The days are getting cooler and shorter. Some people love it. Some people dread it, and they do for good reason. They suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The drop in the amount of sunlight causes mood changes. For some, it brings the onset of depression that may not go away without treatment. I don’t like the change in seasons. Some years ago, I began to notice that I got depressed in the fall. I know why it happens now, and I can handle it better. I look forward to the winter solstice when the days start getting longer. I dread the summer solstice when the days start getting shorter. That’s just the way I am made.
Discouragement is not always connected to the season of the year. Sometimes discouragement is connected to the seasons of life. We all begin life with a great deal of optimism. We have dreams and plans. Those can be shattered by some season of disappointment.
Disappointments can bring discouragement.
The writer of Proverbs once said: Hope deferred makes the heart sick. We all face disappointment. Our plans fail. Dreams fail to materialize, causing us to face the fact that they never will. Our hopes crumble in disappointment, leaving us heartsick and forlorn. Unfortunately, that is life. People let us down. Circumstances don’t always work out. Yet, the Bible tells us that those who believe in Jesus will never be disappointed.
What does that mean? Is it true? Life is full of disappointments. The key to battling discouragement in the wake of those moments is to keep your hope in Christ.
The Life Path you travel can bring discouragement.
Have there been events along the way of your life that brought discouragement to you.
Did discouragement invade your life when you lost your spouse? Did discouragement descend like a cloud after you lost a child? Did discouragement sap your vitality after you or someone you loved was diagnosed with a serious illness? Did discouragement embitter your life after you went through a divorce? Each of us encounter circumstances across life’s journey that can leave us deeply depressed.
The Bible tells about the journey of God’s people through the wilderness. One sentence summed up the collective feeling of the entire body. The soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. Numbers 21:4 The path they travelled led them into a season of discouragement.
In the January of 1990, our thirteen-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. One day our lives were normal. The next we were sitting in a hospital being told our daughter could never go barefooted again because a foot infection could cause her to lose a leg. We were told that in in the years to come she would have complications that could claim her vision, her kidneys, her legs or her life. From that day forward, she would take three shots a day to just to stay alive. When I walked out of that hospital, the whole world had turned grey. There were no colors. Life lost its luster. I cried every night for weeks and on and off for the next years, until a kind doctor invited us to his home and lovingly told me I was wasting her days with my grief. He told me that I should take each day as it came and not ruin today with tomorrows trouble. Only then did my perspective change, and some of the gloom departed. But neither my life nor my daughter’s will ever be the same as it was before January of 1990.
What event changed your life? What caused a tidal wave of despair to come crashing into your life? Sometimes I have to be reminded that my Lord will take care of tomorrow. My tomorrows, although beyond my control, are all under His Sovereignty. Trusting Jesus from day to day will help you in your personal season of discouragement. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
There are times when the source of discouragement is our own separation from God.
I tell you these things by experience. I know what it is to know God’s peace. I also know what it is to be absolutely miserable because I am out of step with God. God warns us what will happen to our peace of heart when we walk distant from Him. See if the following words describe the present state of your heart. “…there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of the eyes, and despair of soul. So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you shall be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life. In the morning you shall say, ‘Would that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Would that it were morning!’ because of the dread of your heart which you dread, and for the sight of your eyes which you shall see. Deuteronomy 28:65-67
Some of the most dismal moments I have ever experienced were during days when I was walking distant from God. Is that why you are discouraged? Is it because you have strayed from your Lord, and He has turned His face away? There is no pill that will chase away that kind of discouragement. The only way to cure it is to come home to the Lord.
Discouragement can come when we get life out of focus.
Elijah was a mighty man of God, but a moment came when he walked out into the wilderness, lay down under a tree and prayed that he might die. Why was Elijah discouraged? It was because Elijah had his eyes on his enemies—on his problems—and not on the Lord.
Looking to the Lord does not always make your problems go away. However, as we keep our eyes on Him, He will give us strength to take another step forward. During days of discouragement, don’t ask to mount up with wings as eagles or to run and not be weary. Pray that God will just help you walk and not faint!
Sometimes, discouragement seems not to have a reason or a season. There are days when you know you shouldn’t be discouraged– but you are! You know God is on your side and you shouldn’t be discouraged—but you are! You know God can help and you shouldn’t be discouraged—but you are!
Such was the situation in David’s life when he wrote Psalm 42: For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Psalm 42:4-5
David knew how he ought to feel—but he just couldn’t seem to get out from under the cloud of discouragement that had cast a shadow across his soul.
What do you do when your discouragement won’t go away?
It is estimated that one in ten people in the United States suffers from some form of depression. I don’t know what the statistics might be where you live. I am told that the number of people diagnosed with depression increases by 20% every year. Discouragement can push a person over the edge into depression. Depression is not a sin—it is a treatable illness that needs medical attention.
Rachel was one of the most godly women I have ever known. She was the best Sunday School Teacher we had at our church. Her husband was the author of God, If You’re Real, Let The Cow Be In The Pen When I Get Home. She was the subject of many of his stories, and she worked tirelessly to help him market that book along with his second, Divine Appointments in the Master’s Vineyard.
Disappointment crushed her when her husband was stricken with cancer and died. Not many months later, she lost her mother. Rachel’s vibrant faith was rattled. The couple lived about six miles out of town in a wooded area. The nearest neighbor was almost a mile away. Rachel was afraid to be alone.
Her growing discouragement gave way to depression. She quit teaching her Sunday School Class. This neatly dressed lady began to look unkempt. All of these changes took place within a year of her husband’s death. The weekend before the anniversary of her husband’s death, Rachel called her son and daughter and asked them to come home. She prepared a meal in advance of their arrival. Shortly before the time they were to be home, she called a neighbor to come over to house. She hung up the phone, took a gun, went out in her back yard to a place her neighbor would be sure to find her, and took her life.”
One year to the day after she buried her husband who died of cancer, Rachel died of depression. Depression is a serious illness. It isn’t a spiritual problem, although it can result from spiritual problems or any kind of discouragement. Depression is not a sin. It is a disease and there is a way out.
In July of 2011 a dear pastor’s wife took her life. Depression is no respecter or persons or positions. It strikes the young and old. After suffering from more than one severe bout of depression, and nearing her 80th birthday, it overwhelmed her. Her husband was a godly pastor, and a strong leader. He weathered the storm outwardly, but after nearly a year of struggling with repressed guilt and the discouragement he suffered from losing his wife, depression pushed him to end his life. What did these godly people lose sight of that sent them over the edge? Maybe they forgot the one thing that kept David from falling completely apart.
David believed that God was aware of his discouragement.
How deep can discouragement go? You know how deep! It can go deeper than bone and cut to the very depth of a person’s soul! David’s did. Maybe yours does too. David’s hope was that God knew. Does He know how you feel? Yes!
If you are discouraged or depressed, it is important for you to understand that God knows. He cares. He will act in response to your prayers. But as you pray, make sure and talk to somebody you trust. Tell them how you feel. Ask for their prayers. Keep your hope in God, and if discouragement comes and stays in spite of your faith and in spite of your efforts to shake it, it may be more than discouragement, it may be depression. Remember, depression is not a sin. It is a disease just like high blood pressure or diabetes or cancer. People die of those diseases if they don’t get medical treatment. When discouragement pushes you over the edge into depression, you need to do more than just talk to your pastor, you need to talk to your doctor! Remember, this is a season. Hope is on the horizon. Help is on the way.
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me. Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. Psalm 42:11
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