“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 (NIV).
The Bible has a lot to say about discouragement. Many great men and women in the Bible had to deal with discouragement such as Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and Nehemiah. One of the great examples is found in the life of Nehemiah. Nehemiah sets out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and faces increasing opposition. It is halfway through the project that the enemies intensify their opposition and discouragement hits the people.
Most people will be discouraged from time to time. Sometimes we get discouraged because of past regrets, and sometimes we get discouraged because God has not answered our prayers and cries for help, when and the way we want Him to. We get discouraged when we put too much trust in people and expect them to do what we want them to do. Sometimes this discouragement feeds frustration and fear about the future.
When we get discouraged, we have a tendency to mimic a turtle and retract our heads safely inside shield-like shells. But that is not the answer. The story of Nehemiah gives us some ways to deal with discouragement. First look up rather than look around for answers. It should be the first thing that we do instead of the last thing we often do. Nehemiah 4:9 says, “But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.”
Second, continue doing what God gives you to do. Nehemiah 4:6 says, “At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm.” It is easy to pause or stop when we are discouraged, but Nehemiah wouldn’t let his enemies distract him from his work. Nehemiah would keep on working. The time you feel like doing it the least is the time when you need to do it the most.
Third, concentrate on the big picture. Because people were working on little sections of the wall, it was hard to get any perspective. When you can only see what is going on in your life, it is easy to be discouraged. Nehemiah rallied them around so that they saw the bigger picture. We can lose sight of God’s purposes and we get out of perspective if we forget that God has control of our piece of the wall and the bigger picture.
And last, remember God’s promises. Nehemiah 4:15 says, “When our enemies heard that we knew of their plans and that God had frustrated them, we all returned to our work on the wall.” There are times when you need to get your Bible out and start reading it. Find scripture that encourages you in the Lord. Find out what God says about any given situation. “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.” (Psalms 34:17-19)
- Have you ever become discouraged in some aspect of your life and thought about quitting? Think back on what made it so discouraging and how you dealt with it at the time.
- How can the story of Nehemiah help you deal with discouragement this week?