The enemy of discouragement is one of the occupational hazards of ministry. Anyone who has served in the ministry of shepherding knows this to be true. Discouragement can come from a variety of directions. Sometimes it comes from within because of pride taking root, which leads to dependence on self rather than dependence on God. Discouragement may also arise from the difficulties of living in a sin fallen world and the inevitable problems we all encounter. Other times it is a direct result of spiritual warfare and the enemy seeking to distract the servant of God by taking him off focus. The late Dr. Jerry Falwell used to say, “You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or wealth, as the world does, but rather by what it takes to discourage him.”
The question is what should we do when discouragement inevitably visits?
Go to God. He already knows what is on your heart. Be honest with him and pour out your soul in prayer. The Psalmist (the sons of Korah) wrote in Psalm 42, “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, “Where is your God?” vv1-3
The sons of Korah served as gatekeepers in the temple. They may have been a group of singers or musicians. Streams of water are representative of the blessings of God. God as the Shepherd of his people leads them to refreshing water. The Psalmist’s tears, reveal the depths of his discouragement and grief.
He goes on to recall his service to God. “I remember this as I pour out my heart: how I walked with many, leading the festive procession to the house of God, with joyful and thankful shouts.” v4 The house of God represents the presence of God with his people. The writer was distant from this and longing to experience God.
Look inwardly. In vv5-6 the Psalmist has a conversation with himself. “Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God. I am deeply depressed.” He literally commands himself to put his hope in God! There is an internalization of truth taking place in his life.
In vv6-7 he transitions back to referring directly to God. “. . .therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and billows have swept over me.” His discouragement is compared to deep waters stirring and sweeping over him. Look within and ask yourself what it is that is bringing discouragement. If it is self, then repent. If it is the spiritual enemy, then resist.
Praise God in all circumstances. vv8-11 The Lord will send his faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night- a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God, my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression?’ My adversaries taunt me, as if crushing my bones, while all day long they say to me, ‘Where is your God?’ Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.”
The Lord sends his faithful love. His song is with us through the night. Hope in him. Praise should increase proportionately to discouragement. Do not back away from God. Instead, in times of discouragement draw even more closely until the darkness lifts.