How to Overcome Discouragement
In our prior lesson we considered some ways in which people often discourage others (insensitivity, intimidation, domination, and negligence). We also noted that ideally Christians should never be overcome with discouragement because of their hope and faith. Nevertheless, such does happen and it underscores the need for all of us to encourage one another and provide strength to those who are struggling.

When I think of a godly person who refused to be overcome with discouragement, I am reminded of Joseph, son of Jacob, whom we learn about in the book of Genesis. A brief look into Joseph's young adult years shows that he had every reason to be discouraged. He was sold by his own brothers into slavery. He was falsely accused of sexual misconduct toward his master's wife and thrown into prison for several years. Joseph suffered greatly--through no fault of his own--but he remained undaunted. He successfully faced envy and hatred, betrayal, persistent temptation, lies, ingratitude, and painful memories. He did not allow discouragement to take root in his life!

When discouragement takes a foothold in a Christian's life, what should he or she do? Here are three practical suggestions:

1. Renew your faith in God and His promises (such as the ones found in Philippians 4:13 and Romans 8:28). We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! Paul believed this truth, and so should we. God is working all things out in the best interest of His faithful ones--we must trust Him! Read and reflect upon God's word, especially during difficult times. Be reminded of the fact that God is in control and that He loves us!

2. Pray to God fervently, pouring out your heart to Him and asking for His help and strength. I Peter 5:6,7 states - "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you." Paul declared in Philippians 4:6,7 - "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

3. Seek encouragement from the fellowship of Christian friends. As we noted in previous lessons, God expects us to provide encouragement for one another (I Thess. 5:11; Heb. 3:13; 10:24,25). Thus, we ought to be able to seek encouragement from our brethren when we are suffering hardship.

In Moses' day, there was often widespread discouragement (and complaining) among the Israelite people (e.g., Num. 21:4,5; 32:9-12). What was the common cause? Ultimately, it was their failure to renew their faith in God. Even though they had witnessed so many wonders from His mighty hand, they continually doubted and rejected the encouragement provided to them by Moses! Moses summed up their problem quite well in Deuteronomy 1:26-32 - "Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; and you complained in your tents, and said, 'Because the LORD hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, "The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven; moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there."' Then I said to you, 'Do not be terrified, or afraid of them. The LORD your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all that He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place. Yet, for all that, you did not believe the LORD your God.'"

They failed to believe the Lord and discouragement was the result (and punishment)! Is this not a common cause for discouragement today also? How was it that Joshua and Caleb were so full of courage? Their faith enabled them to focus their attention on God's strength rather than upon their weakness! Those who are wise will take this to heart.