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2014-07-18:Dealing and defeating discouragement

Discouragement can feel like a big weight upon our shoulders. It slows our steps, makes work more difficult, and diminishes our enjoyment of life.

When people regard our best efforts as unsatisfactory, their displeasure often drags us down. Constant criticism from a family member, neighbor, or coworker can affect how we feel about ourselves.

Dissatisfaction with our own performance can also prove discouraging. Perhaps this relates to a personal weakness we can’t overcome or a high personal expectation we have failed to meet. Either reason can cause dejection.

In addition, past disappointments at times cause us to feel little hope about the future. And financial pressures, declining health, and painful relationships can also take an emotional toll on us.

Over the course of a lifetime, disappointment will at times affect us all, causing temporary feelings of letdown. But if we are disappointed repeatedly, discouragement may set in. That can affect us in a variety of ways.

First, our mind becomes divided. We have difficulty concentrating, no matter where we are or who is with us. We keep thinking about the disappointment.

Next, we place blame. It’s easy to imagine we’ll feel better by claiming the problem is someone else’s fault. Or, we may get down on ourselves for our mistakes and think of suicide. We might even point the finger at God for allowing our trial.

As our attitude deteriorates, we start focusing on what we dislike or don’t have, and anger can occur; we lash out because people or circumstances have failed us. And unresolved anger often drives people away, increasing our disappointment.

In time, discouragement leads to unwise decisions. With a divided mind, a wrong focus, a negative attitude, and unresolved anger, we won’t think clearly or act in God-pleasing ways.

Taking the example of the Bible, the life of Nehemiah teaches an important lesson about handling discouragement. He was a Hebrew living in Persia and serving as cupbearer to the king. When he received a report about the poor condition of Jerusalem and the plight of the Jewish remnant living there, he was deeply affected. In his dismay over their situation, Nehemiah turned to the Lord in prayer. He knew that only his great God could change the situation. Likewise, when we are discouraged, our first priority should be to cry out to our heavenly Father.

In his prayer, Nehemiah praised God’s awesome character, confessed his sins and the sins of others, recalled divine promises, and presented his petition. Let’s follow Nehemiah’s example and take our disappointments to the Lord in prayer.

From Nehemiah’s story, we can learn how to defeat discouragement. After praying, we must look to God in anticipation of what He will do. The Lord moved the heart of the king, who showed favor toward his cupbearer by providing the soldiers and supplies he would need. Nehemiah accepted the help and moved forward to rebuild Jerusalem.

God will move hearts and send people to help us in discouraging times. Will you look to the Lord in hope and accept the assistance He sends?