Think about what your initial reaction would be to one or more of these life-altering events:
- A job loss
- A missed promotion
- A miscarriage
- A divorce
- Discovering your spouse is having an affair
- The death of a loved one
Did you respond with sunny optimism or with pessimism? We’re easily discouraged—and not just by the big things in life.
Discouragement is like a disease eating away at the hope in your heart. If it persists, it becomes resistant to the encouragement we often get from others. It’s the rare person indeed who can pull themselves out of the doldrums by their own bootstraps.
Thankfully, the Lord isn’t on the sidelines merely cheering on those who face the mountain of discouragement. As we’ll see, there is no “You can do it. I believe in you. Get up and brush the dust off and get going” rah-rahing from Him. No. What you get from Jesus is someone who is conquering the mountain with you and helping you become invincible.
Scripture shows us that there is a path that leads from discouragement to hope.
In the book of Nehemiah, we see a leader who saw his people’s discouragement as they worked to rebuild the temple in the midst of verbal attacks. Nehemiah knew the people needed encouragement and took five decisive actions to restore the heart of the people—steps you and I can (and should) take today whenever we, too, encounter the mountain of discouragement and want to start on the path to hope.
- Find encouragement in your family. (Nehemiah 4:13)
I know that not everyone has a healthy family of origin. But did you marry into a good family? Or do you have close friends who support you? If so, then they’re as good as family.
If you’re wrestling with discouragement, the first place to turn is to your family or to friends who are like family to you. Notice what Nehemiah did when the people grew disheartened about the construction and about those spreading threats: “I stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, the exposed places, and I stationed the people in families with their swords, spears, and bows” (Nehemiah 4:13).
When the excitement of the project was in full swing, workers fanned out all over the city and put their shoulders to the work. But when excitement gave way to exasperation, Nehemiah’s first act was to redistribute the workforce into family units.
Next to God, our primary source of security is our family.
- Remember God is on your side. (Nehemiah 4:14)
In Nehemiah 4:14, it says, “When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: ‘Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.’”
The words great and awesome communicate the idea that in light of the magnitude of God, everyone and everything else is puny by comparison. Because of His enormous bigness, we have nothing to fear from things or people.
Reading God’s Word is one of the best ways to remember how great and awesome He is. Nothing will inflate sagging spirits with hope more than encountering Him in Scripture. I know there are times when reading your Bible is the last thing you want to do, especially when you’re discouraged. But that’s just when you should crack open your Bible! When your heart is broken and your spirit is low is the perfect time for an infusion of hope and healing. And when you find a passage that raises your spirits, commit it to memory. The next time you find your courage flagging, the Lord will help you recall it—just like this verse.
Another way to remember that God is on your side is by meditating on who He is. This is what Nehemiah was helping the people do by referring to God as “great and awesome.” Next time you hear a favorite hymn or worship song, pay careful attention to the lyrics that extol something wonderful about God and concentrate on that attribute. Maybe you’re an outdoor person. Get outside and spend an hour watching the stars and think about the One who holds each star in the palm of His hand. Before you know it, you’ll find discouragement replaced by hope.
- Do the work God has given you. (Nehemiah 4:15-18)
If we want to move the mountain of discouragement, we have to do the work God has given us. That’s the balancing act Nehemiah encouraged the people to strike in verses 15–18 of chapter 4.
God was certainly on the side of the Israelites who were working on the wall. But that didn’t mean the dangers confronting them in Jerusalem were figments of their imagination. The threats against their lives were real, so Nehemiah divided his workforce into construction crews and security guards. Even the builders were armed for battle (Nehemiah 4:17-18).
If that’s not a picture of the Christian life, I don’t know what is. We are to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). But we’re also to be about the work God has given to us. We cannot let discouragement cause us to put down the trowel and drop the bricks. There’s work to be done—fueled by faith but accomplished by action. And it’s time to get at it.
- Enlist others to help you. (Nehemiah 4:19-20)
Nehemiah brought families together to work as units, which offered security and encouragement as each family took ownership of their section of the wall as well as the protection of their family members. But that didn’t mean these families weren’t vulnerable to attack. They were scattered over a construction site that covered two and a half miles.
In the face of danger, Nehemiah’s order established the place where the people could rally together. And his command also established a principle: never fight your battles alone (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
- Serve another person in need. (Nehemiah 4:21-22)
Discouraged people need friends to come to their rescue. And when others are struggling with discouragement, one of the best things you can do, even if you’re facing your own discouraging days, is to be their friend and offer encouragement.
When is the last time you served someone? Or are you one of those folks who thinks everyone should serve you? If you’re facing discouraging days, one of the greatest things you can do to lift your spirits is to serve another person in need.
You may think, “Right now I’m too emotionally depleted to give anything to anybody.” I heard someone say this week, “A candle doesn’t lose anything of itself when it lights another candle.” And the same is true for us. In fact, when we encourage others we are energized ourselves.
Whether from a sibling, friend, or even a total stranger, a simple word of encouragement can lighten the heaviest heart. If the mountain of discouragement threatens to overshadow you, find someone you can serve and encourage as, together, you walk the path leading from discouragement to hope.