Dealing With Discouragement
One of the books in the New Testament that deal with discouragement is Hebrews.
It was written to a group of Christians from a Jewish background who had given their lives to Christ. They had learned, through the gospel, that Christ was the Saviour. But after some time, they started having difficulty remaining faithful to Him because of persecution (10:32-34). Some of them were eventually reverting to Judaism, their former religion. So, the author of Hebrews wrote this book to encourage them to hold on to the Lord. In chapter 12 verse 12, the writer used body language terms to help the reader understand the concept of discouragement. He said, “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.” Hands hanging down and feeble knees are signs of faintheartedness. They imply the idea of a person that has become so weak that they have not got enough strength to carry on being actively involved in service to Christ. This verse in chapter 12, started with “wherefore,” is the conclusion of what precedes.
The preceding discussion explains that a Christian may experience fatigue because of efforts put in the fight against a particular sin (v. 4). Although this sin is not named, we can fairly conclude that it has to do with unfaithfulness to Christ, since the eleventh chapter has entirely been about faith.
Failure in the battle against sin, in general, can frustrate and discourage. Discouragement can also come from God’s discipline. God corrects His children, whom He loves (v. 6), to get them into rank when they persist in sin. How does the Lord discipline? Basically, by rebuking the sinner through the preaching of His word against the wrong that they have done (2 Timothy 4:2). Sometimes, though, divine discipline takes the form of affliction that God brings upon a Christian who walks disorderly for their own good. For several verses, before v. 12, the Hebrew writer speaks of God’s loving discipline.
All of us, people of God, get discouraged at times, even the greatest.
Elijah was one of God’s prominent prophets. But after winning a great victory over the false prophets of his day, he ironically lost his confidence. He had on his own challenged 850 prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth to a contest on Mount Carmel, witnessed by all Israel, to see who of their gods or the God of Israel was the true God. Elijah won the contest when he asked God to bring fire down on his altar, and God did. But the prophets of Baal could not get their idols to do the same. Eventually, Elijah had the prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth killed. The execution infuriated Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife, who sought to kill him, vowing vengeance on the prophet, as she was a worshipper of Baal (1 Kings 18, 19). Elijah fled for his life and sat down under a juniper tree, disheartened. He was so discouraged that he asked God to end his life. God, instead, sent an angel to feed him and provide him with water. Note, God allowed Elijah to rest and eat.
Sometimes, discouragement occurs when we are physically tired, because we do too many things at the same time, or we get emotionally exhausted from being too anxious about a problem. What we need to do then is take time to chill out. From the juniper tree, Elijah went and hid himself in a cave. There, he said to God, “the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10). The Lord then gave Elijah a new job to do. He sent him to anoint Hazael king over Syria in Damascus, Jehu king over Israel, and Elisha his own successor. When you get discouraged, commit yourself to doing something different from what you have been doing. If you have been involved in mental activity, perhaps it is time to engage in something physical. After Elijah complained that he was of all God’s people the only faithful left, God assured him that there were 7, 000 individuals in Israel who had not yet bowed the knee to Baal (19:18). What we need to do to fight the plight of discouragement is focus on those in the fold who are strong in the faith. This way, we may be lifted up and be encouraged to persevere in living the Christian life. Most importantly, we need to keep our eyes fastened on Christ, not on the problem (Hebrews 12:2).