A time to break down, and a time to build up (Ecclesiastes 3:3b).
We as Christians enjoy encouragement– we all can share in great times when our faith is being built up (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:23). Where there are peaks, however, there are valleys also; if we enjoy encouragement, we must also recognize that there will be times of discouragement.
We can get discouraged for many reasons. If we stumble and sin, we know that we need to get up, repent, and confess before God (1 John 1:9) but it can be discouraging, especially if we keep struggling with a sin that besets us (Hebrews 12:2). We can easily become weary of the battle, discouraged because we seem to keep fighting and fighting and not getting far (cf. Ephesians 6:10-18). Constant rejection, especially if we are trying to show our friends and neighbors the truth of the Gospel, also discourages. Unfortunately, brethren themselves, as opposed to being a source of encouragement, can often discourage, either intentionally or unintentionally. There always seems to be plenty of sources of discouragement. What are we to do?
We can start by thanking God for all of His blessings (Ephesians 5:20). This may seem odd to do when we are discouraged, but when we begin to consider how greatly blessed we are, having all spiritual blessings in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), and all kinds of material blessings also. This should give us confidence and hope, realizing that this “slight momentary affliction” is little in comparison to the “eternal weight of glory” for us in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:17).
We can then begin to focus on the positive. As it is written in Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
There are always reasons to see the glass as half-empty; likewise, there are always reasons to see the glass half-full. The command to think and meditate upon that which is good helps us to focus on what we can do and how great God is and not get lost in the negativity that is so pervasive. Light that spends too much time in darkness or worrying about darkness will become darkness!
Finally, we need to get busy. When Elijah was greatly discouraged, God gave him some time to think, meditate, and vent, but then told him to get up and do certain things (1 Kings 19). We can work ourselves through many periods of discouragement! While a runner is engaged in a race, there may come many times where he may despair of his ability to win, but eventual victory is only out of the question if he stops running in the race. We need to constantly keep moving, no matter how discouraged we may get (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Hebrews 12:1-2)!
There will come periods of discouragement. The important question is what will you do when you get discouraged? You can lose faith or gain greater faith; the choice is yours. What will you do?