Discouragement comes to every one at one time or another. Recently I watched as the bailout vote in the House of Representatives went down to defeat and on the right side of the screen was a window showing the stock market dropping from being down 300 to over 700 points. It goes without saying that there was some serious discouragement going on.
You may not be interested in what is happening on Wall Street or Washington D.C. but there are things that happen in a person’s life from time to time that can really bring a sense of discouragement.
Really the thing that brings us peace no matter what may be raging around us is living balanced lives. Most of us probably don’t think about balance in the context of our spiritual lives but the balance I’m talking about is just that. It is balancing our lives around the presence and purposes of God.
In Psalm 40 you can read the words of King David from the Old Testament as he described the journey that he was on with God. He had experienced a great deliverance but recognized that God had something for him to do with his life. David did a lot from slaying the giant Goliath to tending sheep and leading Israel as a King chosen by God. He also got discouraged.
There is a story in 1 Samuel that gives us an idea how to handle times of discouragement even traumatic ones like the ones in this story.
1 Three days later, when David and his men arrived home at their town of Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and Ziklag; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. 2 They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone.
3 When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, 4 they wept until they could weep no more. 5 David’s two wives, Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel, were among those captured. 6 David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the LORD his God.” 1 Samuel 30: 1-5
1. What are some causes of discouragement?
A. There was severe loss in David’s life.
We just read the context of this story and so we know that David came home to nothing. He had nothing left. His town was gone. His house was gone. His family was gone. All that was left was some smoldering embers.
I am sure that every one of us in this room has at one time or another felt loss in our lives. Maybe some of you are feeling some level of loss in your own life today.
Your loss may not be as severe or traumatic as David’s but you have experienced loss of one kind or another. Maybe it is the loss of a relationship or the loss of a child who has left home. It could be any number of things but recognize that loss will bring discouragement.
B. He was playing the self doubting game
I am sure in David’s mind there was a sense of what might have been. What might have been if he had returned home a few days earlier? What might have been if he had never left home in the first place?
Have you ever played these games with yourself regarding some discouraging development in your life?
“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you -- even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar. I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.
“O God my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?” Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:5-11
Are you in a state of questioning even today over something that is causing you to be discouraged?
C. There was physical and mental strain
David was exhausted from a long trip and this no doubt added to his sense of overwhelming emotion.
Even God recognizes our physical and emotional weaknesses.
“The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” Psalm 103:13-14
When we are tired we will often feel discouraged and our tiredness will distort our view of things. Often you and I will become emotional about something when in reality it is because we are tired and frankly need to go take a nap!
Haven’t you ever watched a child start acting different right after lunch? What is your solution for that? “You need a nap!” You may not be able to take a nap after lunch everyday but get enough rest or you will be a cranky big kid!
D. David had drifted away from following God’s way
If we are not careful and mindful of how we are living out our days we will naturally drift away from God. Our relationship with Him will fall on hard times and before you know it there will be a shadow of discouragement looming. When you have known what it is like to walk in community with Christ on a daily basis and discover that you are no longer in that kind of a relationship you will feel discouraged.
He had an inner conviction that all was not well spiritually in his life.
E. God was allowing things to happen in an effort to bring David back into relationship
I do not believe that God causes bad things to happen to us but in some cases He may allow it to happen or He will use it to get our attention. When you are experiencing a time of struggle or difficulty allow yourself to focus on God and His relationship in your life.
“For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.” Hebrews 12:6-7 (1 Cor. 11:29-32, Psalm 55:19)
If you are going through something today that is overwhelming to you allow God to use it in your life to make you stronger and to draw closer to Him.
F. He felt alone
He felt alone because he was alone! There was a mutiny about to happen or at least being whispered and talked about. Blame was being passed out and most of it was in his direction.
“David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him” 1 Samuel 30:6
In reality we realize that not every one of his men was feeling ill toward him but sometimes one voice filled with vengeful or unfair words can sound like a million. There a story I used to tell about a farmer who asked a restaurant owner if he would like to start selling frog legs. Of course the owner wanted to know where he would get the supply and the farmer replied that there were a million frogs in his pond and he could provide him with all the frogs he wanted. “Their croaking is driving my up the wall.” A week later the farmer returned with two scrawny little frogs in a paper bag. He said, “These two little frogs were making all the racket. I had no idea two croakers could sound like a million.”
Sometimes just one or two croakers around can make you feel discouraged. In fact, most congregations have a couple of croakers who complain enough for about every hundred people.
Remember apparently some folks just have that as a gift. David wrote about this in Psalm 55:
“It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me -- I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend. What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God. Psalm 55
2. What are some cures for discouragement?
A. Place yourself in the presence of God
“Then David found strength in the Lord His God.
Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. 8 Then David asked the LORD, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?” And the LORD told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!” 1 Samuel 30:6b-8
Do you really want to let go and move beyond your discouragement? Find a place where you and God can spend some time together. This is the first step toward fighting and ridding yourself of discouragement. You and I must realize the value of spending time alone with God.
Talk to God in prayer. There is an amazing release when we lay out our story before God in prayer.
One song writer wrote these words:
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.
Learn the value of spending time with God.
O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune as friend with friend!
B. Be in community with the people of God
“So David and his 600 men set out, and they came to the brook Besor. But 200 of the men were too exhausted to cross the brook, so David continued the pursuit with 400 men.” 1 Samuel 30:9-10
“Then David returned to the brook Besor and met up with the 200 men who had been left behind because they were too exhausted to go with him. They went out to meet David and his men, and David greeted them joyfully. But some evil troublemakers among David’s men said, “They didn’t go with us, so they can’t have any of the plunder we recovered. Give them their wives and children, and tell them to be gone.”
But David said, “No, my brothers! Don’t be selfish with what the LORD has given us. He has kept us safe and helped us defeat the band of raiders that attacked us. Who will listen when you talk like this? We share and share alike—those who go to battle and those who guard the equipment.” 1 Samuel 30:21-24
We need to be in community with other people. We all need people who will laugh with us when we laugh and cry with us when we cry. Do you know that one of the best cures for your own discouragement is finding someone else to encourage. Sometimes we sit around nursing and babysitting our discouragement to the point that I think there are people who would miss their discouragement if it went away.
Invest in others and be in community with them. Do life together.
C. Lean hard into and on the promises of God
Remember in verse eight that God promised him success.
8 Then David asked the LORD, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?” And the LORD told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”
The Bible is full of promise made by God to us and for us. Let me let you in on a little secret. You have to read the Bible, actually open it up and read it to receive anything from it.
Fanny Crosby was blinded at a very young age yet she wrote over 8000 songs many of which have an enduring quality of spanning generations. Do you know that God promised to hide us in the cleft of a rock?
For he will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in his sanctuary.
He will place me out of reach on a high rock.” Psalm 27:5
She wrote about it with these words:
A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.
A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away;
He holdeth me up, and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.
With numberless blessings each moment He crowns,
And filled with His fullness divine,
I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God
For such a Redeemer as mine!
When clothed in His brightness, transported I rise
To meet Him in clouds of the sky,
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love
I’ll shout with the millions on high.
What are you discouraged about today? What was it that you drug in here with you today?
D. Remember the providence of God
Along the way they found an Egyptian man in a field and brought him to David. They gave him some bread to eat and water to drink. They also gave him part of a fig cake and two clusters of raisins, for he hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for three days and nights. Before long his strength returned. “To whom do you belong, and where do you come from?” David asked him.
“I am an Egyptian—the slave of an Amalekite,” he replied. “My master abandoned me three days ago because I was sick. We were on our way back from raiding the Kerethites in the Negev, the territory of Judah, and the land of Caleb, and we had just burned Ziklag.” “Will you lead me to this band of raiders?” David asked. The young man replied, “If you take an oath in God’s name that you will not kill me or give me back to my master, then I will guide you to them.”
So he led David to them. . .” 1 Samuel 30: 11-16a
Now that might not seem like much to you but when you read this in context we have a perfect illustration of God’s providence and willingness to provide for all our needs.
A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.
Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.
In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what do you see?" "Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.
She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they got soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked. "What’s the point, mother?"
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity--boiling water--but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.
The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water. "Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"
Are you tired of carrying around your discouragement today? Wouldn’t you like to just take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there?
God is here. He is the Great I Am who promised to be the Everything we need.
Do you need to reconnect with Him today? Do you need to move a little closer so that you can hear His promises?
In this time of financial uncertainty and political upheaval we might be tempted to take our eyes off our Savior. We might feel very alone and be tempted to discouragement but Jesus said, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Go in the strength of those words, be encouraged and lift up your eyes, raise your hands and love God with all your soul, your mind and your strength.