We’ve All Been There! – Andy Baker

We’ve All Been There! – Andy Baker

I am reminded of the story of the man that approached a little league baseball game one hot, sunny afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy kept his gaze on the field and responded, “Eighteen to nothing—we’re behind.” “Woah,” said the man, “I’ll bet you’re discouraged.” “Why should I be discouraged?” replied the little boy. “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!” Discouragement is a state of mind and heart that repeatedly looks at circumstances and says, “this is not the way I expected or wanted things to go!” It can be a result of unmet expectations, repeated failure, or even looking at the future and not seeing any discernible way for things to change in a positive direction. Thus, we become discouraged. Here are some truths about it:

It affects all of us. Discouragement is no respecter of persons. Every Bible character can we imagine has dealt with discouragement at some point in their lives. Job sat in ashes and loss scraping himself with a broken piece of pottery. The prophets preached their hearts out to people who had rejected God and persecuted them. God’s people collectively were discouraged in the report of the spies of the land of Canaan (If you think it can’t happen congregationally, read Numbers 13!)  David wrote psalm upon psalm about his troubles and how deeply they affected him.  It really is a “common to man” problem that really does affect all (1 Cor. 10:13). Whether patriarch, Israelite, Canaanite, king, prophet, common person, elder, preacher, deacon, teacher, faithful church member, unfaithful church member, or even the lost; WE ALL get discouraged.

It affects all of us in different ways. Jacob was never really the same once he concluded his son Joseph was dead. It seems he withdrew from life in the latter chapters of Genesis. Moses was dealing with the death of his sister and had a group of ungrateful Israelites at his door complaining against God and against him about a water problem. In his discouragement, he lashed out at them and struck a rock in disobedience to God (Num. 20:1-9). In God’s wisdom, part of the qualifications for elders seems to indicate that they handle conflict (and especially the coming discouragement) in a way that shows them to be mature, peaceable men (1 Tim. 3:1-5; Tit. 1:6-9) Knowing the ways discouragement comes for us, and especially how it affects us is absolutely key to handling it with joy and patience (Ps. 139:23-24; Jas. 1:2-7).

It is often difficult to see in ourselves. One man described discouragement as, “hopelessness with a side of cynicism.” It really is to be dis-COURAGED. Ask someone if they are discouraged and the answer will often be “No! I’m not!” Yet, watching behaviors and speech patterns will often yield a different answer. The Hebrew Christians were obviously discouraged with the difficulty of following Jesus, but the writer showed their need for endurance as a remedy for the discouraged who were beginning to take their eyes off of Jesus (Heb. 1:1-4; 2:1-4; 12:1-4). Discouragement is something we feel in the moment and stopping to be honest with yourself and with the Lord, “you know, Lord, I really am discouraged about this…” can really yield some godly perspective on how He wants us to consider Him more (Psalm 42).

It is a problem which Jesus personally experienced. Was Jesus ever discouraged? If the Son of God knew what was in man and knew what was in His future, we might be tempted to say, “no, He was never discouraged” (John 2:24-25; Heb. 12:2-3). Yet, as we read His condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, we can read the discouraged tone of His lament over the hardness of people’s hearts and how they had set themselves against God’s will (Matt. 23:37-39). We appreciate the sentiments of Hebrews 4:14-16 which ought to be an encouragement for all of us, “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was at all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus experienced discouragement. What is more, Jesus came to deal with and conquer the root of discouragement once and for all (John 12:31-32). If there really is something to keep us going and enduring and not giving up in discouragement, it is this: “My Lord conquered it and if I keep my eyes on Him, I will be with Him forever in a place that will be made sweeter and more beautiful because I endured like Him through my discouragement” (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17-18). What a glorious thought! We’ve all been there. Hang in there!