What do you do when you feel discouraged?
(a) Devour a bowlful (nay, a gallon) of your favorite ice cream
(b) Take a long walk
(c) Unload on a friend
(d) Crank up your favorite praise and worship music
(e) Take a nap
(f) All of the above
(g) None of the above
We’re all different so we deal with discouragement in different ways. As for me, I’ll go for a walk to clear my brain. I may even treat myself to a Tim Horton’s iced cappuccino. But always I’ll pray something like, “God, you know how I’m feeling right now. Thank You for being with me and promising to give me the wisdom and where-with-all to get through this situation. Keep my eyes focused on You and Your promises rather than on my cause for discouragement.” Then I “pull up my big girl pants” and forge ahead trusting Him to give me renewed vision and enthusiasm.
Take a look at how Elijah responded to discouragement in 1 Kings 19. He’d just experienced a landslide victory over the false god Baal. You’d think he’d feel like a world-conqueror now, but not so. His victory triggered a death threat from Queen Jezebel, and fear overwhelmed him. Personally, I think the guy was emotionally and physically spent from the battle with Baal’s false prophets; he couldn’t think clearly at this point.
Elijah allowed Queen Jezebel’s threat to intimidate him. His discouragement level soared, and he ran away to who-knows-where. At one point he parted company with his servant and continued the journey alone. Verse 4 says, “Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.’”
Elijah’s discouragement topped the scale. What might he have done to prevent that from happening? Here are my thoughts…
- He might have refused to let Jezebel’s threat paralyze him by choosing to recall God’s mighty display of power in the battle against Baal.
- He might have kept company with his servant rather than isolating himself.
- He might have rested rather than traveling all day in the wilderness.
- He might have changed his prayer from “I’ve had enough, Lord. Take my life,” to “I’ve had enough, Lord. Please take over because I don’t feel I can go on.”
What insights can we take from Elijah’s life and apply to our own? For starters, we can choose not to focus on the circumstances that are driving our discouragement. They may be incredibly difficult, but nothing we face outdoes God’s power and wisdom.
Second, we can choose not to isolate ourselves. We might be tempted to think we’re the only ones who’ve ever felt this way, and that people will think we’re weaklings if we admit to being discouraged so we’d best not tell anyone. That’s so not true! Satan wants us to be isolated because we’re then an easy target for him. Let’s be honest with trusted godly friends and solicit their prayer when discouragement strikes.
Third, we ought to ensure we’re caring for ourselves properly. We need proper rest, nutrition, and exercise. Neglecting our self care can easily result in seeing life and reality through a darkened lens.
Finally, we ought to remember that God’s presence is with us. Just as He met Elijah in the hard place of discouragement and met His practical needs with rest and food, so He will never abandon us to struggle through our circumstances alone.
How about you? What do you do when you feel discouraged?