Some days, discouragement sneaks in out of nowhere and overtakes us when we are already tired, overwhelmed, or hurting. It sticks around like a dark cloud, dampening our enjoyment of life and causing us to see the negative side of everything in our lives.
The easiest thing to do is to let discouragement have its way with us. We give up the fight against it and allow the cloud to continue hanging over us. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. We can make war against discouragement and begin to see some measure of victory over it.
Here are three simple strategies for fighting against discouragement.
When you are discouraged, determine that you will get off the mat and fight against it. The first aspect of this is preaching to yourself about your situation. The Psalmist models this for us in Psalm 42:5 when he says, Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
While we often think of the Psalms being addressed directly to God, in this verse, the Psalmist speaks to his own soul. He asks his soul why it is troubled and redirects its attention by telling himself to hope in God and praise him again.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones speaks of this passage near the beginning of his book Spiritual Depression when he says, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you… The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’.” (pp.20-21)
Resolve to tell yourself the good news every day. Remind yourself of everything you know to be true about God’s character, God’s promises, and who you are in Christ. While remembering these earth-shaking truths may not fix your situation, they will reorient your soul and how you view what you are facing.
Reading may not seem like a great way to fight discouragement, but diving into the Scriptures and reading encouraging Christian books can apply balm to our weary souls.
If you don’t know where to get started in the Bible, begin by reading the Psalms. Throughout the Psalms, you will find the authors crying out to God in immense agony and pain. He asks God to deliver him from his situation. In some of them, he then reminds himself of who God is and expresses confidence that God will deliver him. (If you’re a man who is struggling with discouragement, I have a list of Psalms for you to read and meditate on.)
I love the Psalms’ raw and brutal honesty. They don’t paper over the reality of the pain and suffering we experience in this life. I find myself strangely encouraged that the biblical authors know what it is like to walk through distress and misery. It reminds me that I am not the first person to deal with it and I get to see a divinely inspired record of how God’s people found encouragement in him.
Christian biographies can be another source of encouragement when you are struggling. A good biography shows the struggle of its subject and how he worked through his discouragement and pain. The Autobiography of George Muller is one of my favorites. He was an evangelist and ran an orphanage in England. His autobiography records his prayers for provision and God’s faithfulness to answer him. One quote from it particularly encourages me. He said, “If the Lord fails me this time, it will be the first time.”
I didn’t list prayer third because it is the least important, but because this is the one everyone assumes they should do and rarely follows through on. God invites you to pray and beckons you to lay your discouragements and pain on him.
Consider these passages. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
These passages remind us of two important truths. First, we should pray instead of worrying because God invites it. Often, people run from our burdens, but God invites us to bring ours to him. Second, God takes our burdens upon himself and offers us peace in their places. How could we refuse such an offer?
Is it too simple?
Remind yourself of the Gospel, read Scripture and good Christian books, and spend time in prayer. This almost sounds too simplistic, but these are the means of grace God gave us to be encouraged when times are hard. Don’t despise these ordinary means. God takes these simple disciplines and uses them to change us in profound ways.
“Why Time Away from Your Phone Would Be Good for Your Soul“
For Further Reading:
Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray