Failure often gets us down, but have you noticed how we can also get discouraged after we’ve been successful? The Bible teaches that discouragement has two sources because we have two problems:
- The world is damaged. God says, “The ground is cursed because of you” (Genesis 3:17). Just as thorns grew up to frustrate Adam’s work, much of our work, our parenting, our relationships—even our worship—results in discouraging failure.
- We are damaged. We misplace our priorities. Instead of seeking God himself, we stuff our souls with career or family or a love life or church involvement. But success in these things still leaves us empty and discouraged. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes confesses, “As I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
Non-religious people tend to respond to discouragement by saying, “Learn to love and accept yourself.” But this only addresses emotions. Religious and moral people tend to say, “Work harder and do better.” But this behavior-based approach leads to more failure and deeper discouragement. The Good News of Jesus is that God defeats discouragement. Jesus people look beyond superficial behavior or emotions. We rewire our hearts to deal with both sources of discouragement:
- Faced with failure, we remind ourselves that Jesus died for us so that we may surely share in every blessing of God and in the new earth, free of frustration, that God is creating.
- Faced with success, we work with God’s Spirit to reorient our priorities around Jesus, who said, “Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
Full healing won’t happen in this life, but Jesus is a true fix for discouragement because he offers heart-level change punctuated by joy in our acceptance by God. Along the way, God offers gifts that help with discouragement. The Bible sets joyful, godly priorities and tells of God’s unshakable love. “The Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled” (Romans 15:4). So we must read the Bible. Worship and the sacraments are the Spirit’s tools. God says of his worshippers, “I . . . will fill them with joy in my house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7). So we must attend church. Community lets us share struggles and burdens. The Bible tells us to “encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25). So we must commit to share often and honestly with other believers. Along with all this, God offers himself. The Father communes with us in prayer, the Spirit enters our hearts, and Jesus the Son emptied his life for our sakes. God has invested himself totally, that we may praise and enjoy him. So be encouraged. Jack Klumpenhower is a freelance writer, communications consultant, and church curriculum writer living in North Carolina.