Have you ever been discouraged while doing the work of God? Have someone criticized you and that made you to discontinue the task that was presented to you? Have you been frustrated and feel like giving up the work?
Discouragement is the biggest tool that our enemy uses to defeat us. That makes us feel that we are unworthy, hopeless and it steals the joy of our heart. If it is not knocked down, it will unfold and it will bring all it’s other friends doubt, depression, loneliness, anger…. In the Bible, even the strong men had faced discouragement from time to time. Elijah was discouraged when Jezebel sent him a death warning. Though he was strong enough to face the Baal prophets, a fear in his heart discouraged him and he started complaining to God. The consequence of discouragement might be sometimes bigger. The discouragement of 10 among the 12 spies, when spying Canaan, resulted in God forbidding them to enter Cannan except Joshua and Caleb.
I have been in various places and groups, where I have been criticized and was discouraged even by my loved ones. When I feel like giving up, somehow, God reminds me, “Are you working for them or for ME?”. God has given me courage to overcome this discouragement and I wanted to share the message in today’s reading the reasons for discouragement and how can we overcome it?
In today’s reading we will read from Nehemiah, how the people of Judah were discouraged while building the wall (God’s work) and how Nehemiah, as a leader helped them to take down this discouragement.
After the exile, the Jews were permitted to return to their city during the period of King Cyrus and they were allowed to rebuild the wall. God set up leaders like Nehemiah to lead them. But, at times, these people were often discouraged while doing the work of God!
Let us discuss about some of the factors that cause discouragement from Chapter 4.
- Disappointment from people
“But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.”
Critique from other people, is the first that comes in. Sometimes, there will be a group of people, only to mock us when we do our job. Here, in the above verse, we see Sanballat and Tobiah, mocking the Jews and criticizing them with their speech.
Dear friends, have you been mocked by someone? Do not hear their words. Remember, not all the advices are from God and not all the criticism are equal. There are people who tell us our mistake to correct us, but there are people who just wanted to mock us for what we are doing. We are the sons and daughters of the King of kings and satan just brings these kind of words precisely to make us feel that we are unworthy. When people criticize about what we are doing, we might feel like giving up and hide ourselves from them. When I started writing for God, there were many who criticized me about my writings. When I wrote my first poem, some of my friends in my closed circle teased me saying, “Even a person who doesn’t know to write will write better than you”. Some commented, “Even the dog’s bark conveys a better rhyming than your language”. Tears rolled by when I heard such comments, and even I felt like I shouldn’t write any longer. But, God sent me a friend to boost me. If it is God, who has called you for that purpose, and when you hear people mocking you, remember that, satan is getting afraid of your entry and he doesn’t want you to go on with your work and that is the reason.
Criticism is a tool of discouragement that sometimes penetrates deep into your soul. Forget it and forgive.
- Tired and Worn out:
Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.”
The people of Judah were in a half way in construction (Nehemiah 4:6). It occurs always that in our halfway point discouragement sets in. When we progress to the midway, negative thoughts begin in our mind and the things which seemed to be possible for us will be impossible. Discouragement comes at the point of no return, where we cannot start over or we cannot relinquish. Tiredness also comes in half way.
When I was into my first project, I was over excited, that I started overworking for hours. But when time went by, I felt a sudden fatigue in my soul and I started feeling like I lost my energy and I couldn’t proceed further. Sometimes, when we are at the commencement of the work, we give our 100% and when time runs by, it gets decreased proportional to our tiredness.
Weariness is the next tool of discouragement which our enemy uses against us. The people of Judah also, started complaining to Nehemiah when they began losing their strength.
……. there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.” (NLT)
People started complaining to Nehemiah that, there were rubble(waste or rough fragments of stone, brick, concrete, etc., especially as the debris from the demolition of buildings) all around. Hence, we are not able to build the wall.
We all have rubble in our life. We have family rubble, financial rubble, work rubble. These all factors discourage us. We start thinking self-centered than being God-centered such that, we focus on those rubbles the most than God who can work out with our rubbles. Yes, when we set about working something new, we can see that the thrash getting stacked up in a row. When it is not handled properly and periodically, it blocks up our ongoing process. Do you have rubble in your life? What is that unwanted thing in the trash, which you haven’t cleared? It will forbid you from accomplishing what God has called you to do by wasting your time.
- Fear of people/Focus on people:
Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.” The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!”
The next thing, which brings discouragement to us is when we focus more on people than on God. Here, the people started concentrating on their adversaries than on God.
We start taking heed to our adversaries than talking to God. It says that, the jews warned them again and again. In the NKJV, it says “Then the Jews who LIVED NEAR THEM came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” The one who was afraid are the people surrounded by the negative voice. When we are surrounded by negative people, then whatever step we take will result in discouragement and that makes our things look larger when compared to God. They were more afraid of the people than doing the work of God. They began counting their trouble more, than casting their burdens upon God.
Besides, sometimes, we may expect praise from people, which, when doesn’t happen, that leaves us discouraged. At the beginning of my writing process, I was sharing with my friends, whatever I wrote and when I didn’t get the praises from them, I felt so discouraged. But one day, I received this question in my mind, “Am I writing for the praises of these people or for God to say at the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant”
- Loss of confidence:
When all the factors, which we got a line above takes its place, the final one is losing our confidence level and quitting. In Nehemiah 4:10, they said they won’t be able to do for what they are called. When we lose our confidence, we start saying, “Lord, I cannot move further”, “It is enough”, “I will fail if I continue”, I will not succeed”, “I cannot finish it”…. These words will start haunting your mind, and it will cause us to discontinue from our work.
Do you start complaining that it’s impossible? Or, do you start focusing on God and start travelling again?
Now we’ve examined some of the factors that cause discouragement in us through the life of people in Nehemiah. Nehemiah, being their leader, made them to come out of discouragement and rebuild their wall. Now, let us focus on the lessons from Nehemiah, how he handled the situation.
Steps to Overcome discouragement:
- Call on God
When discouraged, we need to focus on God and pray to Him.
Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.
Throughout Nehemiah, we can realize that, Nehemiah cried out to God whenever trouble came than sitting and being discouraged. Prayers has the power of breaking everything and make us renewed. Prayer brings victory. Prayer is the best antidote for discouragement.
- Take a rest and reorganize:
Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.
The next step to come out of discouragement is to have a break. Rest for some time. Step out from where you are and make yourself free from everything in your mind.
The first step Nehemiah did was, he reorganized the people. We can see the people being discouraged by negative thoughts and negative talking by the people around. So, Nehemiah placed them guard by their households. When you are discouraged, run to the fellowship or family. Draw nearer to them. Get yourself plugged with the family of God.
- Think about God than our problems:
And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome,…..”
Remember that God is with you always, when you are in trouble. We need to focus on God who is bigger than our problems. The Jews were concerned about their problems around. They didn’t have time to think about God. And, that is the way we think. When we are discouraged, we examine it as big mountain and hid ourselves from seeing God.
Get your eyes off your fears, and with all your strength, with all your mind and with all your soul, remember God and trust in Him. He is powerful, majestic and awesome. Read the Word of God every day. Spending time in reflections and meditations of the word of God will facilitate us so the God can illuminate our hearts and minds about his purposes and plans for our lives.
Corrie Ten Boom, who suffered in a Nazi camp, explained how to overcome discouragement:
“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest!”
- Be strong and Fight
In verse 14, Nehemiah says the next step to overcome discouragement.
“Fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
We cannot let the discouragement take over without fighting it. We cannot choose what we are undergoing but we can choose how we can respond to that. Satan will do whatever that stops us from doing the task. Simply remember, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”. Don’t allow the giant take you off the purpose of God. Be an overcomer and fight against it. You are a child of God, you are an heir of the kingdom, you have been made complete in Christ – Reject discouragement for what it is, a desperate attempt from a false messenger to steal from you the joy in Christ.
- Return to work
The final step to overcome discouragement is to return back to work.
And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work
I have a list of tasks undone because of discouragement. That is not how it should be, though. After we take a rest, reorganize, fight and start concentrating on God, we should return back to our work. That will be the defeat of our adversary.
Discouragement is the greatest weapon of our enemy to lose our track from our purpose. Everyone in this world, at some period, faces discouragement. But, what counts most is how are we, the children of God are handling it. Are we suppressed by depression or are we overcoming it? When discouragement knocks you down, remember how David faced Goliath, the giant who laughed at him. When discouragement drags you down, when it makes you unproductive, remember God. Remember His promises. God promises to renew our strength and even take away our discouragements if we will just wait and reflect on God.
This article is written by Carol Yasin and was first published in RootedInHisWord.com
Thank you for the encouragement and biblical insight on getting through the tough seasons of life. All of us go through such periods. Don’t give up!