It is a safe assumption that all of us have waded through swamps of discouragement. The danger of lumbering along in our despondency is our discouragement only grows. One of the best things that we can do to break this vicious cycle is to respond in a way that pushes back against our feelings. God’s word is filled with examples of discouragement. It also contains an antidote to lead us out of the swamp.
Now, it seems that some personality types are more prone to discouragement than others. Yet, in the Bible we find examples of those overwhelmed with the circumstances of life, like Hannah, the prophet Samuel’s mother comes to mind. Her despair at being childless. There are also all the times David shares his discouragement in the Psalms. We also know that the Apostle Paul struggle with an undescribed physical ailment and with discouragement concerning his ministry.
I was reminded, in my recent reading in the Bible, of how the Apostle Paul overcame those difficult seasons. Responding to personal attacks on his character, he reveals his source of strength. “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1) It is easy to miss the significance of his struggle. The last phrase helps us. When he states, “we do not lose heart,” what he is saying is that “we do not quit!” The first thought on most minds with struggling through the swamp of discouragement is to throw in the towel. That is what that phrase means, “to call it quits!” We tell ourselves all kind of rational-lies to justify the decision. Paul, as a mature follower of Jesus gives God’s antidote for discouragement. He says, when situations become overwhelming we do not run away, continue to press forward for the Lord.
What prevents him from walking away from his commitments and responsibilities? The antidote is actually revealed in the first portion of the verse. “having this ministry by the mercy of God.” His resolve is found in God’s work in his life. It was his understanding of God’s mercy and grace that encouraged him to press forward during those dark times. He understood that as one of Christ’s followers, God worked in his life so that God could work through his life in others. He calls this “ministry.” Paul’s ministry in spearheading the gospel to the gentiles was filled with obstacles and challenges.
It is can be easy for someone working in a secular context to become discouraged over the stuff that happens. Yet, if we see our place in that situation as part of our ministry it changes our perspective. I know it is easy for parents, and specifically moms, to become overwhelmed with the challenges of parenting. But when she begins to see it as a God given privilege to shepherd these developing hearts, it changes everything. Yes, the frustrations still exist, but now there is a purpose for pushing through the obstacles.
So, what is God’s antidote for discouragement? Simply stated, it is by embracing your ministry for Jesus. It is understanding that God’s is not only desiring to work in you but that He has worked in you so that He can work through you. When you begin to grasp your situation as God’s mission from God, it changes everything.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson