• Mark Alan Williams

How To Overcome The Agony Of Discouragement And Find Hope Again

Updated: Mar 31, 2019

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In 1994, Lewis Puller Jr. became a fatality of the Vietnam War after serving as a Marine Corps Platoon leader 20 years earlier. He had stepped on a 105 mm howitzer shell. The explosion shredded both legs, both hands and left a wound in his side.

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CC Image courtesy of Sameer0406 on Flickr


He received the Silver Star and a Purple Heart but returned home to face anger and alienation from those opposed to the war.


His family prayed for a swift, merciful death, but he endured two years of surgery and grueling physical therapy. Then he went through 10 years of depression, alcoholism, addiction to painkillers and a failed suicide attempt.


In 1981 he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and dried out. He wrote a book titled Fortunate Son that was published in 1991 and received a Pulitzer Prize.


But discouragement, despair, and depression returned and deepened.

After 12 years of sobriety he began drinking alcohol again. He told his friends he feared that he was losing the battle and days later he ended his life at age 48 with a single gunshot.


Discouragement can be overwhelming. How can we cope?


Nehemiah 4:6-15 tells how Nehemiah overcame discouragement as he led the Israelites to rebuild the vital protective wall around the city of Jerusalem.


Here are 6 causes and remedies that can help us overcome discouragement:

Note: Some people have a chemical imbalance and need medication to overcome depression. If that is you, please seek medical treatment along with the following remedies. See my article on “Four Steps to Climb Out of a Pit of Depression.”


Exhaustion

“So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart. Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘The strength of the laborers is giving out…’” (Nehemiah 4:6, 10a)

Discouragement often occurs when we are:

  • Halfway to our goal

  • Overworked

  • Physically, emotionally and spiritually empty

  • Setting overtaxing or unrealistic goals

Remedies:

Make time to rest regularly.Reassess your goals and priorities to be sure they are realistic and balanced.List ways you like to recharge physically, emotionally and spiritually—then do them!


Clutter

“…there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” (Nehemiah 4:10b)

Jerusalem and its protecting wall were in great ruin as workers began rebuilding the wall. The immensity of the mess caused discouragement.


Clutter for us = overwhelming and disordered documents, directives, tasks, responsibilities, chores and concerns.


Modern examples are:

  • Overwhelming amounts of mail and email

  • A messy home

  • Piles of clutter in a work place

  • A mile long “to do list”Chaotic finances

Remedies:

Organize your workspace and life.Prioritize your tasks and eliminate the unnecessary.Simplify your stuff: Determine what to keep, recycle and throw away.Flee the Superman (or Superwoman) Syndrome—stop trying to be everything to everyone. Get help when you need it.


Threats and Fear

Also our enemies said, ‘Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work,’ Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, ‘Whenever you turn, they will attack us.’” (Nehemiah 4:11-12)


Enemies surrounded Jerusalem, threatening the people and causing fear.


We often face threatening enemies such as:

  • Health challenges

  • Difficult relationships

  • Financial pressures

  • Employment uncertainties

Remedies:

Dwelling on Problems

When we focus on our difficulties we become depressed. We can learn from Nehemiah who met each challenge with a solution and moved forward.


Remedies:

Remember to count your blessings every day—list them on paper or electronically.Think of as many possible solutions as you can.Choose the best course of action and take it.Instead of focusing on your problems, focus on: “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)


Isolating

Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.” (Nehemiah 4:13)

The Jerusalemites joined hands during the crisis and worked together.


Don’t isolate yourself, even when you feel embarrassed by your issues.


Remedies:

Refuse to be embarrassed or to think you are the only one with problems. (See 1 Corinthians 10:13)Build relationships with those who will encourage and support you such as family members, a support group, a Bible study group, or an accountability partner.Start with one good friend and build more relationships from there.


Forgetting God

“After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’” (Nehemiah 4:14)


Nehemiah told the people to “remember the Lord” and His “great and awesome” nature.

Don’t let your problems drown your faith. And don’t try to drown out your problems with alcohol (like Lewis Puller Jr.), drugs, or other unhealthy pacifiers.


Remedies:

Turn off the news and focus on the Good News (the Bible).Forget your painful past and remember the wonderful promises of God’s future. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 NIV)Rest in the One who is “great and awesome” for He is:


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