Discouraged? We all deal with disappointments with people, situations, and failure of goals and dreams. Leaders may be disappointed with the results of an event, training, or teaching and perhaps feel that they have failed God or that God has failed them.
When God seems distant and asleep instead of moving and answering prayer, disappointment can develop into discouragement.
Elijah dealt with discouragement. I find it a bit hard to understand why. He had just watched God overwhelmingly win a challenge with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40), and then mightily answer his prayer for rain after a three-and-a-half year drought (1 Kings 18:41-45; James 5:17-18). Wow! I would be overjoyed to see God work in such a mighty way.
And I suspect Elijah was thrilled, but his excitement was quickly crushed when Queen Jezebel sent him a message threatening to kill him within 24 hours. Fear overwhelmed Elijah’s faith, and he fled to the wilderness and asked to die (1 Kings 19:1-4). That is true discouragement!
Instead of pointing out Elijah’s lack of faith, God sent an angel to provide food and drink for the weary man (1 Kings 19:5-8).
That is a comfort to me. When I am discouraged, I may feel like God is angry at me while he really just wants to minister to me with his sustenance and strength. At the very time when I should be drawing closer to God, I often pull away.
Lesson 1: Ask yourself—am I forgetting how God has been at work in the past by focusing too much on my present circumstances? When I realize that I am looking at myself rather than God’s power and plan, I shift my attention to God’s past work, thanking him and expressing biblical truth about him, his character, and his promises. I remind myself that his love invites me into his presence.
Discouragement often arises from exhaustion. When Elijah was worn out from running from Jezebel, he decided he should just die.
Lesson 2: Assess yourself physically and look for overwork, stress, and sleeplessness. If I find myself exhausted physically, spiritually, or emotionally, I must rest.
At the end of the 40 days Elijah camped in a cave. He expressed his “poor me” attitude to God, saying that he alone was left to serve God and yet his life was in danger from those trying to kill him. God sent him outside the cave, and eventually spoke to him in a whisper (1 Kings 19:9-13).
God revealed himself not in the spectacular, but in the silence.
Lesson 3: Enter the silence with God and wait for him to speak. For Elijah it took 40 days and more to hear God when he wasn’t tired or overwhelmed by fear. I want God to speak to me immediately, but he may need to prepare me for the answer first.
When God asked Elijah a second time why he was there, and Elijah repeated his whiny answer (1 Kings 19:14-15).
Lesson 4: Be honest with yourself and with God who knows the truth anyway. I have to ask myself, why am I in the place of discouragement? Does my answer reveal that I am focused on me instead of God?
God didn’t argue, nor did he answer Elijah’s subtle charges of unfairness. Instead he gave Elijah specific instructions to follow. Elijah was no longer controlled by his fear but obeyed God’s instructions to return from the wilderness. Before God sent Elijah out, he let him know that he wasn’t alone in Israel; seven thousand people had not worshipped Baal.
Lesson 5: Seek out mature believers to support you. Not only is God with you, but others are there also.
Discouragement paralyzes us from doing God’s work. When it hits, deliberately step back and take time with God so that he can reveal the problem, the solution, and the new direction.