The Oxford dictionary defines the word discouragement as ‘a loss of confidence or enthusiasm; dispiritedness.’ It can also be described as demoralisation, despondency or low spirits. The opposite of discouragement is encouragement and to encourage means to ‘give support, confidence, or hope to.’ It can also mean to ‘uplift, invigorate, fortify or embolden.’
When we are feeling discouraged, this is exactly what we need people to do for us. Sometimes, though, we must encourage ourselves in the Lord, as David did in 1 Samuel 30:6. His men were about to stone him, so his situation was very grim indeed. With no human help in sight, he turned to God, and God in turn strengthened His servant.
God is the best encourager you or I could have, as He knows exactly what we need and how desperately we need it. Sometimes He talks to us directly, and other times He sends His servants to come alongside us and hold up our weary hands. The ‘how’ is not important but the ‘source’ certainly is, and Romans 15:5 tells us that the ultimate source of encouragement is God. When we are feeling discouraged it should be to Him that we automatically turn.
The causes of discouragement are many and varied, and what discourages one person may not necessarily discourage another. The Israelites got discouraged while in slavery in Egypt and in the wilderness, owing to the harshness of their lives (Numbers 21:4) Other people become discouraged because of weariness, as the rebuilders of the walls around Jerusalem did in Nehemiah 4:10. People were saying,‘the strength of the labourers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.’
When the wicked prosper righteous people get discouraged (Psalm 73:3). Negative reports can also cause discouragement, if we fail to get God’s perspective on the matter (Numbers 32:9). Last, but not least, the delay in the fulfillment of God’s promises can cause discouragement. The scriptures tell us that ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life’ (Proverbs 13:12). Whatever your source of discouragement, look to God for encouragement and wait expectantly for Him to send it. It may not come in the packaging you expected, but it will come.
Prayer: Father God, You are the ultimate source of encouragement and I look to You today. I am especially discouraged about … (fill in the blank).
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