I have been discouraged in both ministry and life in general at times. The times I have been very discouraged have come after times of great joy or victory, just like Elijah experienced after God’s display of glory on Mount Carmel. His response to a threat by Ahab’s Jezebel was to run away and hide and to ask God to take his life. (Have you ever wanted to run away or just die because of the situation you faced? I have!) God did not respond harshly to him, He nourished him and gave him rest even while asking him what he was doing out there laying under the broom tree sulking (1 Kings 19:9-14).
Last time I ended by asking this question: What is the key or secret to living devoted while discouraged? How can you and I not wind up under the broom tree or on some kind of medication for depression or anxiety when faced with terrible discouragement in the midst of serving God?
I believe it begins with our thought life. Focusing on all that is wrong is not helpful, is it? I ask myself what I am thinking about that is adding to my discouragement and determine if it is true and real (Phil 4:8) or just something that I am conjuring up in my mind.
Then I move to my actions, what am I doing that may be adding to the problem? Am I just sitting around and staring at the wall, or am I attempting to do something productive? To just sit and mope or meditate on my misery is not helpful at all.
My desires are next. What do I want to see happen or change? Is what I want something that will honor God or self? Do I desire something out of a selfish heart that is focused only on relieving my suffering and misery?
As I move through each of these areas of my heart I am constantly holding up my conclusions to the light of the Word. Does each thought, belief, and desire fold into the Word of God or stand apart from it? Can I honestly say that I am honoring God in each area?
You see, devotion to the Lord is bound to bring times of discouragement! We are fighting against the flow and pushing against the tide of sinful humanity. Our priorities and perspectives are so vastly different from those of the world that they are bound to collide at times. Our flesh cries out at times for what appears to be the easy life of the unbeliever, who is not held to our biblical standards. It seems at times our trials never seem to end but roll in like waves on the sea.
You and I must learn to accept these things as a result of our being united with Christ! Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33) and it is as true today as it was when He said it to His disciples.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians while imprisoned and nearing the end of his life. He wrote the letter that mentions joy over 16 times and attitude and things of the mind 10 times while chained to a wall in a hole. His letter is a wonderful reminder to us that in spite of our circumstances and discouragement we can still be devoted to the cause of Christ!
I want to encourage you to spend some time in Philippians before we meet again, especially if you are discouraged. I pray and trust that a few trips through that letter will lift your countenance.