Are YOU discouraged — depressed? Do you feel "blue" and full of despair? Certainly, of all the people on the face of the earth, GOD'S PEOPLE should feel the most encouraged, positive, and hopeful of the future! What can YOU do to defeat discouragement?
WINTER COMES — long, tedious months of winter, with snow, ice, rain and cold, often drab landscape. Monotonous weather settles over the land in many regions. Life seems to take on a bleak, dismal aspect. And people — thousands of people — reflect winter conditions in their own personal lives! The monotony of winter depresses them, they grow discouraged and develop a dismal attitude toward life. Even God's people! During the long months of winter, following the excitement of the Feast of Tabernacles, the rejuvenation and uplift of the Feast begins to ebb and wane, if God's people are not careful — and bleak discouragement begins to set in! Problems develop. Perhaps marital troubles well up, and continue, and bring depression. Perhaps family problems rear up and perforate the peace of the home! Personal problems begin to sap spiritual strength. For many, winter is a time of loneliness — and more discouragement! DO YOU begin to feel depressed and discouraged during the winter months? The problem of discouragement is a BIG problem to many! It can lead to loss Of SALVATION! How can YOU defeat this mind wrecking problem?
Public Enemy Number One
First, what makes people grow discouraged? What causes them to feel GLOOMY and full of despair? There is a reason! The greatest enemy ALL people have — including God's people — is their own HUMAN NATURE! Human emotions often fluctuate, and it is normal for people to feel "positive" at certain times, and "low" at other times. But, most people, when they begin to feel "low," allow mere feelings to totally drag them into a self-pitying gutter of despair! And countless thousands COMMIT SUICIDE! Depression — discouragement — is a terrible ENEMY! It must be conquered by God's people — lest it conquer them! Millions of people in the world allow their human nature, and its emotional fluctuations, to guide and rule their lives. They have NOT learned to master or rule over their emotions. They don't even understand WHAT their nature is like — naturally vain, selfish, egotistical! They don't realize that their own HUMAN NATURE causes them to feel depressed, discouraged at times! But human nature also plagues GOD'S PEOPLE! And that is why many of the people of GOD actually feel the pangs of discouragement! Many of YOU reading this article have not yet learned to RULE OVER your emotions and thoughts! For this reason, many of YOU become bogged down under a cloud of discouragement! The downward pulls of human nature, then, is one major cause of discouragement. But there is another — one which few people really recognize or face. This other cause sometimes takes over where human nature leaves off — and plunges the victim into the blackest, most negative moods. If a Christian is not wary, it can lead him to give up the Christian fight and QUIT — and commit spiritual SUICIDE! One of the chief causes of discouragement in the world is not physical, but spiritual. Negative moods, feelings, and attitudes can — and often are — caused by Satan and his demons.
If anyone on the face of the earth has a "right" to feel utterly whipped, discouraged, it is Satan! Ever since Satan tried to thwart God's plan, and rebelled against Him, he has been irreversibly DOOMED! His fate has been sealed. And those angels who followed him in rebellion, also, are in a hopeless and dismal condition. Their hope is LOST! They are unalterably bent on opposing God, and they can NEVER succeed! Total frustration, misery, and hopelessness is theirs. Misery loves company. Satan or one of his demons would just love to find an opening in your mind — an opening caused by discouragement and negative feelings — so they can enter in, fill you with their misery, and REALLY drag you down into the gutter of despair! If YOU feel negative toward God, as if God's way is TOO HARD, and moods of spiritual depression strike you down, BE VIGILANT — be on the alert! It is possible that one of Satan's demons is attempting to influence your attitude, trying to get you to feel hopeless and finally GIVE UP God's way. Be on the alert whenever you are tempted to bog down in the quicksand of self-pity, gloom, and out-and-out depression! Such feelings do NOT come from God! They are either the result of your own carnal human nature — or they are caused by Satan or his demons. Such feelings and moods need to be FOUGHT AGAINST — conquered, and overcome! God is NOT the author of GLOOM, or unhappiness and misery! SATAN IS! If you feel moody and gloomy, search yourself — EXAMINE YOURSELF — and ask God in heaven to REBUKE those wicked, self-centered thoughts and cast them away from you! Ask Him to give you the right, out-going, positive attitude toward life, and even toward your problems! The apostle Peter admonished, "Be sober, be VIGILANT; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the FAITH, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (I Pet. 5:8-9). James wrote, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. RESIST THE DEVIL, and he will FLEE from yea" (Jas. 4:7). "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you" (verse 8). Whenever thoughts of discouragement come sneaking in, God's people need to strongly RESIST them — not gloomily welcome them with sympathetic arms. Such thoughts are totally contrary to God's way of the abundant life! They only bring more misery, suffering and HARM.
How to CONQUER Discouragement
The Word of God gives vital information regarding CONQUERING every human problem, every spiritual problem, including the problem which faces so many from time to time — depression and despair. What does God say? In order to conquer these feelings, the first thing to do — as we have already read — is be alert to them, and RESIST them. The place to begin is in the MIND. Do not allow yourself to even begin THINKING negatively! Solomon wrote, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). This scripture illustrates a basic principle. As people think in their heart, they ACT — whether negatively, positively, or however. Moods and attitudes begin with thoughts in the heart. The thought is reflected in the personality, the bearing, the manner of expression, the eyes. Therefore, every thought itself needs to be brought under control. The apostle Paul wrote, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting DOWN imaginations (reasonings), and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity EVERY THOUGHT to the obedience of Christ" (II Cor. 10:4-5). God wants us to bring every single thought into CAPTIVITY — control, rule over our very thought — processes! In this way, we can learn to control and RULE OVER our moods, attitudes, and emotions! The way to cast wrong, negative thoughts OUT of the mind is to place good, POSITIVE thoughts IN the mind. "he way to get air OUT of a milk bottle is to pour milk IN! God explains what kinds of thoughts His people should have. They should concentrate, think, ponder on "...whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, THINK ON THESE THINGS" (Phil. 4:8). Paul told the evangelist Timothy, "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an EXAMPLE of the believers, in word, in conversation [conduct], in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." He commanded him, "MEDITATE upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all" (I Tim. 4:12, 15). A Christian's thoughts are VERY IMPORTANT! They must be ruled over, and brought into subjection! In this way, negative feelings and discouragement CAN BE DEFEATED! There is no excuse for a child of Almighty GOD to feel "down in the dumps" and whipped — discouraged and beaten. But he must learn to RULE his thoughts, RESIST Satan, and subdue his human nature! He must WORK at it!
Sometimes trials and tests bring discouragement. Sometimes personal problems, faults and weaknesses contribute to depression. But all these factors concern the one great problem which people have — they get their eyes off the GOAL, begin thinking about themSELVES, and lose sight of the PURPOSE God is working out in their lives. They let prayer slide. They neglect Bible study. They thereby lose close CONTACT with God. Discouragement is the end product. Look in your own life. Hasn't this been the case? Haven't physical matters, personal concerns, taken precedence over the spiritual? When you lose contact with God, the result is ALWAYS failure and depression. It is vitally important, therefore to DRAW CLOSE TO GOD whenever discouragement threatens. If we draw near to God, He promises to draw nigh to US! (Jas. 4:8.) If we draw near, through earnest PRAYER and study of His Word — which is the most POSITIVE Book ever written! — He will give us spiritual STRENGTH to resist and overcome whatever thought or attitude troubles us.
The POWER of God
God created the Universe. He made the worlds, the seas, the skies, the mountains and valleys. Surely, then, He can enable us to conquer mental problems and discouragement, which are TRIVIAL by comparison! And He promises to DO so, if we call upon Him. Jesus Christ declared, "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: HOW MUCH MORE shall your heavenly Father give the HOLY SPIRIT to them that ask him?" (Luke 11:11-13.) The Spirit of God is NOT the Spirit of discouragement, moodiness, and negative feelings! "But the fruit of the Spirit is" — what? Notice it! — "LOVE, IOU, peace, longsuffering [patience), gentleness, goodness, FAITH, meekness, temperance [or, self-control]: against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22-23). Did you read anything there about "Sorrow, guilt, depression, moodiness, sulkiness, negative feelings" or "discouragement, despair and hopelessness"?? Did you read anything about God's Spirit being the Spirit of a "what's-the-use, who cares?" attitude? Of course NOT! It is the Spirit of LOVE, JOY, FAITH — the positive emotions! Notice what Paul wrote Timothy — "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of FEAR; but of POWER, and of LOVE, and of a sound mind" (II Tim. 1:6-7). A SOUND mind is not plagued by fear complexes, phobias, negative attitudes. It is HOPEFUL of the future! God's Spirit gives a sound mind. It is the Spirit of love. God says, "There is NO FEAR in love; but perfect love [imparted by the Holy Spirit) casteth OUT fear: because fear hath torment" (I John 4:18). The Holy Spirit of God CASTS OUT such negative feelings as fear, worry, moodiness, faithlessness, discouragement. It replaces them with real love, JOY, faith — brimful confidence in God, and supreme HOPE in His Word and promises! God's Spirit imparts POWER to overcome negative discouragement! Before its immense power, such minute, weakling attitudes and moods scamper like thousands of jackrabbits before a tornado. They don't stand a CHANCE! The Holy Spirit will impart that power to YOU, if you "stir it up," as Paul told Timothy. But you must draw close to God, and USE His Spirit according to His will, if you wish to be FILLED with it! You must rekindle it, and make full use of it — not let it die out. It is SPIRITUAL POWER!
A Few Discouraged Men
Some of God's greatest servants suffered periods of blackest depression and discouragement. Some of them were so depressed at times that they wanted to DIE. Life became too much of a struggle. Their problems grew too weighty and overpowering. Death seemed to be the "only out." Job was so discouraged when God chastised him that he groaned in deepest self-pity, "Oh that my GRIEF were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea" (Job 6:2-3). Moses, the man of God, once felt so overwhelmed he exclaimed to God, "Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?" Moses groaned, and moaned, "I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness" (Num. 11:11-15). Discouragement! Depression! Fortunately, God did not answer that particular request — or YOU might never have been born! Elijah, also, once knew bitter discouragement. Fearful of his life, he fled from Jezebel who sought to kill him. He wandered into the wilderness and requested to die (I Kings 19:1-4). He felt like giving up — quitting! God had to rebuke him, to straighten up his attitude (vs. 9-15). Elijah, too, was human. At times he had problems with his attitude. But because he yielded himself to GOD, as an instrument in HIS hands, and drew near to God, and prayed FERVENTLY, he was mightily USED of God and worked miracles (see Jas 5.16-18) Discouragement did not drag Job, Moses, Elijah, or other servants of God down into the muck and mire. It did not lead to their RUIN. Why? Because when they saw their human weaknesses and failings, they did not allow a terrible depression to take over. They did not grow sour and bitter. They did NOT "give up" and QUIT. Rather, they REPENTED of their discouragement, their negative attitudes — and they turned to God He forgave them, and imparted spiritual strength to them — and mightily USED them in His Work! How are YOU dealing with the problem of discouragement? Are you allowing it to lead you off into a ditch — the gutter of hopelessness? Or are your problems and discouragements causing you to turn away from yourself, and turn to GOD to receive spiritual HELP from Him? So many are tempted to give up the fight and quit, just before achieving success! Many, for lack of a little more perseverance, have come short and FAILED! They were willing to endure "so far" — and that was it. They then rebelled, cried "Foul," and shut the door on themselves. They shut themselves OUT of God's Kingdom! Rather than face up to their problems, they hid their faces, ran from the problems — and died, spiritually! They allowed clouds of depression to befog their vision, lost sight of the GOAT of the Christian life, and began to wander aimlessly, groping in spiritual darkness, getting nowhere fast. Are YOU allowing an attitude of discouragement to make shipwreck of YOUR spiritual life? Where do YOU stand?
Was Paul Discouraged?
What about the apostle Paul? He was used to write more books of the New Testament than any other man. Was he ever discouraged? Depressed? Paul was human, and undoubtedly he suffered many discouragements. When old friends and long-time converts fell away from God's truth, Paul must have suffered great personal pain and heartache. Paul's life was filled with troubles, trials, turmoils and narrow escapes. But did he ever allow discouragement to reign in his life? Let Paul speak for himself. "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed, we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the LIFE also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (II Cor. 4:8-10). Although beset and buffeted by circumstances beyond his control, Paul was not discouraged. He was not a quitter. He declared, "For which cause WE FAINT NOT; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is RENEWED day by day" (v. 16). Paul shared intimately his sufferings as a minister of God with the Corinthians, writing, "But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway REJOICING; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (II Cor. 6:4-10). Surely, if any man had anything to be discouraged and disheartened about, Paul did! But yet, as we just finished reading, he RE JOKED in his trials and afflictions, problems and sufferings! Paul had suffered — personally. Therefore he was able to write the Corinthians and say, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in ALL OUR TRIBULATION, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ" (II Cor. 1:3-5). Paul had been tempted, so he was able to succor and help others who were suffering, distressed, and even discouraged. Paul could comfort and sympathize with others who had trials and problems. Paul stayed CLOSE to God. Discouragement did not have a chance around him! His life was totally DEDICATED, devoted to God! Whether he lived, or died, did not matter with him (Phil. 1:21-24). Whether he abounded, or was abased did not count with him (Phil. 4:11-12). His eyes were always God-ward (Col. 3:1-2). His affection was on things above, not on earthly, sensual, fleshly things. His MIND was centered, concentrated on forgetting past events, and past failures or discouragements — and his attention was focused on those things which are before, pressing FOR WARD to the high calling of Christ Jesus in the Kingdom of God (Phil. 3:13-14). Paul had totally CONQUERED discouragement! Toward the end of his life, he wrote Timothy in absolute faith and assurance, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (II Tim. 4:7-8). Here is an example of resolute faith, determined hope and assurance. Paul had no room for doubt, discouragement or despair. His life was FILLED with radiant hope and faith toward God. Yours can be also, if you will draw CLOSE to God through DAILY prayer and diligent Bible study, drinking in of His inspiring, encouraging Word. Your life can be filled with HOPE, and joy, and you can have n POSITIVE approach to every problem, by drawing near to your heavenly Father who gives every good and perfect gift! But you must be willing to do YOUR part.
Change Your OUTLOOK
Have you allowed despondent, gloomy thoughts to occupy your mind in the past? Even now, do negative thoughts trouble you? Are you discouraged? You can change! God says, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD" (Isa. 55:7-8). Change your THOUGHTS! Learn to rule over them! Through drawing close to God, and His Holy Spirit, begin to think positively, as GOD HIMSELF THINKS! Be FILLED with God's truth, His thoughts, through the study of His Word! There is no need for any of God's people to feel depressed or discouraged. You can DEFEAT DISCOURAGEMENT before it gets started! There is no reason why anybody in God's true Church should be gloomy, negative-minded, or have a down-trodden, hopeless attitude! Not at all! Jesus Christ did not come to bring sorrow and depression. Rather, Jesus Himself said, in unmistakable terms, "... I am come that they might have LIFE, and that they might have it MORE ABUNDANTLY" (John 10:10). The abundant life is not one filled with worries, frowns, anxieties, depressions, concerns, or negative despondency! It is filled with the fruits of God's Spirit: LOVE, JOY, FAITH! It is not self-centered, but God-centered. It is not worried about the affairs of this temporary, short, physical life. It is concerned about the TRUE GOAL of life — the Kingdom of God! It is not occupied with material matters. Such things are counted as "dung" (Phil. 3:8). The abundant Christian life is filled with SPIRITUAL CONCERNS — and is centered on the things of GOD! happy life! It is the truly positive, hopeful, It can — and should — be YOURS!