Discouragement does not have to be forever. You can overcome discouragement today by applying the seven steps mentioned in this post. Plus, you will learn how God helped Elijah conquer disappointments and discouragement. Read on!
Have you been discouraged?
There’s no doubt; every one of us has been discouraged at least once in our life.
There are a lot of sources of discouragement. It could be a failing marriage relationship, financial difficulties, unmet expectations, health problems, the death of a loved one, and the list just goes on and on.
Discouragement is a natural response to life’s challenges and it seems to be so easy to get discouraged when things don’t go according to our plan.
Now, if we don’t properly deal with discouragement, it will soon lead to sin. It exposes us to temptations, doubts, fears, and other negative emotions that can lead us away from God.
Thus, we need to overcome discouragement and that’s exactly what I want to discuss with you in this blog.
There are a lot of ways to approach the topic of overcoming discouragement, but for this blog, I want us to focus on one particular instance when one of the most famous servants of God got discouraged.
Who is this man?
He is a prophet and his name is Elijah.
Join me now as we read I Kings 19:1-18 and learn how to overcome discouragement by studying the life of the prophet Elijah.
Step no. 1: Recognize discouragement
The first step we must do to overcome discouragement is to recognize that it exists and it is something that is very real.
In I Kings 19:1-2, we read Jezebel’s threat to Elijah:
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.”
Now, as you can read this threat, knowing Elijah, we should expect him to stay on his ground, be courageous, and face what’s coming.
But what do we read?
And when he saw that, he arose and RAN FOR HIS LIFE, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
He did not just walk, but he RAN for his life!
Now, we may wonder:
Is this the same Elijah who stood before the prophets of the false god with boldness and courage?
Is this the same man who killed about 450 prophets of Baal?
Is this the same person who just caused the drought of the land to end with heavy rain?
It seems that if we expect any person to be discouraged, it shouldn’t be Elijah. After all, he is a spiritual giant who has a direct contact with God.
If discouragement happened to Elijah, a great prophet of God, it can happen to any of us.
Sometimes, when we are discouraged, we deny its existence. When someone asks us, “Are you alright?” We tend to just keep it by ourselves and say, “yeah, I’m okay.”
This trait is more common in men. Do you know that men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women?
So, the first step that you should take is to recognize discouragement. You can’t solve or overcome anything unless you know it exists.
Step 2: Spend time with God
Let’s continue reading the story:
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
In times of discouragement, we need to spend more time with God and that’s what Elijah did here.
He left his servant to Beersheba and went a day’s journey in the wilderness. Just like what Yahshua or Jesus Christ did when He wants to spend some private time with God.
Now, our “wilderness” does not have to be in deserted places. Our wilderness can be anywhere where there are fewer distractions. We can even create our own “wilderness” by turning off our smartphones and TVs.
When we spend time with God, it should be a time where we seek comfort and strength from Him.
However, here’s the problem with Elijah. He spent his time with God with self-pity. He asks God to take his life. In his great discouragement, he saw no more purpose in his life and he believes it would be better for him to die in the hands of God rather than in the hands of Jezebel.
That’s not the way to overcome discouragement. Spending time with God is a great opportunity for us to surrender our problems in His hand and just let go of all our worries and fears.
This is the perfect time to let go and let God.
Step 3: Take care of your physical health
The narrative continues:
5 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.
Sometimes, the reason we are discouraged is that we are simply exhausted.
We are burned out.
We know from the previous chapters how Elijah worked so hard to follow the commands of God. Through God’s power, he proclaimed and ended a drought, revived the widow’s son, killed the prophets of Baal, ran continuously for more than 15 miles, and traveled to different places.
No doubt: Elijah was tired. On top of that, it seems that after all the things he has done, no one cares about him or appreciates his effort.
We, too, are human beings, made of flesh and blood. We do have physical limitations. Now, to overcome disappointments and discouragements, we need to step back from our busy lives and get some rest.
If you are getting overwhelmed by all the demands in your life, then don’t be guilty to take a break. God even gave us the seventh-day Sabbath for us to have physical rest and spiritual rejuvenation.
Step 4: Recognize the wrong ways to overcome discouragement
As we read from the earlier verses, we can see the wrong ways on how Elijah tried to overcome discouragement.
First, we saw how he left his companions in Beersheba, which belongs to Judah. During this time, the Kingdom of Judah has a righteous king, Jehoshaphat. He could have just stayed in Judah and enjoy the protection the place could afford.
But he left Beersheba as well as the opportunity to stay connected with others who might become a source of encouragement.
Next, he spent his time wallowing in self-pity. Instead of relying on God, he just can’t see how God is bigger than his discouragement.
Elijah has even become suicidal. He asked God to kill himself and when God didn’t do it, he intended to starve himself to death.
Finally, all he wants is to sleep, sleep, and sleep rather than doing productive things which could have distracted him from his problem.
In the same way, we can also have the same problem. Instead of overcoming discouragement, we are falling deeper and deeper into its trap.
We simply do things that worsen the problem.
When we are discouraged, it is natural for us to look for comfort and sometimes, we look for comfort in the wrong place.
Some people overcome discouragement by getting drunk, isolating themselves, taking illegal drugs, going to nightclubs, and worst of all, taking their own lives.
Such things will never provide lasting comfort.
Step 5: Realize you are not alone
9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
One of the fatal lies that you can believe while discouraged is to tell yourself, you are alone.
Nothing can be farther than the truth!
Elijah, in his depression and pride, thought that he is the only one who is doing the work of God. He deceived himself to be irreplaceable or indispensable, that he demands more from God. And when he didn’t get what he wants, he fell into deep discouragement.
God responded in verse 18:
18 Yet I have reserved SEVEN THOUSAND in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
You see, in times of discouragement, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. God is with you, your family, friends, and loved ones.
Our discouragement should lead us to recognize that God has given us people in our lives whom we can always turn to in times of distress.
And if you can’t find these people for one reason or the other, you can always be certain that God will never forsake or leave you (Hebrews 13:5).
Step 6: Focus on God
11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
In a world full of distractions and noise, it is so easy to lose our focus on God. That’s what happened to Elijah. Though he was in a peaceful and quiet wilderness, his heart is filled with the noise of discouraging thoughts and emotions.
God made Elijah realize that he just needs to get rid of that excessive noise. He demonstrated to Elijah that He has been talking to Elijah all along, but couldn’t be heard because Elijah is focusing on the wrong things.
So, instead of focusing on the source of our discouragement, focus on the Source of our strength.
God wants to talk to us, but we must also be ready to listen. If you want to overcome discouragement, talk to God through prayer and listen to Him through Bible study.
Open not just your eyes and ears, but also your heart.
Step 7: Do the work of God
15 Then the Lord said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17 It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill.
Discouragement saps our energy. It makes us weak, depressed, and inactive.
We saw in the life of Elijah how discouragement crippled his ability to continue in the work of God. However, God isn’t done with Elijah yet. He commanded Elijah to fulfill other tasks.
When we are discouraged, it seems that we don’t want to do anything but just lock up ourselves in our room, sleep all day, and sulk in self-pity.
One of the best ways to overcome discouragement is to simply do something else. And let that something be doing God’s work.
To distract us from discouragement, the healthiest thing we can do is to follow the will of God in our lives and fulfill His purpose.
God knows that Elijah will only be more depressed and discouraged if he continues in focusing on his problem. In the same way, doing the work of God gives us something to do and divert our attention from negative thinking.
The best thing about doing God’s work is it serves as a tremendous source of joy. Nothing can be more pleasurable than following the commands of God and ensuring that His work is being done on this earth.
Not only that, but we get the opportunity to work with other servants of God who can also be a source of encouragement.
Discouragement is among the most destructive tools Satan use to influence God’s people.
Don’t let discouragement overcome you.
Remember these seven steps on overcoming discouragement not just for yourself, but also for other people.
If you are discouraged or you know others who are discouraged, please share these steps with them. If you aren’t discouraged now, I’m sure you might be in the future. So, this blog is worth remembering.
Finally, when overcoming discouragement, remember that you can’t do it by yourself. In fact, nobody said that you should deal with it by on your own.
You can always approach the God’s Throne of Grace. Surrender all your worries and fears to Him. Let Him handle all your discouragement.
I want to leave you with the powerful message written by the Apostle Peter:
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Peter 5:6-7).