You Can Cope With Discouragement!
A WISE man once wrote: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” (Proverbs 24:10) If you have ever been discouraged, you will likely agree with that statement.
No one is immune to the effects of discouragement. A mild bout of discouragement may last for a day or two and then subside. But when hurt feelings or resentment are involved, the problem may persist much longer. Some Christians who have been faithful for years have become so disheartened that they have even stopped attending congregation meetings and sharing in the field ministry.
If you feel discouraged, take heart! Faithful servants in times past successfully coped with discouragement, and with God’s help, so can you.
When Others Hurt Your Feelings
You cannot expect to be protected from every careless word or thoughtless deed. You can, however, refuse to permit the imperfections of others to interfere with your service to Jehovah. If someone has hurt your feelings, you may find it helpful to consider how Hannah, the mother of Samuel, handled a discouraging situation.
Hannah desperately wanted children, but she was barren. Her husband’s second wife, Peninnah, had already borne him sons and daughters. Instead of being sensitive to Hannah’s plight, Peninnah viewed her as a rival and displayed such an attitude toward her that Hannah “would weep and not eat.”—1 Samuel 1:2, 4-7.
One day Hannah went up to the tabernacle to pray. Eli, the high priest of Israel, observed her lips moving. Not realizing that Hannah was praying, Eli concluded that she must be drunk. “How long will you behave drunk?” he demanded. “Put away your wine from upon you.” (1 Samuel 1:12-14) Can you imagine how Hannah must have felt? She had come to the tabernacle to find encouragement. She certainly did not expect to be wrongly accused by one of the most influential men in Israel!
The stage was set for Hannah to become very discouraged. She could have left the tabernacle abruptly, vowing never to return as long as Eli was serving there as high priest. However, Hannah clearly valued her relationship with Jehovah. She knew that he would not be pleased if she took such a course. The tabernacle was the center of pure worship. Jehovah had placed his name there. And imperfect as he was, Eli was Jehovah’s chosen representative.
Hannah’s godly response to Eli’s accusation provides a sterling example for us today. She did not allow herself to be wrongly accused, but she responded in a very respectful manner. “No, my lord!” she replied. “A woman hard pressed in spirit I am; and wine and intoxicating liquor I have not drunk, but I pour out my soul before Jehovah. Do not make your slave girl like a good-for-nothing woman, for it is out of the abundance of my concern and my vexation that I have spoken until now.”—1 Samuel 1:15, 16.
Did Hannah make her point? Definitely. Yet, she spoke tactfully to Eli, not presuming to criticize him for his false accusation. He, in turn, responded kindly to her, saying: “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of him.” Once the matter was settled, Hannah “proceeded to go on her way and to eat, and her face became self-concerned no more.”—1 Samuel 1:17, 18.
What do we learn from this account? Hannah acted quickly to correct a misunderstanding, but she did so with deep respect. As a result, she preserved a fine relationship with Jehovah and with Eli. How often good communication and a little tact can prevent small problems from growing into larger ones!
It must be recognized that settling differences with others requires humility and flexibility on both sides. If a fellow believer fails to respond to your efforts to resolve a difference, you may have to leave the matter in Jehovah’s hands, trusting that he will handle it in his own time and in his own way.
Have You Lost a Service Privilege?
Some have become depressed because of having had to relinquish a cherished privilege in God’s service. They enjoyed serving their brothers, and when the privilege was lost, they felt that they were no longer useful to Jehovah or to his organization. If that is how you feel, you may gain insight by considering the example of the Bible writer Mark, also called John Mark.—Acts 12:12.
Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary tour, but partway through the journey, he abandoned them and returned to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:13) Later, Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them on another trip. However, the Bible says: “Paul did not think it proper to be taking this one along with them, seeing that he had departed from them from Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.” Barnabas disagreed. “At this,” the account continues, “there occurred a sharp burst of anger, so that [Paul and Barnabas] separated from each other; and Barnabas took Mark along and sailed away to Cyprus. Paul selected Silas and went off.”—Acts 15:36-40.
Mark must have been devastated to learn that the respected apostle Paul did not want to work with him and that a dispute over his qualifications had led to a rift between Paul and Barnabas. But there is more to the story.
Paul and Silas still needed a traveling companion. When they arrived at Lystra, they found someone to replace Mark, a young man named Timothy. Now Timothy may have been baptized for only two or three years at the time he was chosen. On the other hand, Mark had been associated with the Christian congregation since its inception—longer, in fact, than Paul himself. Yet, it was Timothy who received the privileged assignment.—Acts 16:1-3.
How did Mark react when he learned that he had been replaced by a younger, less experienced man? The Bible does not say. Nevertheless, it does indicate that Mark remained active in Jehovah’s service. He took advantage of the privileges that were available to him. Although unable to serve with Paul and Silas, he was able to travel with Barnabas to Cyprus, which was Barnabas’ home territory. Mark also served with Peter in Babylon. Eventually, he did have an opportunity to work with Paul—and Timothy—in Rome. (Colossians 1:1; 4:10; 1 Peter 5:13) Later Mark was even inspired to write one of the four Gospels!
There is a valuable lesson in all of this. Mark did not become so concerned about a lost privilege that he failed to appreciate the privileges that were still within his reach. Mark kept busy in Jehovah’s service, and Jehovah blessed him.
So if you have lost a privilege, do not be discouraged. If you maintain a positive attitude and keep busy, other privileges may come your way. There is plenty to do in the work of the Lord.—1 Corinthians 15:58.
A Faithful Servant Gets Discouraged
It is not easy to put up a hard fight for the faith. At times, you may get discouraged. Then you may even feel guilty about being discouraged, concluding that a faithful servant of God should never feel that way. Think of Elijah, one of Israel’s outstanding prophets.
When Israel’s Queen Jezebel, a fanatic promoter of Baal worship, learned that the prophets of Baal had been killed by Elijah, she swore to put him to death. Elijah had faced enemies greater than Jezebel, but suddenly he became so discouraged that he wanted to die. (1 Kings 19:1-4) How could that have happened? He had forgotten something.
Elijah had forgotten to look to Jehovah as the Source of his strength. Who had given Elijah the power to raise the dead and to face the prophets of Baal? Jehovah. Certainly, Jehovah could give him the strength to face the wrath of Queen Jezebel.—1 Kings 17:17-24; 18:21-40; 2 Corinthians 4:7.
Anyone can momentarily waver in his trust in Jehovah. Like Elijah, you may at times take a human view of a certain problem rather than use “the wisdom from above” to deal with it. (James 3:17) However, Jehovah did not forsake Elijah for this temporary lapse.
Elijah had fled to Beer-sheba and then on into the wilderness, where he thought no one could find him. But Jehovah found him. He sent an angel to comfort him. The angel saw to it that Elijah had freshly baked bread to eat and refreshing water to drink. After Elijah had rested, the angel directed him to travel almost 200 miles [some 300 km] to Mount Horeb, where he was to be further strengthened by Jehovah.—1 Kings 19:5-8.
At Mount Horeb, Elijah witnessed a faith-strengthening demonstration of Jehovah’s power. Then, in a calm, low voice, Jehovah assured him that he was not alone. Jehovah was with him, and 7,000 of his brothers were also with him, although unknown to Elijah. Finally, Jehovah assigned him work to do. He had not cast Elijah off as his prophet!—1 Kings 19:11-18.
Help Is Available
If you occasionally suffer a mild bout of discouragement, you may find that you will feel better if you get some extra rest or a nourishing meal. Nathan H. Knorr, who served as a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses until his death in 1977, once observed that big problems often appear much smaller after a good night’s sleep. When the problem is more persistent, however, such a remedy may not be adequate—you will need help to battle discouragement.
Jehovah sent an angel to strengthen Elijah. Today, God provides encouragement through the elders and other mature Christians. The elders really can “prove to be like a hiding place from the wind.” (Isaiah 32:1, 2) But to get encouragement from them, you may need to take the initiative. As discouraged as Elijah was, he traveled to Mount Horeb to receive instruction from Jehovah. We receive strengthening instruction through the Christian congregation.
When we accept help and courageously face up to tests, such as hurt feelings or the loss of privileges, we uphold Jehovah’s side of an important issue. What issue? Satan contended that humans serve Jehovah only out of self-interest. Satan does not deny that we will serve God when everything in our life is running smoothly, but he contends that we will stop serving God when we run into problems. (Job, chapters 1 and 2) By unwaveringly carrying on in Jehovah’s service despite discouragement, we can help give an answer to the Devil’s slanderous accusation.—Proverbs 27:11.
Hannah, Mark, and Elijah all had problems that briefly robbed them of their joy. However, they coped with their problems and led productive lives. With Jehovah’s help, you too can cope with discouragement!