What to do to Avoid Discouragement from Overriding your Faith
Updated: Mar 2
Image: In the foreground is a man with a backpack climbing a very high mountain. In the background are other mountains that are covered with snow and much lower than the one being climbed. Image by Unsplash.
“My soul melteth for heaviness” (Psalms 119:28a KJV). Have you ever felt that way? Didn’t it feel as if your whole being is poured out in weeping or near it? According to the Strong’s Concordance, heaviness in the Bible is depression, grief, and sorrow.
No?! Then how about: “My soul cleaveth unto the dust” (Psalms 119:25a), “I am completely discouraged!”
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?” (Psalms 43:5a).
Very few of us have not encountered this bone-crushing despair that is called discouragement. The Psalmists describe it as heaviness, a feeling of the soul dragging in the dust, a death-like experience. Admittedly or not, this can be an upsetting experience, and how should it be handled?
Perhaps the thought that discouragement is a sin causes panic. Why? Because total despair eradicates all hope in God to deliver us from our troubles. One asks oneself, “should I ignore it and pretend it’s not happening?” or “shout for help from the Lord?”
The Dead Man Walking
“ ‘Dr. Park Tucker, the former Chaplain of the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, told of walking down the street of an unknown city, feeling low and depressed, worried about life in general. Seeing a sign in a window, he blinked his eyes a couple of times, wondering whether his eyes were deceiving him.
But sure enough, what he saw in the window of that funeral home was this sign, in big, bold words: “why walk around half-dead? We can bury you for $69.50.” Dr. Tucker saw the humor of it as good medicine for his soul.’ ”
The Poet Thomas Hardy also wrote of such despair in the poem “The Dead Man Walking.”
“They hail me as one living,
But don't they know
That I have died of late years,
Are worry and the cares of this world causing you to walk around half-dead? Has anxiety built a problem over which there is no path, and you feel you have surrendered to defeat?
Understanding the root of discouragement
If we were to think about it, discouragement is a disallowing of encouragement. To be dissuaded or break from the confidence of your path. Discouragement finds its root in negative emotional bias that may be triggered by fear. What do you fear? Financial instability? Food and shelter insecurity? The loss of your dignity?
The Doorway out of Discouragement
The psalmist, too, in deep distress, likened his soul as “Cleaveth unto dust” and asked God to “revive him” (v. 25), then in verses 25-32, finds a way out of discouragement. Confess and de-stress.
Baring the secrets of his life to God, and perhaps even his plans, the psalmist asks God to teach him what to do (v. 26). He then took God up on His invitation to; “come let us reason together” (Isa 1:18). His choice was to understand so that he could meditate on the wonders of God’s goodness towards him.
The psalmist “melted” in tears for sorrow at the vicissitudes of life (v. 28). He preferred crying to hardening his heart towards God. He did not see lying in his heart about how he felt (v. 29) as an option. He elected to come clean with God and to choose the way of faithfulness.
The way of faithfulness
The way of faithfulness is trusting in God, as did the psalmist here and as did Job (Job 13:15). Carefully consider the choices we make in our sadness as they may lead us to eternal life or death.
For me, I believe the promise of Jerimiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Why shouldn’t I? He already fulfilled the promise of Beauty for Ashes (Isa. 61:4) by strengthening me to use my past experiences to write these articles.
“Strengthen thou me according unto thy word” (Psalms 119:28). So, applying God’s Word to overcome discouragement entails focusing on the promises. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9).
“Quicken (recover me, give new life) thou me according to thy word” (Psalms 119:25). He will not cause shame to come upon us; “O LORD, put me not to shame” (v. 31). All we have to do is follow Him and keep His commandments; then, He will make more room in our hearts to trust Him and to see our way clear through His guidance. (v. 32).
“Hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Psalms 43:5b).
Conquer discouragement with trust in the Lord, and surrender your plans to Him for His keeping!
References  Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Rockville, MD: Assurance Publishers, 1979), p.336.  https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44326/the-dead-man-walking  https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-diseases/depression/depression-and-brain