Handling discouragement


If not dealt with properly the ‘world’s deadliest disease’ may even result in suicide

WITH the way the world is going these days, it is easy to get discouraged.
The pandemic and its effects on the economy worldwide, domestic law and order problems and rampant corruption in high places are some reasons people give up and get discouraged.
Discouragement can lead to despondency and disillusionment, and if not dealt with properly, may even result in suicide. If we are feeling discouraged in any way, I’d like to share a few thoughts from God’s holy word to encourage us. But let’s begin by analysing what discouragement is.
The deadly disease
What is the world’s deadliest disease? No, it’s not coronavirus, Aids, or malaria. I’m talking about the deadly disease of discouragement. Why do we categorise discouragement as a dreaded disease?
First, because it’s universal. All of us get discouraged. I have my moments, as I’m sure you do too. We all do. Discouragement is common and Christians are not exempt. Second, because it recurs. You can get discouragement a number of times. It’s not just a one-time thing. Third, because it’s highly contagious. Other people can get discouraged because you are discouraged.
The good news
But there is good news. Just like there are cures for many illnesses out there, there is a cure also for discouragement. It is curable! A story from the life of Nehemiah can show us how.
The man Nehemiah was a leader of the Jewish group that had returned to Israel from Babylon after the 70 year captivity was over. They returned to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. When they had first started work on the wall, they were very excited and zealous about the project. But after working for a while, they got discouraged. Nehemiah Chapter 4 shows how this happened. In this chapter we see four reasons for discouragement; and three ways to be encouraged.
Verse 6 says, “So we rebuilt the wall until all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart”. A few verses later, the mood changes: “Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘the strength of the labourers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall. Also our enemies said, ‘before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work’. Then the Jews who live near them came and told us 10 times over, ‘wherever you turn, they will attack us.’” (Verse 10-12). What changed the mood?

The walls of Jerusalem today. Nehemiah fought off discouragement to complete the wall. – Picture borrowed

Reasons for discouragement
a) Fatigue. The people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out.” In other words, they began enthusiastically but after working a long time, they were physically exhausted and worn out. Fatigue is the number one cause of discouragement, and it often happens about halfway through. That’s why many people don’t complete projects they start.
Sometimes we can think being physically tired means we have a spiritual problem and we like to “recommit our lives” to the Lord. Often, that is not the case. We just need some time of rest, relaxation, and renewal. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to switch off your telephone and computer, and rest!
b) Frustration. The people said, “There is so much rubble that we cannot build the wall” (verse 10). They were discouraged and frustrated because of all the rubble. They were building a new wall, but old broken rocks and dried mortar were everywhere. When they looked at the rubble and the debris, they got discouraged. They lost sight of their goal because there was so much rubbish.
What is the rubbish in your life? It is the unimportant things that waste your time and use up your energy and frustrate you. They keep you from becoming all you want to be and stop you from doing the things that are most important in life. The rubbish in your life is those things that get in your way and hinder you from accomplishing your goals. These are the things we need to clean away in our lives.
c) Failure. Verse10 says, “We cannot rebuild the wall.” They were saying, “It’s impossible. It’s foolish to try. We have failed.” The people were unable to finish their task as quickly as they had originally planned, and as a result their confidence went down. They lost heart and got discouraged.
How do you handle failure in your life? Do you have a pity party? “Oh, poor me. I can’t get this job done”? Do you start complaining? Do you blame other people? The difference between winners and losers is that winners always see failure as being only temporary. It is not the end.
d) Fear. Nehemiah’s people put it this way: “our enemies said, ‘before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work’” (verse 11). There were people in the land of Israel who did not want the wall to be built. They were the enemies of the Jews. A wall around the city represented safety and defense, so these enemies did not want the wall to be finished. First they criticized the Jews, then they ridiculed them, and finally they threatened them: “We are going to kill you if you keep on building the wall.” So the wall-builders got discouraged. Why? Because of fear.
Notice who it was that got discouraged. It was “the Jews who lived near” the enemy (verse 12). Then they discouraged others by saying, “wherever you turn, they will attack us.” When you hang around a negative person long enough, this is what will happen. You will pick up his negativism too.
If you hear somebody keep saying, “It can’t be done,” you’ll start believing him. Soon, you will be saying the same thing.
How can you tell if your discouragement is being caused by fear? You will have a strong desire to run. You will have a desire to escape from life’s demands and pressures. The natural reaction of fear is always to run, as in the ‘fight or flight’ response. However, running away may not always solve your problem. Sometimes, you will have to face the problem!
The antidote
Notice what Nehemiah did as a wise leader and a man of God. He knew what it was that discouraged people, so he took the appropriate actions to correct the problem. There are three principles to help us when we feel like giving up. We will discuss them here:
1. Reorganise. Nehemiah used the reorganise principle: “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears, and bows” (verse 13). The first principle in conquering discouragement is this: reorganise your life. When you get discouraged, don’t give up on your goals and your dream. Instead, devise a new approach. When you get discouraged, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing the wrong thing; you can be doing the right thing in the wrong way. Was it wrong for these Jews to be building the wall? No, it was the right thing. But they were doing it the wrong way, and as a result they got discouraged.
Notice also that Nehemiah focused on support. When he reorganised, he posted the people by families because he knew that anybody who is discouraged needs a support group. We need other people, and families are a natural group. When one person in a family gets discouraged, other members will lift him up. We need our spiritual family (church) and natural family members so we can support and encourage each other.
2. Remember. Nehemiah said: “After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, `don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome’” (Neh 4:14). It means to put the Lord in your remembrance. Note that your thoughts determine your feelings. If you feel discouraged, it’s because you’re thinking discouraging thoughts. If you want to feel encouraged instead, start thinking encouraging thoughts. Choose some uplifting Bible verses to memorise: “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). Nothing can separate me “from the love of God” (Rom 8:39). “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31), “everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23). Remember these verses when you are discouraged and meditate on them.
3. Resist. Nehemiah 4: 14b says, “Fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes”. Nehemiah is saying: “Resist discouragement. Fight it. Don’t give in to it, but resist it.”
The Bible teaches that we who are Christians are in a spiritual battle (Eph 6:10ff). The devil is the accuser of Christians (Rev 12:10), and he loves to get us down. That is his number one tool, because he knows that a discouraged Christian has limited potential. He knows that when we are down, we are totally ineffective in our lives and ministry. So he does everything he can to discourage us. However, James says, “Resist the devil and he will flee” (James 4:7). Resist him and all his negative thoughts. Don’t entertain them.
Discouragement comes to the best of us in many ways. However, we do not have to stay discouraged. In fact, discouragement is a choice. We may choose to give in to it and feel sorry for ourselves, or we can stand our ground and refuse to be discouraged. Great people don’t know how to quit.
They never give up even when they are fatigued, frustrated, have failed and are fearful. With faith in a great God, these ordinary people with extraordinary amounts of persistence just hang in there and never give up. It is wise that we do the same!

  • Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.