Overcoming the Pressures That Tend to Discourage
DO YOU ever feel discouraged? That is nothing strange! Many other people, too, sometimes feel pressures that tend to discourage in one way or another. Moreover, such feelings of dejection are not new.
Perhaps you have started out on some project that you feel is quite worth while, possibly studying a new language. Or, maybe you have started on a new and better way of life, in the Christian ministry. At first you thought that nothing could make you feel like giving up. But, then, something happened. From somewhere there is pressure that tends to discourage.
Sometimes, of course, the cause may be within us. Possibly, one has been ill or is physically or mentally exhausted. It is easy for one to become discouraged then. On the other hand, a healthy, rested person can view problems optimistically.
Though the pressures that tend to discourage are felt inside us, more often than not there are external factors involved. This is true when we experience personal trials or a sense of personal failure, or bitter disappointment about something. When one is discouraged one suffers temporary loss of optimism, courage and hope; one feels in “low spirits.” How can we overcome the pressures that tend to discourage?
PRESSURE FROM WORKMATES, RELATIVES, FORMER FRIENDS
A very common source of pressure is constant derogatory remarks about one’s religion on the part of workmates. Why do they say such things? Before coming to an accurate knowledge of God’s righteous principles one might have joined such workmates “in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries.” They had nothing derogatory to say about one’s religion then. But now, “because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.” (1 Pet. 4:3, 4) If such derogatory remarks can be used as occasions to tell one’s workmates of the reason for one’s Christian conduct, fine! But sometimes these remarks just have to be ignored. In any case it takes courage to continue in the face of this sort of pressure.
Another type of pressure to be overcome is belittling of one’s religion and one’s efforts to serve Jehovah on the part of the members of one’s immediate family. Or there may be criticism of one’s belief by other relatives. This can be quite a severe test of one’s devotion to God and Christ. Jesus warned: “I came to cause division, with a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a young wife against her mother-in-law. Indeed, a man’s enemies will be persons of his own household.”—Matt. 10:35, 36.
If this is what is occurring in your case then you are under test to show which is the stronger tie, the controlling one in your life. Is it your attitude toward your relatives or your love of God and Christ? To yield to this pressure could benefit neither you nor your relatives but, rather, would deprive them of the fine influence in the home that your being a servant of Jehovah can be. (1 Cor. 7:16) You can overcome this pressure by manifesting the fruits of God’s spirit in this difficult situation and remembering what Jesus said to his disciples: “By endurance on your part you will acquire your souls.”—Luke 21:19; Ps. 27:10; Mark 10:29, 30.
Have you recently started association with Jehovah’s witnesses at their Kingdom Hall? Be prepared to hear and bear derogatory comments from relatives and former friends about your new associates. Do not be discouraged if they seem shocked and protest: “No! not one of Jehovah’s witnesses! Anything else but that!” Why be discouraged when people make such remarks? In a similar way, nineteen hundred years ago people tried to discourage those who listened to Jesus, saying: “You have not been misled also, have you? Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees [nobody of any consequence!] has put faith in him, has he?” Take courage; speak up as Nicodemus did.—John 7:47-51; 1 Cor. 1:26-29.
The indifferent attitude of persons encountered in the house-to-house ministry also exerts pressure tending to cause discouragement to some Christian ministers. In some localities a minister may go for hours from house to house and find very little response, getting to speak only very briefly at some doors, meeting cold indifference at many doors and experiencing insults at a few. But despite all this, is his ministry fruitless? He is pleasing the Creator by obeying His command to preach; he is giving a witness whether people accept or reject; he is working for the salvation of those who listen, and some will; and he is making sure of his own salvation. Not a fruitless ministry by any means!—Matt. 24:14; Ezek. 2:5; 1 Tim. 4:16.
Not everyone listened to Jesus. The people in his hometown did not accept him. The Christian minister is not greater than Jesus is and thus should not be discouraged if people treat him as they did the Son of God. (Matt. 10:24, 25) After Noah preached for forty to fifty years no one but his own household entered the ark. Moses kept going back to Pharaoh not because he thought Pharaoh would join in true worship, but in obedience to Jehovah. Jeremiah was told by Jehovah, not, ‘I have some good territory for you as a preaching assignment,’ but, rather, ‘When you preach they are certain to fight against you.’ Do not be discouraged; if you rely on Jehovah, he will be with you as he was with Jeremiah.—Jer. 1:19.
Sometimes a person can get discouraged because he compares his speaking ability with that of another who is more adept at speaking. Or a Christian minister might feel inadequate to meet the better educated people in his preaching territory. But he should remember that no matter how poor his speaking ability is, in a sense it is better than that of those he calls on, because they can speak nothing about the Creator’s purpose for our day.
It happened not long ago in Taiwan (Republic of China) that an older Christian minister who had recently learned to read felt extremely discouraged because in his door-to-door ministry he was asked a question on a basic doctrinal matter and was unable to answer it. How did he overcome his discouragement? He acted on a suggestion from a helpful Christian associate that he should study more thoroughly and practice the art of teaching at home with the help of a new Bible-study aid in the Amis language. Some time afterward he had a most enjoyable and encouraging experience. He met a seminary student of his own tribe who took issue on the Trinity doctrine. This time the minister was able to use the things he had learned from teaching his family to overcome the objections on this and other doctrinal matters.
It is good to realize in advance that many will show interest at the start but will fall away later. As Jesus’ parable at Matthew 13:3-9 foretold, not all seeds would develop to the mature, fruit-bearing stage. Some are quickly lost through persecution, others come to the point where they accept God’s truth but, because of their relatives or associates, give in to fear of man. Others are choked off, being “too busy” with entertainment and materialistic pursuits. Jehovah’s ministers should not be discouraged. They have heard the Word of God. Jehovah’s blessings will be on them if, now, they “retain it and bear fruit with endurance.”—Luke 8:15.
DO YOU DISCOURAGE OTHERS?
Realizing how our loved ones and our Christian brothers react when discouraged, true Christians will endeavor to refrain from saying or doing anything that would tend to cause discouragement. When due praise is withheld, the person to whom it is denied may feel pressure leading to discouragement. For example, a dinner guest commented to his friend, “Your wife is a good cook.” The host said, “Sure, but I wouldn’t tell her about it.” The guest noted that relations in that home were not as pleasant as where appreciative expressions of praise were given by members of the family.—Prov. 31:28.
Husbands and children also thrive on well-deserved praise, like oil that will make the machinery of life run more smoothly. One mother who often had to discipline her child relates that one day she was especially good. That night the mother heard her sobbing. The little girl asked between sobs, “Haven’t I been a pretty good girl today?” The mother admitted that the question went through her like a knife. Though her child had tried hard to obey, she had put her to bed without a word of appreciation. It caused discouragement.
Pressure tending toward discouragement may come even from well-meaning though misguided friends or Christian brothers. When Jesus informed his disciples of the suffering he must undergo in God’s service, sincere Peter “took him aside and commenced raising strong objections,” but Jesus resisted this pressure, administering a strong rebuke to sentimental Peter.—Matt. 16:21-23.
In a certain African country there was recently a great need for a mature, experienced missionary to travel as a district overseer, visiting congregations of Christian ministers. A qualified minister was seriously considering taking up the assignment, which involved some dangers and many hardships and trials. Some companions emphasized these difficulties, and their remarks were a source of pressure that certainly was not encouraging. Would he accept the privilege of service or would he be influenced by expressions that were “not God’s thoughts, but those of men”? Prayerfully he considered the matter, accepted the service assignment and is experiencing numerous joys and blessings in this field of service.
If you are faced with similar circumstances, when you perceive what Jehovah’s will is for you, then give your answer to those who try to discourage, just as the apostle Paul did: “What are you doing by weeping and making me weak at heart? Rest assured, I am ready not only to be bound but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”—Acts 21:12-14.
Do not, therefore, be a source of discouragement-producing pressure. “On the other hand, we exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all.”—1 Thess. 5:14.
YOU CAN OVERCOME THE PRESSURES
You can overcome the pressures that tend to cause discouragement. Jesus Christ did. “In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth. When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.”—1 Pet. 2:21-23.
You can overcome the pressures just as Paul did. Though “pressed in every way . . . perplexed . . . persecuted . . . thrown down . . . brought face to face with death,” “afflicted in every manner,” he relied on “God, who comforts those laid low.” (2 Cor. 4:8-11; 7:5, 6) Be encouraged in the right course by these and other faithful examples.
What if workmates, relatives and acquaintances continue to oppose or remain indifferent? Keep in mind what Jesus foretold: “I tell you, In that night two men will be in one bed; the one will be taken along, but the other will be abandoned. There will be two women grinding at the same mill; the one will be taken along, but the other will be abandoned.” (Luke 17:34, 35) You do not want to be among those “abandoned” by God! You want to be among those who are “taken along”; that is, among those who receive a favorable standing with God and who are brought into the way of salvation.
So maintain the right outlook; it will help you to persevere under difficult circumstances. Associate with fellow believers; enjoy an interchange of encouragement at meetings of the Christian congregation. Their good reports and experiences will encourage you. Read the Bible; in it you will find the “word of encouragement.” (Heb. 13:22) Try never to let a day go by without taking in some spiritual food. (Josh. 1:8) Turn to Jehovah, the God of all comfort; lean upon Him. Seek greater happiness by giving to others. Do not give up. Be determined to overcome the pressures that tend to discourage. With Jehovah’s help you can and will overcome.