Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11 ESV)
There seems to be an unwritten church rule about discouragement and depression. You know what an unwritten church rule is don’t you? Something that everyone knows even though it isn’t written anywhere in Scripture. Although no one has to say it, you know it. The rule in question goes like this: if you are truly spiritual and mature, you won’t ever be discouraged. So… on we go with seemingly joyful facades while we are struggling deep within with frustration, shame, and feeling like we are broken because everyone else always seems joyful when we aren’t.
For about as long as I’ve been serving Jesus, I’ve been told that I am honest to a fault. I can still remember sharing a very personal struggle that the Lord was helping me grow through in front of a church packed with people there for a revival. I was still very young in my faith and I didn’t know there was another unwritten church rule that you shouldn’t be honest about your struggles. So, as a new believer I shared before a packed church audience how God was brining me out of oppression and bondage to pornography.
I can still remember that a dear friend came to me after the service and commented that it was wonderful to hear my testimony. He had one suggestion for the next time I shared, can you guess what he said? “Next time, leave out that stuff about the porn.” Just so you know, this is one of those suggestions that I have decided was from my friend and not from the Lord. To those who are out there struggling today, you aren’t alone. To those who are dealing with shame, anxiety, guilt, and frustration as you desperately desire to follow Jesus closer, the church is full of people just like you and me.
Today I’m going to disregard that unwritten church rule and be honest: I’m feeling discouraged. This morning I find myself dealing with a combination of frustration, insecurity, and a deep desire for Jesus to calm the storm I feel in my life. I would like to say, if true servants of God aren’t supposed to struggle with anxiety or despair, someone might want to tell Elijah and Jonah. We might really need to sit God down and have a conversation… it seems like the whole book of Psalms is full of servants of God lamenting and crying out from the depths of their despair.
As I look across the Scriptures, I see a common theme. The more we know Christ, the more we know peace. I also see this truth, the more we know Christ, the more we understand that we are known (and loved) by Him. I don’t have to pretend I’m not discouraged today. The call is not to be happy but to be joyful. I hope you see, your happiness depends on what happens. If life is going good, your marriage is healthy, your kids are doing the right things, and your boss is recognizing your hard work, you are happy. If your favorite restaurant gets your order right and you find an extra chicken nugget in your box, you are happy (and blessed and highly favored). The moment that what happens is no longer going the way you hoped or wanted, your happiness melts away. Guess what? My joy never will.
Our joy and the reason we rejoice is found in the finished work of Jesus Christ. No matter how discouraged or frustrated I get in this life, I can trust in the faithful promises of the God who never changes (see Hebrews 13:8). Today, just like the Psalmist did in Psalm 42:11, let us turn our eyes, heart, and mind towards the Savior. Let us remember the sweet promises that will never change or fade, no matter what happens to us.
Here are a few of my favorite promises, I hope they will bless you too:
- Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
- Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
- Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
- 1 Peter 5:6-7 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)