Dealing with the Demon of Discouragement: 4 Ways to be Effective in the Midst of Hard Times
We ALL deal with discouragement, haven’t we? It’s when:
- Someone over criticizes your sermon,
- You plan an event and nothing goes to plan,
- You are misunderstood or mis-quoted,
- Someone leaves your ministry for “something better” they say,
- You are too hard on yourself,
- You are dealing with unresolved relational conflict,
- The offering is LOW.
In any context, we ALL can relate to the reality of discouragement. With that said, we need to understand:
- That discouragement is a feeling and will past,
- Discouragement focuses on “me” and my selfishness (rather than what HE has called me to do),
- Discouragement can be painful – many of us don’t like criticism,
- Discouragement can be deflating,
- Discouragement is weighty and unchecked, can lead to disappointment, bitterness, and resentment.
The Apostle Paul dealt with discouragement too. He was physically beaten, misunderstood, judged by his friends, had rumors (labels) made about him, rejected by those who he led, thrown into prison, and martyred for his faith.
For Paul, discouragement was NOT from God. It is FAR from the truth of what God desired and wanted for HIS people. From prison (before his martyerdom), he wrote to the Philippi church on how to deal with discouragement - for those who were going through hard times, grief, persecution, stress, and the everyday grind of life. He encouraged the discouraged to:
Live a life of praise
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; (Phil. 4)
Paul is encouraging the church to praise the LORD in the midst of hard times. Ultimately, one of the ways the early church dealt with discouragement was to praise God.
For you, are you praising God in the hard times? Are you praising Him for those hard times? Examples of praise would be: 1) praising God for who He is, 2) being thankful for what HE has done, 3) engaging in a worship playlist/song.
Live a life of prayer
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.(Phil. 4)
In this context, Paul encourages believers to bring our burdens, fears, anxieties, hurts, pains – the humanness of life – to the LORD in prayer. Paul encourages believers that there is a GOD in charge (even when we don’t know what the future has in store) that will ultimately give us peace in the midst of our hard times.
Are you giving your burdens to the LORD? Or are you carrying them on your own? partially? Ways to give burdens to the LORD would be: 1) in prayer, 2) praying in the Spirit, 3) journalling to identify those burdens + audibly giving them to the LORD, 4) asking friends to partner to pray for you + with you.
Live a life in peace
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4)
The word “peace” in this context is “wholeness” or “completeness”. It doesn’t mean peace FROM hard times but peace IN hard times. This disposition of SHALOM with the early church believers ultimately won unbelievers to the LORD. Everyone experiences stress, anxiety, fears, BUT not everyone has shalom in difficult times. For Paul, peace was a reality for all believers - it is the evidence of a mature community walking out faith in everyday life.
Peace was the by-product of a life in praise + prayer to the LORD. Are you experiencing this type of peace in your hard times? In your discouraging times?
Live a life with a godly perspective
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4)
Lastly, Paul encourages the believer to have a godly perspective – this was a CHOICE lived by Paul. In this context, Paul is encouraging believers – in the midst of hard times – to reveal the GOSPEL in their culture. Too often I thought this verse(s) was for my own personal faith, but it is about reaching culture with the GOSPEL.
How are your “hard time experiences” reaching out to the culture with the GOSPEL of Jesus?
Don’t be discouraged friend. Ministry + life can be a grind, disheartening at times, and somewhat unproductive. YET, Paul encourages you and I to have a life of praise, prayer, peace, and perspective that will allow us to minister productively.
Feel free to add to the conversation... what practical ways have you dealt with discouragement in life and/or ministry?