Every one of us goes through times of discouragement. Blame it on the weather, hormones, finances, stress, kids – and some days, all of the above! Whatever the cause, discouragement can creep up on you and rob you of joy. If left unchecked, it can grow into depression and interfere with daily life. We’ve been going through the early spring “blahs” lately, and feeling an overall lack of energy and enthusiasm. It’s been constantly cloudy and rainy for the last month. (I don’t know how you folks in the Pacific Northwest handle it!) Plus, we’ve been stuck in a holding pattern for 6 months while we wait to see when my husband will get a job, which means perpetually tight finances with no relief in sight. So what do we do when we feel “off,” or a little down, or just plain discouraged?
What do we do when these times coincide with church services when everyone around us seems emotionally moved and we don’t feel a thing? (Ever been to a Christmas or Easter service and tried to will yourself to be moved emotionally, as if by sheer concentration you could conjure up a tear?) I’m bringing up this last question because I think all of us know that we go through emotional ups and downs, but when our “downs” happen to coincide with others’ spiritual “ups,” it can cause us to question our relationship with God, and even our salvation. While I don’t claim to be anyone’s spiritual guide or holy guru, I’ve gone through this experience enough to know that it happens to even the most spiritual person, and it is often a test to see if we will choose to obey God when we don’t feel the warm fuzzies, which is part of being a mature Christian. But knowing that it happens to the best of us, still doesn’t answer the question: What do we do when we’ve got the blues or blahs?
I think the first step is to pray Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Sometimes we get too busy and neglect our spiritual walk, and that “off” feeling can be the Holy Spirit trying to get our attention. When this is the case, if we quiet ourselves and open our hearts to examination by the Holy Spirit, I believe God is quick to reveal whatever area is in need of repentance or action. (In my case last weekend, God called me to take action and deal with an area of my home that needed to be organized, and was going to drain energy from me as long as I avoided it.) When God disciplines, it is always specific, beneficial, and for the purpose of restoring relationship. Any feeling or thought that is centered around notions of being a failure, an idiot, or some other form of self-loathing is a poison dart from the enemy. The Holy Spirit brings conviction so that we may repent and be restored to a victorious life in Christ. When the voice that we’re listening to is saying, “If you’re not experiencing the same spiritual high as those around you, there must be something wrong with you,” then carefully consider who might be speaking. If we have asked God for forgiveness of any known sin, and have opened our lives for examination and not felt a specific conviction or call to action, then I believe our feelings of discouragement are a battleground where we can either choose to give in to despair or pick up the Sword of the Spirit and fight with the power of praise in God’s word. I addressed the issue of fear a while back, and I believe the antidote for fear is the same for that of discouragement: praise. Particularly, praising by praying the scriptures.
When we lift up the name of Jesus the enemy must kneel, for “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil. 2:10). When we praise God – regardless of our emotions at the time – we are affirming his lordship over our lives and over the earth, and reminding the enemy that Jesus is Lord. When we pray the scriptures, we are calling on the same authority Jesus used when tempted by Satan in the desert. I believe there is no greater weapon than the scriptures when under attack, which is why I believe every victorious stand against the enemy begins with kneeling in prayer and daily scripture reading. There are no shortcuts to a victorious walk with Christ. Sure, you can be a Christian without reading the Bible much, but the only way I know to fight discouragement from the enemy requires knowledge of the scriptures. If you’ve never prayed the scriptures before, begin by reading a passage and:
- affirm back to God your belief that it is true
- give thanks for any promises
- and state your desire to obey any commands.
Memorizing scriptures gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to bring these to mind when confronting the enemy. When Jesus promised his disciples that God would send the Holy Spirit, he told them that the Counselor would remind them of all the things Jesus had told them (John 14:26). It’s like having a tutor standing next to you while you take a test, reminding you of the answers you learned. But the Holy Spirit can’t remind you of something you never learned! We don’t memorize scriptures so we can get candy at Sunday School or so we can appear pious by quoting scriptures to others. We memorize scripture because it is how we battle against the enemy of our souls. To give you a picture of what this looks like, here is a sample of what I have prayed when under a cloud of discouragement. By the time I finished praying this recently, the cloud had lifted and the attack was over – to God be the glory!
Lord, I praise you that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). I thank you that I am your workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which you prepared in advance for me to do (Eph. 2:10). I thank you for having a plan for my life, and that you cause everything to work together for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose (Rom. 8:28). Thank you for loving the world so much that you sent your only son, so that by believing in you I may not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). I thank you that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). If you are for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)? I acknowledge that you have not given me a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, and love, and self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7). I pray that you would give me power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is your love (Eph. 3:18). I thank you for pouring out your love into my heart by the Holy Spirit, whom you have given me (Rom 5:5). I thank you that you discipline those whom you love (Rev. 3:19). Help me to love you with all my heart and soul and mind and strength, and show me how to love others (Mark 12:30). I thank you that your perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). I thank you that you promise to keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you (Isaiah 26:3). I trust in you with all my heart, and pray that as I acknowledge you in all my ways that you would direct my paths (Prov. 3:5-6). I desire to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness, and I trust you to provide everything I need (Matt. 6:33). Bless the LORD, oh my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name (Psalm 103:1)!
By the way, don’t worry if you don’t know the scripture reference or exact wording – trust me, the enemy does. (While I know all these scriptures from memory, I had to look up many of the references to add to this post. I’m not trying to impress anyone, but to simply demonstrate what scripture prayer looks like in my life.) If you would like to join me in daily Bible reading through the New Testament and Proverbs this year, and begin the exciting journey of praying the scriptures, the current week’s Bible reading schedule is always available on the Faith tab above.