Some years ago, a poll was taken in the United States when people were asked one question. The question was What would you like to ask your Minister? There were a number of replies, but the second most common question people would like to ask was What can I do when I am so discouraged I feel like giving up?
I wonder if you’ve ever felt like that. Most of us have feelings of discouragement in life. Things go wrong at the most inconvenient time, when there are family or work pressures, or sickness. Bad news can strike at any time. I have a feeling there are lots of people who feel defeated, inadequate and discouraged. Sometimes what we need is a change of focus, but that can be hard work.
In the Bible we meet up with Elijah, the Prophet, a great man of God. But he knew all about discouragement. He was God’s mouthpiece, pronouncing judgement on the people of that time, but he is known as the ‘prophet of doom’. The moment of truth came in his ministry when he met 450 prophets of Baal for a duel on Mt Carmel. You can read about it in 1 Kings 18:16-45. It was a great victory, but after he had run for his life to escape Jezebel, he went into the wilderness and sat down under a tree.
He was exhausted, and told the Lord he had had enough. “Take my life,” he prayed. He thought his life was over, and he was so depressed he didn’t feel like keeping going. Probably he was physically exhausted. He needed a good meal which the Lord provided for him. But as he hid in the cave trying to sort out his dilemma, God told him to go to a mountain where the Lord passed by and a mighty windstorm hit. Then there was an earthquake and fire. Elijah didn’t see or hear God, but then there was a gentle whisper and God spoke to him at the entrance of the cave. Elijah found the reality of God’s still small voice and received a new understanding of himself and his faith.
When We Are Quiet Before God
Isn’t it true that we often have to slow down in life to hear God speaking to us? We are too busy to be quiet before the One who knows us better than anyone else. It was George Fox, a well known Quaker, who once said, “Carry some quiet around inside yourself”. I like that comment. Being quiet and waiting for God to speak is no waste of time. In fact, it can become the best part of the day as we seek his direction or share some concern with him. When we are quiet before God, we can often discover his will for that day. We can find the purpose of life, and our lives suddenly have a divine quality.
Have a read sometime of Psalm 42. The writer felt very discouraged. He said:
All your waves and billows have gone over me, and floods of sorrow pour upon me like a thundering cataract.
“O God my Rock,” I cry, “why have you forsaken me”.
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Then he answers himself:
But, O my soul, don’t be discouraged. Don’t be upset. Expect God to act! For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise him for all that he will do. He is my help! He is my God! (Psalm 42:7,9,11 – TLB).
Do you feel that God is distant from you? Do you sometimes have a lack of his presence? Here’s another verse from Scripture that says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8 – NIV). It’s his promise, and God does not break his promises.
If you feel despondent, realise the Lord gives you strength. The dictionary tells me a despondent person is one who lacks confidence, courage or hope. Another verse from the Bible says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired” (Isaiah 40:28). He understands how we feel, and he gives strength to the weary.
None of us are exempt from feeling discouraged—we can lose courage, confidence or even hope. But we can wait on the Lord and receive his strength.