Summary: Message addresses several causes of discouragement & several biblical steps to overcoming it.
CLIMBING OUT OF THE HOLE: WINNING OVER DISCOURAGEMENT
“‘The paper guy’s here!’ Every Monday morning a cashier at Eckerd’s drugstore greets me with these words. A manager gives her a key and she fishes $3 and change from a cash drawer and pays me for copies of the Kansas City Star sold the previous week. I pick up the 10 or 12 unsold papers and throw them in my car, next to the returns from the supermarket, the donut shop and the Texaco gas station.
Quite a difference from a year ago. Then, I would announce myself in response to a judge’s perfunctory order: ‘Counsel, state your appearance.’ Instead of delivering papers from 1:30am to 6 am, I spent my nights sleeping and my days in an office, a courtroom or a library.
It all changed 12 months ago. For the second time in 6 years, I abandoned my solo law practice. I stopped returning phone calls, forgot to pay bills and ignored court dates. I began to sleep 16 hours a day. By July of last year I stopped coming into the office, leaving it to fill up with unopened mail and indignant phone messages. By August I was behind on my office rent, and by October, my landlord asked me to leave. I ate, but nothing tasted good. I slept, but woke up tired. I felt like a stranger around my wife and 2 daughters. Thoughts of suicide shadowed me, and in the midst of all this, I knew. IT had returned.
Tracy Thompson, the journalist calls IT ‘The Beast.’ To Winston Churchill, IT was his ‘Black Dog.’ To me, it is both of these; a nameless, faceless thing that infects me with a despondency so bleak I fear I will never feel joy again. IT is depression.” (Taken from a newspaper account by Michael Norlen on his battle with depression).
In the United States today, 17 million people are currently suffering from depression. In addition to those incapacitated by depression, there are countless millions of others who continue to function, but who are seemingly in a haze, due to discouragement or disillusionment. These are people who are down and discouraged, but for who there is no medical explanation.
Depression and discouragement are nothing new. They are not conditions new to society, they are not conditions new to the world and they do not affect only non-Christians. Some of the strongest Christians, some of the most godly people in the world have gone through periods of depression and discouragement. Some of the people most used by God, have suffered some of the worst periods of depression and discouragement, when they have seemed unable to continue, when it seemed that there was no joy in sight.
When we look back through the Bible, we remember for instance, Elijah. In 1 Kings we read about Elijah, the great prophet of God, during a time of depression. Earlier, Elijah had called down fire from heaven to burn up the sacrifice and the altar that he had offered to God. God sent fire, as Elijah requested, and then Elijah had all of the pagan priests killed. But that was before. In chapter 19 we read that he was so depressed, he was so discouraged, that he asked God to kill him.
We also remember Jeremiah. In both the 1st & 15th chapters of Jeremiah, we read of the discouragement, the depression and the frustration of Jeremiah. He too cried out and asked how long God would forget him; how long God would forsake him. Jeremiah was discouraged.
Remember John the Baptist? When John was imprisoned, he sent messengers to Jesus and basically said, “I know you are the Lord, but, if you are the Lord why haven’t you established Your kingdom and why am I in prison? I don’t understand. Why are things going the way they are? He was discouraged.
My friends, I want you to know that even Paul, one of the men accused of turning the world upside down for Christ; Paul, the man who planted churches across the Roman empire; Paul, the man, who with divine inspiration wrote a large portion of the New Testament; even Paul, was sometimes discouraged, and depressed.
> 1 Corinthians 2:3 And I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.
According to this verse, in the early days of Paul’s ministry in Corinth, he was a wreck. He felt powerless, ineffectual, discouraged, depressed, and defeated. He felt whipped. But that is not how he ended his ministry there. Before Paul left Corinth, he was preaching boldly, with power, and with victory. Before he left he had led many people in the city to Christ and he had planted a church.
Turn back with me please to Acts chapter 18 and verse 1. Let’s look together and see what caused Paul’s discouragement and God changed that discouraged Paul into a victor.