life God has given you.
SCRIPTURE IN ACTION: AN EXAMPLE
Victor could not remember feeling so discouraged. It seemed as if nothing was going right in his life. When the company he works for was sold to a new owner, Victor’s job became a nightmare. Whereas the previous owner treated employees like family, the new owner treats them like cattle. Every day is a dog-eat-dog competition among his coworkers to stay in the good graces of the new owner. The alternative is losing one’s job.
Coming in early, working late, and taking work home on weekends is robbing Victor of the time he needs for his family, home maintenance, yard work, exercise, and leisure. His weight has increased by fifteen pounds, his yard hasn’t been mowed in a month, the kitchen sink is stopped up, he can’t remember the last time he exercised, and his wife has taken to calling him “stranger.” To make matters worse, Victor’s daughter and her husband have separated and are talking about divorce. His son—an Army Ranger—has just been deployed to Afghanistan. Victor feels despondent and hopeless. He is physically and emotional drained, but sees no relief in sight.
Teetering on the verge of depression, Victor decided to approach his pastor for counseling. Pastor Tom was already familiar with some of Victor’s discouraging circumstances so it came as no surprise when his senior deacon knocked on his office door. Not only are Victor and Tom pastor and deacon, but they are also good friends and have been for years. Consequently, Victor can be completely open with Pastor Tom.
Pastor Tom, in turn, can be forthright with Victor. “Victor, right now you are bogged down in the mud and weeds of your daily life. At ground level, things look pretty bad to you. What we have to do is get you out of the mud and weeds so you can gain a better perspective on the problems that are causing your discouragement. So, let me begin with the bad news. Discouraging circumstances are an unavoidable part of life in a fallen world. Since we cannot avoid discouragement, the key is to learn to cope with it in ways that are positive, uplifting, and beneficial.
“Now for the good news. God is aware of your discouragement and is ready to walk you through it. Victor, in your darkest moments, God is right beside you. Better yet He has a plan for you and it’s bigger than all of the problems and concerns the world is placing in your path. This is the message in Jeremiah 29:11 where the Lord declares He has plans for you and those plans will give you hope and a better future. This verse provides the bottom line when it comes to coping with discouragement. God’s plan for you is bigger than the problems that are weighing you down.”
Pastor Tom told Victor that one of the mistakes he had been making in dealing with discouragement was trying to face it alone. “Victor, you have too much on your plate to go it alone. Ask God to help you. I assure you He will. This is the message in 1 Peter 5:7 where we are told to place our troubles at God’s feet because He cares for us. As for your new boss, that situation will eventually take care of itself. People like him eventually trip over their own shirttails.
“Be patient and remember what it says in Romans 8:31: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ God is on your side, Victor. Trust in him and be patient. Things will eventually change at work or a better job may come your way. Only God knows how that situation is going to resolve itself. Let it be enough for you to know that God knows. Accept this in faith and be patient. When work seems overwhelming and worries for your son’s safety overcomes you, turn to Deuteronomy 31:8 and read. This verse promises that the Lord will always be with you and never forsake you. Consequently, you have no need to be afraid or dispirited. In fact, Victor, it would be a good idea for you to memorize this verse. It will give you something to hold onto in your darker moments.”
Victor went to Pastor Tom one better. He looked up the verses his friend had shared with him, copied them down on a sheet of paper, and memorized all four of them. Then whenever discouragement overtook him, Victor repeated one of the verses and sometimes all of them over and over until he got his feet back under him and could move forward. Not only that, he gave several of his coworkers who were struggling with discouragement the same advice and the same verses Pastor Tom gave him. Once Victor began placing his problems at God’s feet, they didn’t go away but they did become less difficult to cope with.
As Pastor Tom predicted, Victor’s new boss eventually tripped up. When several employees who had been fired filed lawsuits claiming wrongful termination and won, he sold the company. The new owner was much like the original owner who treated employees well. Soon things at work settled down for Victor and his coworkers. Once that happened, he had time to once again maintain his home, exercise, and even enjoy some leisure time with his wife. But the biggest burden was lifted from his shoulders when his son returned from Afghanistan safe and sound.
Victor was able to put discouragement behind him but was quick to admit he hadn’t done it alone. It was only when he left his burdens at God’s feet that he was able to regain the emotional equilibrium to function from day to day without a dark cloud of discouragement hovering over him. Victor knows there will be additional discouragements in his life. He knows his son may once again be deployed to Afghanistan or some other dangerous locale. But now he also knows how to cope with discouraging circumstances in ways that enhance his daily walk with the Lord. With God at his side, Victor feels able to face whatever life puts in his path.
LESSONS FROM SCRIPTURE FOR YOUR DAILY WALK
To enhance your daily walk with the Lord, learn from Victor’s experiences and the advice he received from Pastor Tom. There are important lessons in Victor’s story. The first lesson is that when you feel discouraged it is important to remember that God has a plan for you. His is a plan for your good, a plan that provides hope for a better future (Jeremiah 29:11). It is easy to get so wrapped up in your own plans—plans that don’t always work out—that you forget there is a bigger and better plan at work in your life. When you feel discouraged, step back from the problems that are causing you pain and ask God to reveal His plan to you. The things that are discouraging you now might actually be part of his plan.
The second lesson from Victor’s story is that you should never try to go it alone in coping with discouragement. The problems you face may be bigger than you—hence your discouragement—but they aren’t bigger than God. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast our anxieties on God who cares for us. Ask the Lord to take your hand and walk with you through your dark days. With the Lord at your side, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is Christ.
The third lesson from Victor’s story is that other people are often the cause of your discouragement. When this is the case, it is important to remember that no matter who they happen to be, God is bigger than they are. This is the message in Romans 8:31 where we read “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The person or persons causing your discouragement may appear to have power over you, but their power—no matter what its source may be—is nothing compared to the power of God. Put your faith, trust, and hope in God when others are making you feel discouraged.
The final lesson in Victor’s story is that no matter how dark things seem for you now, you have the help of a God who will never leave or forsake you. Consequently, you need not be dismayed, discouraged, or distraught. This is the message in Deuteronomy 31:8. Instead, be patient and put your faith in the Lord. He knows you are struggling and why. No matter how dark things may seem, you have the Holy Spirit beside you to provide all the help you will ever need. All you have to do is call on the Lord in prayer.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com