Paul Washer wrote, “This morning I came to the Word greatly discouraged. I left greatly encouraged.” Maybe you’ve been there. I certainly have. Though I’ve always been a positive person and not prone to discouragement, like most people, I’ve had those moments when I find myself under the weight of circumstances that appear to be less than bright and promising. But inevitably, like Washer, I find that the life-changing power of God’s Word can push back the dark clouds and allow me to gain a fresh perspective. Time spent reading God’s Word helps me to see my life and circumstances more from His perspective instead of my own.
Discouragement can be the result of failure or disappointment. In Luke 5, some of the disciples had been fishing all night but had caught nothing. These were professionals. Fishing was not a hobby, but a way of life. It was what they had done all of their lives. They knew how to catch fish. But after a long and exhausting night of work, Jesus climbed into the boat and told Peter to push out into the deep and let down his nets. Peter’s discouraged reply: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” Then he said, (and you can imagine the discouragement and the “I-told-you-so” tone in his voice), “But at your word I will let down the nets.” The result? The nets began to break under the strain of a huge number of fish. The difference? Listening to the words and encouragement of Jesus instead of focusing on the failure and disappointment experienced by working in their own power and their own plan.
Discouragement can also follow a time of success. 1 Kings 19 describes the experience of Elijah, who became discouraged after a great victory at Mount Carmel, where he stood as a lone representative of God against the evil Queen Jezebel and 400 prophets of Baal. It was an amazing victory, but when it was all over, Elijah was emotionally and physically spent. When Jezebel threatened him, he fell into dark discouragement and ran from Mount Carmel in fear. Finding a broom tree in the wilderness, he sat down to feel sorry for himself and languish in his discouragement. He convinced himself that he was all alone and was ready for his life to end. But God whispered to Elijah and gave him a different perspective. God assured him that there were others who were walking with Him as well. He was not alone and had not been abandoned. But God delivered his message of encouragement to Elijah in “a low whisper” (v. 12). It was a word that Elijah could have missed had he not withdrawn from some ominous noises that surrounded him. But the life-changing word was there when he paused to listen.
The voices of discouragement are everywhere. “You can’t…” “You’re a failure…” “You’re without help or support…” But we will not give in to discouragement if we will stay in God’s Word each day and listen to the voice of the One who has said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)