Self Diagnosis: Is Discouragement Inhibiting Your Effectiveness?
Here are a few of the symptoms so you can do a self-check:
- Exhaustion, physical or otherwise
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling like nothing you’re doing is working
- Feeling underappreciated
If that sounds like you (and since you clicked on this article, I had a sneaking suspicion), well…me too.
And you’ve probably tried lots of things–trying bunch of different solutions, taking time to relax, organizing and scheduling, enlisting help from others…
But you still feel this way.
Often discouragement brings with it the feeling that you are not “doing well enough.”
Here’s the good news: This is not at all true.
The reason you feel discouraged is because you’re being attacked.
And that means the enemy is afraid of you.
Well, you might be thinking, that’s all well and good, but that doesn’t help the fact that I feel like I am drowning. It doesn’t help the fact that I feel like nothing I’m doing is good enough.
It doesn’t help the fact that I haven’t really seen God come through yet.
At least, not in the way I need Him to.
Need a Reminder of God’s Faithfulness?
Let’s go back to the old testament for a minute.
It’s easy, when we are in the midst of dark circumstances, to wonder if God is really going to come through. Let’s go all the way back to Genesis 22 to address this question.
Remember when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, as a burnt offering? The same son that Abraham and Sarah prayed for such a long time to conceive; the one that Sarah miraculously had in her old age?
If you are unfamiliar with this story, here’s a link to it so you can read it.
As Abraham was walking up that mountain, I’m sure he was wondering how God was possibly going to come through for him this time. He was faithful and willing to actually sacrifice his own son for the sake of staying obedient to the Lord, and it was going to break his heart…to put it mildly. If I were him, I’d be asking a lot of questions, like…
How can God still be good?
How can God still fulfill His promise that Abraham’s offspring would be like the stars of the sky? (Genesis 22:17)
Out of faith, Abraham obeys anyway.
And then…at the last second, God provides a ram to sacrifice instead.
It is impossible that God would prove false… (Hebrews 6:18)
God always shows up. He is always faithful, and He will always provide. Sometimes His timing is different than ours. I’m sure Abraham would have liked to know about the ram at the bottom of the mountain. But would his faith have grown if that were the case?
But then, what do we do while we wait for Him to show up?
3 Ways to Fight Discouragement
I was reading through Hebrews 6 this morning and it had a lot to say on this issue. My prayer is that what I learned from it is as refreshing for you as it was for me.
This passage says a lot about sluggishness.
Sluggishness keeps us from being effective, and it’s the direct result of discouragement. The NLT translates the word for “sluggish” as “spiritually dull and indifferent.” If any of those words sound like you, don’t worry! God has encouragement waiting for you. He doesn’t want His soldiers to be ineffective.
Here are some of the key steps to overcoming discouragement and sluggishness from Hebrews 6:
1) Stay diligent.
And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Verses 11 and 12)
Show diligence. In context, the writer is saying to show the same diligence in serving the saints as the Hebrews have shown in the past.
Without diligence, we become sluggish.
And we are not without motivation. If we stay diligent, we get to “realize the full assurance of hope to the very end.” No matter how much hope you put in God, it is never too much. It is impossible for Him to disappoint.
The word for “diligence,” spoudē, is also translated as…
- earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything
- to interest oneself most earnestly
Are you still interested in your work? Take a moment to meditate on what it means to see your hope fulfilled in the end, to put it another way. Why did you start doing your work in the first place? Remember your “why.”
2) Remember that God sees your work.
For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for His sake in serving the saints, as you still do. (Verse 10)
This verse was by far the most nourishing for me this morning.
God does not overlook my work. For Him to do so would be unjust and outside of His character. He sees every effort I put in. He hears every thought and every good motive. He sees it all.
And to tell you the truth, I’ve been working for human approval. What I’ve found is that even when I receive that, it can’t even compare with the knowledge that God, the One who moves the sea and sets the planets in motion, sees the small, mundane tasks that have me so discouraged. If you really let this truth sink in, I guarantee you will feel so appreciated.
Knowing that, it’s suddenly a lot easier to avoid sluggishness!
3) Encourage yourself in the Lord!
1 Samuel 30:6 tells us that during a time of chaos and grief, David strengthened Himself in the Lord. We can do the same. Look at Jesus’ words in John 15:4-5:
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
Apart from Him, we can do nothing!
Sometimes discouragement is a sign that it’s time to do a little more abiding. Spend time in the Word. Spend time in prayer. Spend time in worship and thankfulness.
Encourage yourself in the Lord.
Hope: The Opposite of Discouragement
We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (verses 19-20)
The story I mentioned above (Genesis 22) is a story of patient endurance. Times where we must show the same are prime opportunities for the enemy to attack because we are tired. That is when we start to question if God is really gong to come through.
What is your “anchor” during times of patient endurance? What is keeping the enemy from tossing you around?
We don’t need an anchor for calm seas. We only need one during the storm.
One incredible gift from God is that we are anchored to hope in times of discouragement. This anchor is unseen yet totally reliable.
We are anchored to the hope of going where Jesus has gone before us; of the Gospel; of the treasure that awaits us both in this life and after we die.
Don’t Be Afraid to Trust.
God will allow us to go through hard times. That’s the simple truth. It wasn’t easy for Abraham to put his son on that altar and raise his knife into the air…
But he did it anyway.
And God came through.
Don’t be afraid to trust that He will do the same for you.
Don’t be afraid to hope.
I can guarantee you, however radical your hope seems now, God will never disappoint.
Until next time,