I felt very discouraged last week. There wasn’t one thing in particular that weighed me down, but it was as if a dark cloud were hanging over my head with a heaviness that was not easily shaken.
I have learned in the past not to trust feelings but to trust what I know is true. What I knew was that I was focusing on all the turmoil inside instead of remembering the words of Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” But that was so hard to do when I was so down.
I checked out the lives of a few important men God used in mighty ways who had times of deep discouragement and made note of how they responded.
Jeremiah was a prophet called to warn God’s people to repent from their idolatry in order that they might avoid the coming judgment. For 40 years he preached, but not one person listened to his message.
In fact, they plotted against him and he became very discouraged. So Jeremiah complained to God. He was lonely and everyone was cursing him.
And God said to him, “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve Me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman ... they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you...” (from Jeremiah 15:19-20).
God had called Jeremiah to serve Him before he was even born. The words God spoke to reassure Jeremiah here were very similar to His words to Jeremiah when he was a child (see Jeremiah 1).
The prophet Elijah found himself running for his life after a huge victory on Mount Carmel. He eventually sat down under a tree and asked God to take his life. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said (see 1 Kings 19:1-5). He had some food, slept, traveled for 40 days and nights, and eventually God spoke to him in a whisper at Mount Horeb. Shortly after that, Elisha was anointed to come along as his attendant and eventually succeed him as prophet.
Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 1:8 about a time when they “were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.”
But he goes on to say, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers” (2 Corinthians 1:9-11).
Jeremiah needed a reminder of God’s promises.
Elijah was at a time of change in his spiritual journey, and God brought along a much-needed friend.
Paul recognized God as the source of hope and the prayers of others as instrumental to his relief.
Someone once told me he didn’t believe a Christian could truly be depressed. I disagreed then and I still do. I am not qualified to get into all the reasons for depression, but for myself, I know there is a very real enemy who knows just when to strike and then kick me when I am down.
I need to make the effort to remember the promises of God, find encouraging friends (and let’s not discount the helpfulness of sleep, food, and a trip out of town), look to God as the source of hope, and ask for prayer. And not just when I’m down, but every day.
• Lisa Jisa and her family have been residents of Ahwatukee Foothills since 2000. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.