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Discouragement: The Devil’s Most Effective Weapon

Written By Grace Chan, Malaysia, originally in Traditional Chinese

I once heard a story of an old devil who was planning to retire. He put up for auction all the weapons which he had accumulated over the years. They ranged from envy to laziness to gossip.

One of these weapons was worn from frequent use; it was the most expensive of the lot. When a junior devil asked about the weapon, the old devil proudly introduced it: discouragement. “Many people have been able to resist attacks from my other weapons, but as soon as I deployed ‘discouragement’, they would fall into the trap, and it would be easy to control them,” he explained.

The old devil was right. At the lowest point in my life, I was trapped in feelings of discouragement. I lost all hope and joy; I was so disappointed with myself and my work and felt like a good-for-nothing. Whenever someone assigned me a new task, I was so afraid to mess things up. I struggled to interact with others, constantly overthinking everything I said and did, and feeling stifled by the internal conflict I was facing. I thought I would lose my job and my relationships.

When night fell, I would either cry myself to sleep or mindlessly browse my social media feeds on my phone until I fell asleep. Because the former was too painful, I usually chose the latter as temporary reprieve. But on the following day, I would beat myself up for wasting time.

Also, I didn’t want to face a new day and struggled to get up every morning—often lying in bed until the last minute before rushing out to work. I couldn’t change myself no matter what I did. How could I serve God in this state? I often reasoned. For a long time, I felt aimless and lethargic about life.

Looking back, I believe that there were two root causes of my discouragement:

 

Comparison

I often compared myself with other people and wondered why they could overcome difficult and painful seasons and even grow spiritually. I, on the other hand, seemed to be stuck in my problems. That made me feel useless and worthless.

It was only when my pastor shared with me that everybody was made unique, and there was no basis for comparison, that my perspective changed. Many times, we don’t see the full picture: each one of us has our own weaknesses, and we all need God’s help. As the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:3-8, we have different gifts and can play different roles in God’s work. That’s when I realized I had a tendency to focus on the strengths of others but my own weaknesses.

 

Pride

I expect a lot of myself and tend to be fixated on the nitty-gritty. However, I soon realized that the unreasonably high standards I had set for myself had come about because of my pride–not because God required them.

As I think back on some of the things that have happened, I’ve realized that I get easily frustrated and struggle to accept it whenever my pride takes a hit, such as when I’m treated unjustly or misunderstood, or when I don’t perform up to scratch or make mistakes.

Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.” God used this verse to teach me that through the disappointments I faced, He was molding me and teaching me to put down my pride and need for perfection.

He also helped me change in these three areas:

 

1. Acknowledge my weakness

During that period of discouragement, I became reticent and withdrawn, and was reluctant to tell others about how I was feeling. I pretended everything was okay and kept myself busy by helping others.

But suppressing my feelings didn’t help, as my negative emotions showed up in the words I said. It took church elders and friends to help me open up about my struggles and needs, and to acknowledge that I was on the verge of a breakdown. They also interceded on my behalf. Through them, I began to see the truth of Ecclesiastes 4:10, “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

 

2. Focus on others instead of myself

Interestingly, I also learned that the way to not get overwhelmed by our own circumstances is to instead, focus on the needs of others, just like what Isaiah 58:10 says, “and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”

When I was discouraged and wanted to distance myself from everyone and hide, God surrounded me with fellow believers, some of whom were sisters that I had ministered to in the past. Through them, God gave me the opportunity to look past my own problems and show them love and concern, just as I had in the past. The reason why I could love them was because God, the source of love, enabled me to.

 

3. Surrender everything in prayer

In a book I’ve read called, Kisses From Katie, author Katie Davis shares her experiences about moving from her home in USA to Uganda, where she became the mother to 13 adopted children. In the beginning, she felt very helpless and frustrated when she saw all the needs around her. But when she turned to God and cried out to Him, God gave her the resources to help the children.

Her story reminded me that we cannot rely on ourselves because many things are beyond our control. At the same time, however, we should not allow ourselves to despair. Instead, we should surrender our pains and problems to God through prayer.

When we hand the authority and control of our situation back to the all-powerful God, He will grant us faith to wait patiently for His answers in our lives.

 

If you were to ask me today if I am completely free from negative emotions and thoughts, my answer is found in this verse: “LORD, You alone are my portion and my cup; You make my lot secure.” (Psalm 16:5).

I have come to understand that I am in God’s hand and everything is from Him. Whenever I am afraid of losing something or lack the courage to face challenges, I know that God will strengthen me. And I firmly believe that God will not give me more than I can bear, and He would always provide a way out (1 Cor 10:13).

So let me return to the story I started with. The junior devil went on to ask the old devil what kind of person was not afraid of discouragement. The old devil replied, “Those with a grateful heart.” Gratefulness helps us see what we have and not focus on what we don’t have. It causes us to remember God’s leading and work in our lives, and gives us confidence that He will continue to guide us in our path ahead.

So, no matter the discouragement we have faced and will face, let’s pray that God will enable us to praise Him in thanksgiving. It is my prayer that we all will learn to be grateful people.

ODJ: ignoring discouraging words

September 7, 2015 

READ: Mark 10:46-52 


“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v.48). 

Many people are familiar with the book Gone with the Wind, and even more have seen the movie that was filmed in 1939 starring famous Hollywood actor Clark Gable. But what many people don’t realise is that the novel written by Margaret Mitchell was rejected 38 times by publishers before finally being accepted. It went on to sell 30 million copies. What if Margaret Mitchell had given up after her 38th rejection, as most of us probably would have done?

Bartimaeus, the blind man in Mark 10, faced a similar situation. He had been rebuked and rejected by the crowd—not because he had done anything wrong or because of his sin, but merely because those around him were annoyed by his presence and his clamour (v.48). They wanted him to be silent.

A distraction to the crowd, they gave him a rebuke, but not in the godly sense. Their words were pure discouragement. They were negative. Bartimaeus must have recognised the nature of their criticism, because he ignored it and continued to cry out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” He finally attracted Jesus’ attention and received healing at the work of His hands (v.52).

—Peter Chin

365-day-plan: Luke 21:1-24

MORE
Read Mark 10:35-45 for the account of the truly godly and necessary rebuke of James and John. 
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When have you received a godly rebuke that helped you to grow? How did you know that it reflected God’s wisdom? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: take the next step

November 25, 2014 

READ: John 19:28-42 


Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body (v.38). 

Have you felt the crushing weight of despair? Perhaps a performance review was negative, a cancer screening was positive or your spouse wanted a divorce. Suddenly, your life seemed pretty much over.

Joseph of Arimathea had one of those days. Having been a secret follower of Jesus, he apparently was there when his fellow council members condemned Jesus to death (Luke 23:50-51). He thought Jesus was going to establish His kingdom on earth. But that hope was quickly dashed when Joseph witnessed Jesus’ death one dark day.

Then Joseph did something that didn’t seem worth the risk. It was a small gesture, yet it turned out to be part of the salvation story. Late that afternoon Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. If Joseph had fled with the rest of the disciples, the Saviour’s body would have been tossed on the rubbish dump with the other crucified criminals, to be eaten by dogs and vultures. There would have been little left to rise from the dead and Jesus’ prophecy about His burial would have been false (see Matthew 12:40). But Joseph buried Jesus in his own tomb, and so fulfilled another prophecy found in the Old Testament (Isaiah 53:9).

Emergency responders tell disaster victims to focus on the task at hand. Just do what you need to do to survive and wait for help to arrive. Help will surely come, if you believe in the Lord who saves. It may come in two days, as it did for Joseph, or not until this life is over. But it will come, for the same Spirit who raised Jesus will also “give life to your mortal bodies” (Romans 8:11).

Are you waiting for deliverance? Take the next step. It might be the very thing God uses in your rescue. —Mike Wittmer

365-day plan› 1 Corinthians 15:1-20

MORE
Read Psalm 3:1-8 to learn how to respond when facing a hopeless situation. 
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What predicament in your life seems hopeless? What small step can you take to express your confidence in God? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: our triumph

May 30, 2014 

READ: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 


But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume (v.14). 

I started this year with great enthusiasm. Having mapped out a strategy for pointing the youth ministry at my church towards loving God and loving people, I shared it with some colleagues and off we went! Well, 6 months later I did an evaluation and found we had made only minuscule progress. Discouragement covered me like a dark cloud.

When writing 2 Corinthians, Paul was possibly at the lowest ebb in his ministry. The church he loved at Corinth was in chaos. False teachers were blasting his character. His name was being slandered. There was nothing to feel triumphant about and he had every reason to feel discouraged.

Yet we read these words: “But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

Paul viewed himself as part of the conquering army of Christ. He recognised that no matter how disappointing and discouraging the ministry, God was in control of every single detail and He would ultimately triumph!

The apostle added, “Now he uses us.” Yes, even during those moments when we feel that we’re not making much impact, God is using us. Someone said, “In heaven, there will be lots of surprises. There will be people thanking you for your influence in their lives of which you have no recollection.”

When we feel discouraged, let’s lift up our spirits through thanksgiving and remembering that God has chosen us to march in triumph with Him. We will triumph because Christ always triumphs! —Poh Fang Chia

Daniel 2:25-49 ‹365-day plan

MORE
Read 1 Corinthians 15:58 and consider what Paul wrote about our work for Jesus not being in vain. 
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What can you thank God for in your ministry? Why is discouragement such a difficult thing to avoid in working with people? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)