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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

How To Battle When Feeling Discouraged

Depressed on everystockphoto by naktoufAnother Battle With Discouragement?

Yes.  This morning I woke up feeling pretty low.

I know.  You’d think that after all these battles, and writing all these blog posts, I’d be over this.  But I’m not.

And I’m committed to sharing my battles honestly, in hopes that it will help you fight the fight of faith.

So here goes —

What’s In My Heart

Here is what is discouraging me —

  • I’ve been sick for 13 days (yes, I’m counting).  It’s just a cold or flu; not as serious as what some of you face.  But I thought I was over it, only to have a relapse last night, which I’m still feeling this morning.
  • One of our church leaders might be called to a ministry that would take him from our church.  I should be willing to send him away, since the Commander knows best where his troops are needed.  But this morning I’m feeling only fear.
  • The fact that I’m feeling fear about this church leader shows that I am not trusting the Commander.  You’d think that by now I’d have more faith.  But I don’t.  And that’s discouraging.
  • I submitted a guest post to another blog and they decided not to use it.  This is not the first time, but it’s discouraging me.

So here I am, Wednesday morning, at my desk with my morning tea and a discouraged heart.  What can I do?

Seek God

There are things I could do besides seek God.  I could beat myself up — why do you get discouraged so often?

I could ignore my discouragement, just read my assigned Bible passages and pray through my prayer list, and get on with my day.  But that would be a lie.

I could wallow in discouragement, and enjoy the tiny pleasures of self-pity.  But that would dishonor Christ and compound my sin.

I could try to change my heart with non-God-centered approaches — like looking on the bright side, thinking of how others have it worse off than me, persuading myself that it will all work out.  That might temporarily change my feelings, but it would ignore my sinful unbelief.

So I’m going to seek God.  Where should I start?

By Praying

Father, this morning I’m full of discouragement.  Which shows I’m not trusting you.  Please forgive me through your holy Son, Jesus.  

Thank you that he paid for the guilt of this sin.  Thank you that he broke the power of this sin.  Thank you that your Spirit can overcome this sin.

Please, Father, by the Spirit’s power use your Word to crush my unbelief.  Open my eyes to see you, trust you, love you, and worship you.

The Word

My faith is weak, but faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).  So my next step is to prayerfully read God’s Word, asking for more of the Spirit’s work to strengthen my faith.

I use a Bible-reading calendar that gives me four readings each day.  And my first reading is —

Jeremiah 19-22

Jeremiah says that since Israel turned from God to worship idols, God will break her as someone might break a clay jar.

This is helping me see what’s going on in my heart.  The root issue is that I have turned from God to idols of health, church leaders, spiritual growth, and blog publishing.

Not that there’s anything wrong with health, church leaders, spiritual growth, or blog publishing.

But what’s wrong is relying on them for my joy.  That’s idolatry.  That’s blasphemy.  That’s sin.

That strengthens my desire to fight.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-14

This was good to read, but did not do a lot to help me battle.

John 3:16-21

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son (John 3:16).

How much does God love me, and you?  So much that he gave his only Son to be slaughtered for us on the Cross.

So in all these trials — God loves me.  Which means that everything I’m discouraged about is a gift from God’s love — given to bring me more joy in Him.

  • Being sick can humble me so I rely more consciously on God.
  • The possibility of losing a leader can increase my dependence on God.
  • Seeing my unbelief can humble me with how desperately I need God’s grace.
  • Not having a blog post published can show how quickly this becomes an idol, and how earnestly I must battle pride.

These are all gifts, planned for me by God’s love, and given to me by God’s love, to bring me closer to God, who is the greatest joy in the Universe.

Now I’m starting to feel my heart change.

James 4:11-17

Is God really sovereign over the details of my life — like how many days I am sick, or whether a post is published or not?

James would say Yes —

Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)

So God is sovereign over whether I am sick for day 13, whether a church leader is called out of the area, whether I wake up discouraged, and whether a blog post is published.

There’s mystery here.  But the mystery does not change what James says.  God is sovereign over everything in my life.

So this strengthens even more what I saw in John 3:16 — that all of these trials are part of God’s love.  None of them are random or without meaning.  My Father has lovingly and sovereignly planned each of them in order to draw me closer to him.

So I’m seeking to submit to His loving and sovereign will in each of these areas, and say —

Yes, Lord.  I trust you.

Heart-Change

I don’t want to overstate it.  It’s not exactly joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8).

But my heart has changed.  I’m feeling peaceful, encouraged, and content.

I’m no longer seeing just health, leaders, spiritual attainment, or publication.  I’m seeing God — his love, his sovereignty, his promises.

And that changes everything.

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(Picture is from everystockphoto by naktouf.)

Category: Hopeless or Discouraged?, Stories from My Life

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13 Responses

  1. barry mcgee says:

    very instructed & encouraged by what u wrote, steve! i have been wallowing lately. got to engage in the battle more by faith. by the way, happy belated birthday! blessings, barry

    • Steve Fuller says:

      What a joy to hear from you, brother! Thanks for your encouraging words and birthday wishes. I have such fond memories of our time together many years ago. Thank you for impacting my life. And may the Lord lift you from the miry clay and set your feet upon the rock. Steve

  2. Louis Wilpitz says:

    Steve,

    I was directed to your site from DG post of yours. What a providence and clear sign that God is still at work in my recovery.

    I have been a bivocational pastor working in micro-church context since 1992. Have also been real involved in cross cultural missions moblization (rope holding) to Islamic contexts.

    Have been a reader of John Piper and Dallas Willard’s ministry for almost 15 years.

    I have been through several major transitions in the past months – my marketplace work in oil and gas exploration has been an economic falure, I’ve currently been unemployed since Janaury and underemployed for the previous 18 months; my wife of 31 years left our home and divorced me; I stepped down from pastoral ministry when she told me she wanted a divorce; have had three surgeries on the same foot. The last one with no health insurance; my two sons have graduated college and are own their own (a blessing for sure in many ways and I have finally a daughter through marriage). Of course there is the financial tribulations related to this.

    I have really been in the “cave” or “the pit.” Have a Band of Brothers who have been close even though we rarely see each other face to face. God has blessed in that way. So thankful for that.

    In my depression, despondency, sadness or whatever it should be deemed, I ended up at your site very late last night. God has really spoken through your ministry. He has, in my opinion, blessed you with the ability to communicate this needed corrective to sanctification by self-effort or mere human will to focus on delighting in Christ. Much of the literature is very good but so dense of a read it is hard to grasp it and even harder to communicate to others. Maybe it’s because of 15 years of reading and seeking, but your communication reached right into my soul with the enablement of the Spirit. It is still a struggle to lay hold of Jesus as the answer to all of my losses, but your teaching made it very clear cut. Both of the need and the path to God.

    Thank you for your work on the blog. It has been a blessing and I’ve sent it to many in my oikos.

    By the way, nice touch with the In ‘n Out fries. We came to love that place when I was in doctoral studies at GGBTS in Mill Valley.

    Looking forward to walking with you through your site.

    God’s Best,

    Louis

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Louis,

      It’s good to meet you, brother. I’m glad you found this site, but my heart hurts for the sorrows you have been facing.

      But thank you for sharing your story. It means a lot.

      Not that I have any special access to God, but I will pray for you right now. I look forward to hearing more of your comments, and hearing about how God is working in and through you.

      And I join you in being an In ‘n Out fan.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  3. Was discouraged when i opened the post, because it seemed so long, but I dived into it.

    The honest hearthfelt approch is just the right for me, really inspiring. I know the message, the bible is one of the ways we can hear from God and let him change us.

    This is not a blame, or something i essentially sees in this post, but ill just encourage you to keep trying to explain Jesus, and the reality of heaven without being religious. Make your stories as understandable and profitable for christians, new christians and unbelievers as possible, so its easier for all to take part in a dialog og reflektion.

    Looking forward to read your blog much more in the comming time. Thank you Steve.

    God bless

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Kasper,

      Thanks for persevering through a long post — and I will take your counsel to heart, and seek to keep things as simple and non-religious as possible.

      It’s good to have you joining the community here, and keep sharing your thoughts.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  4. Louise says:

    It is very true that God will not give us more than we can handle – because we have access to His strength, and nothing is too big for Him. However, it does sometimes FEEL like life is beyond us. Even the Apostle Paul felt this way: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” (2 Cor. 1:8) I think it helps to know that this feeing is normal and then to remember all the encouragements that you have given.

  5. Paul Walton says:

    Why do we feel empty, or troubled by our lack of spiritual food when we are going through trials? Is what we are experiencing lack of faith, or is it something else?

    “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” – James 2:14

    Perhaps we the body of Christ need to truly understand what the word of God says is the fuel is for true faith. Yes we need to trust in Christ, yes we need to see him as our all satisfying heart treasure, but if we have not love, our faith is powerless, as James goes on to say “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

    True faith that is motivated by love, doesn’t show partiality to the “well off” or “leaders in the body” it treats everyone equal, it invites the war veteran living on disability to dinner, or the one who’s spouse has left them after many years of marriage to spend the evening in fellowship.

    “For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,”

    Oh we don’t actually tell the poor man to sit at our feet, or to stand over there, but we keep him at arm’s length, being just friendly enough not to offend him.

    Faith works by love as Paul says in Galatians, and that “love is greater than faith” and “faith without love profits you nothing” as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13.

    “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4: 7-8

    We can have enough faith to move a mountain, but if we aren’t working out our faith in love, we are (feel) nothing.

    Just some random thoughts, not directed at anyone in particular.

    In Christ,
    Paul

  6. Erin says:

    Steve,

    I have been overcome with despair the last couple weeks because my hope has been on earth, and earth is no good! I thought of reading your blog this morning and I’m so glad I did. I prayed that prayer three times: “God, my heart is discouraged…” Wonderful! Feeling just the slightest bit more encouraged, and I will continue to think about how these things that are so negative can actually be gifts from God.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      We are sorry to hear you’ve been discouraged — but glad to hear that God is meeting you.

      And you are absolutely right. These are gifts from God.

      You are loved and missed!

      Steve and Jan

  7. Lesa says:

    Hi Steve,

    I was just searching the Word and the web for others testimonies for encouragement in times of trials and I happened upon your blog. I have gone through so many in my life some of my own making others not and it’s so very hard sometimes to go through. Right now I have one prodigal and now maybe two because of the choices he is now making…. I know that everyone including our adult children make their own choices, but it can be so hard to not blame myself or just wallow in self pity and the main thing is I think I am “worshiping” my kids instead of God if that makes sense…I have asked for forgiveness in that and also my joy shouldn’t be in what my kids are doing or not doing, but in God. I know that doesn’t mean we won’t be sad, devastated or come to God broken, but to leave it with Him and let it change us is sometimes so very hard. Thank you for your encouraging words, it helped. If I might ask could you please pray for my two adult children who are not making the best choices at this time.
    Blessings,
    Lesa

  8. Louis says:

    Howdy Steve,

    Glad to hear the work and new church is going so well!

    Thank you again for your service to the body through your website and blog.

    Am in hand-to-hand this morning in spite of great victory from the Lord this weekend. I came back to this site to pray and fight through discouragement and overwhelm. Saw where I posted in October 2013. God is using this site to sanctify my sin and suffering almost continuously.

    Praying for the Lord’s continued protection and blessing on you and your family.

    God’s Best,

    Louis

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