How to Handle Discouragement God’s Way

5 Mins read

All of us deal with times of discouragement. Whether it’s because of issues that we experience in our jobs, family relationships or friendships, there are plenty of things in our lives that can leave us discouraged. Even if everything is going well in those areas, there are plenty of discouraging events taking place around us every day. With mask mandates, social distancing, personal isolation and other pandemic-related setbacks seemingly taking place daily, there are plenty of opportunities for discouragement. The evening news is certainly a source of discouragement, as it seems like every day carries its own new load of bad news directly into our living rooms.

Isn’t it too much to deal with? Webster’s Dictionary defines discouragement as “a loss of confidence or enthusiasm; dispiritedness.” Certainly, we’re living in a time where it’s easy to experience a loss of confidence or enthusiasm. If you’re looking for a way to deal with discouragement, there are plenty of examples in the Bible. Remember, those heroes of the faith that you read about in the Bible were prone to discouragement just like you are. Let’s look to their example and find a source of encouragement during a time where discouragement seems so prevalent.

David and His Men at Ziklag

David knew a thing or two about discouragement. Over the course of his life, we read about how he was forgotten by his father, hated by his brothers, anointed as King of Israel years before he could take the throne and the victim of multiple attempted murders by King Saul. All of that happened before David ever got to his first day on the throne! David knew discouragement.

In 1st Samuel 30, we read about an especially troublesome time in David’s life. He still hadn’t officially taken over for Saul as the King of Israel, but he was still leading a small army of his own. As the chapter opens, we find David and his men returning home after an extended time at battle.

1 Samuel 30:1-3 (ESV)
Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive

That had to be an incredibly discouraging sight to some home to. These men who had been at battle undoubtedly looked forward to returning home to sleep in their own beds, spend time with their wives and play with their children. Instead, they get back and their homes had been burnt to the ground and their wives and children had all been kidnapped. The amount of discouragement was more than many of them could handle.

1 Samuel 30:4 (ESV)
Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever cried so much that you just don’t feel like you can cry anymore? That’s the deepest level of discouragement. It’s easy to feel guilty when we face times like that. When we get to the point that we don’t feel like we can go on, it’s easy to feel like our faith is weak and that God is disappointed in us. But that’s not the case. David didn’t forfeit his status as a “man after God’s own heart” just because he reached a point of discouragement that left him weeping until he had no more strength to weep. David didn’t lose his position as the next King of Israel because he fell on the ground in utter despair.

Our feelings of hopelessness and discouragement don’t damage our standing with God either. God isn’t angry with us during seasons of discouragement. He wired our thoughts and emotions and knows them better than we know them ourselves. Instead, God views our times of discouragement and despair as an opportunity to reveal Himself to us in an entirely new way. Once David lost the strength to continue weeping, look at what he did next:

1 Samuel 30:6 (ESV)
And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

There is a lot to unpack in this relatively short verse. First of all, David didn’t stop being distressed. Many people feel like they need to put their doubts and discouragement away before we can really seek God. God isn’t waiting for us to stop doubting before we cry out for help. Instead, God wants us to carry those doubts to Him so He can put us at ease.

Secondly, look at the reaction of the people who were following David. They went from trusting him to wanting to stone him to death! Sometimes the people around us cannot provide us with the encouragement that we need. In fact, in some cases the people who were once the closest to you may turn their backs on you, only adding to your discouragement.

Finally, look at how David responded to a hopeless situation: he strengthened himself in the Lord. Some translations say that David “encouraged” himself in the Lord. When David knew that he couldn’t look to his own strength and accepted the fact that his friends had turned their backs on him, he fought the discouragement he was feeling by strengthening himself in the Lord.

After David strengthened himself in the Lord, something remarkable happened. With only 200 men in his army, he went down to where the Amalekites were celebrating their victory and found his family and the families of his soldiers.

1 Samuel 30:17-18 (ESV)
And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day , and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives.

Once David strengthened himself in the Lord, he gained the strength needed to go recover everything that the Amalekites had taken from him. Once we strengthen ourselves in the Lord, we find the courage to go on in the face of discouragement. But how do we go about strengthening ourselves in the Lord?

The first step to fighting off the overwhelming feeling of discouragement is to immerse yourself in the Word of God. When you read stories like the one about David in 1 Samuel 30, it’s helpful to remember that the same God who delivered David will deliver you. One of the most incredible things about our God is the fact that He does not change (Malachi 3:6). The same God who miraculously moved on David’s behalf will do the same for us. Spending time in His Word reminds us of that fact.

Secondly, times of worship changes your perspective. It’s easy to be discouraged when our perspective is on what is going on around us. Worship takes our perspective from the horizontal to the vertical. When you spend some time worshiping God, your focus shifts from the problem to the Provider. No matter what a private time of worship looks like for you, spend some time in that frame of mind. Worship allows you to shift your focus.

Finally, David cried out to God when he was trying to strengthen himself. When you’re discouraged, tell God that. Instead of telling Him what you want Him to do, simply tell Him that you’re discouraged and know that you can’t handle the situation on your own. Let Him strengthen you.

A Closing Prayer:

God, I’m discouraged. Things feel hopeless and I feel helpless. I need your strength during this season of my life. Instead of trying to focus on my own strength and find the power to go on, I need you to strengthen me. I submit this situation to you, knowing that You are able to make everything in my life work together for my benefit. Thank You for Your promises to strengthen me in my moments of weakness. In Christ’s name, Amen!

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