Discouragement

Have you ever been discouraged? The days are lonely and the nights are long.

Discouragement typically comes to us because we’ve looked outward and found that our expectations of life or expectations of others have not been met. Problems, especially relational problems, tend to isolate us and discourage us. So after looking outward and becoming discouraged, we then look inward only to discover that we really can’t help ourselves either. The only solution for days of discouragement is to look upward to God. And that’s exactly what David did in Psalm 142.

The superscription of Psalm 142 identifies the time when David wrote this psalm. He did so when he was “in the cave,” evidently while Saul was pursuing him. He was not necessarily alone; 1 Sam 22:1 tells us that David “took refuge in the cave of Adullam. When David’s brothers and his father’s whole family heard, they went down and joined him there. In addition, every man who was desperate, in debt, or discontented rallied around him, and he became their leader. About 400 men were with him.”

CROWDSA cave (or a home, a cafeteria, an office,  or a church) filled with the echoes of demanding voices can be lonely. Have you ever felt alone in a crowd? It may seem a contradiction in terms, but the greater the number of people present, the more intense the feeling of loneliness can be. Psalm 142 suggests to us that even though David saw his family & friends around him, he felt alone. For David, his sense of isolation was like a knife in his heart. No one understood the depth of his emotions. No one seemed to care what he felt or how he suffered. He was discouraged.

The psalmist spoke as one who had no other hope of deliverance but the LORD God. He looked upward. He calls this prayer Maschil—a psalm of instruction, because of the good lessons he had learned in the cave, learned on his knees, which he desired to teach others. One of the reasons we wear out the pages of the psalms is that it helps us simply to know that somebody has gone before us—even thousands of years before us. We find comfort in recognizing the emotions we’re feeling here and now displayed in a man who lived so long ago. David gives us a biblical perspective for when we experience days of discouragement, too.

There are days we feel down (vs. 3) David said, “my spirit is weak within me” The Hebrew words literally mean “the muffling of my spirit.” What vivid terminology—have you ever felt a muffled spirit? David has come to a place where he has begun to distrust his powers of judgment. He is no longer certain where to turn or what course to take. Life has become a great flood rushing in upon him, and he struggles to stand firm against the current. David closes his eyes with a sinking heart. He puts his head farther down in his hands and whispers, “O Lord God, what now? What would You have me do?”

discouragedThere are days we feel deserted (vs. 4) David shared, “no one stands up for me; there is no refuge for me; no one cares about me.” This may be one of the saddest verses in the Bible. Everyone around him seems indifferent to his desperate need. No one seems to care for his life. It is really a haunting cry, “No one cares for my soul.” Have you had days like that? I know I have.

There are days we feel depressed (vs. 6) “Listen to my cry for I am very weak,” said the psalmist. Isn’t that what the condition of depression is all about? David, a man deeply loved by God, a man of profound spiritual experience and wisdom, grappled with depression throughout his life. The word that David uses for weakness is the word for indentation. He applies that condition to his soul. David is saying, “I’m suffering from an indentation in my soul. I am depressed.” All of his hope and joy were gone; his thoughts had turned inward. At one time, the problem had been a simple one—King Saul was hunting him down to kill him. But now David’s plight was something more abstract, something considerably more complex, something whose source was David’s own heart. He had allowed his circumstances to drive him inward. He had come to fall back on his own resources, and those resources were now spent; the well had run dry. There was nowhere else for David to turn. He no longer sensed the presence of God in his life. He was down, deserted, depressed and defeated.

There are days we feel defeated (vs. 6) “Rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.” There can be no doubt that discouragement defeated David. There had been a time when he had sent a stone into a giant’s head; now he was defeated in his own mind. When we put our hopes, dreams, and expectations in people, we will eventually be discouraged. So how do we overcome days of discouragement?

David gives us practical instruction. He teaches us how to depend upon God. There is no cave so dark or a hole so dark that God cannot hear us when we cry out to Him in total dependence.

Depending on God's WordWhen we depend completely upon God rather than people, we will find fellowship with His people and experience communion with Him.

We can reveal our problems to God (vv. 1-2) The repeated words and ideas throughout highlight the David’s anguish. He sees God as his only hope. “I cry aloud… I plead aloud… I pour out my complaint… I reveal my trouble.” It’s as though he was telling us how he had prayed on this occasion. He poured out what distressed him to God as one pours water out of a pot, namely fully. David reveals His problems before the Lord—not that he is angry or resentful but simply that he wants to tell the Lord all about his trouble and grief. It is comforting for him to know that when his strength is all but gone, the LORD knows what he is going through.

We can recognize our presence before God (vs. 3) David recognized that “although my spirit is weak within me, You know my way.” David says, whatever I’m going through, whatever I’m experiencing, God knows how I’m feeling, He knows the danger I’m in.”

We can realize our provision in God (vs. 5) “I cry out to You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my shelter, my security in the land of the living.’”  See His Eye is on the Sparrow.

As we depend totally upon God, only then, we can rejoice with the people of God (vs. 7) Free from the prison of discouragement, David said, “the righteous will gather around me because of Your goodness to me.” It seems that much of our discouragement in our families, which extends to the family of God, is rooted, founded, and based upon the expectations we have of people. We are disappointed and critical of our fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, because they are not giving us what we want or what we think we need. We look outward and we’re discouraged. We look inward and are depressed. But encouragement in life and in relationships isn’t grounded in what happens or what others can give us. Rather, it is grounded in what we have freely received by grace from God through Christ – encouragement flows from God when we look upward to Him and His goodness to us through Christ.

When we depend completely upon God rather than people, then we find fellowship with His people and experience communion with Him.

We can live sacrificially for each other, because we are bound together in Christ, who meets our every need. I don’t need you to fill my cup, because Christ already has and only He will. You don’t need me to fill your cup, because Christ already has. I can serve you sacrificially and you can serve me sacrificially, because we come to one another in Christ who is our all in all. “If there is any encouragement… make your attitude that of Christ Jesus…” (see Philippians 2:1-11).

looking-upwardIt’s not just the world that needs a Savior —  I need One. You need One. And at just the right time, God sent His Son, Jesus (Galatians 4:4-5). During days of discouragement, we look upward to Him and discover His abundant goodness.

Follow me…. as I follow Jesus Christ.

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