How to practice faith when discouraged
Things don’t always go “our way”. Work, finances, school, relationships and family problems become a drag on our lives when they teeter out of control. Our faith in God and hope for our futures can waver. How can we keep walking along the path that God has chosen for us?
When we focus on our challenges, discouragement or possibly depression can set in as we feel:
- Weary and worn out
- Worried and anxious
- Hopeless and alone
Faith is not built on instant answers
In our prayers, we all hope for instant comfort and instant answers, but faith is not based on those conditions. Maturity in faith comes from staying rooted in God’s promises, whether our circumstances change for the better – or not.
The truth is that God is working behind the scenes right now, even as you read this blog, to prepare a future and hope for us all. Just because we can’t instantly see something with our two eyes, it does not mean nothing’s happening. If we can trust the oceans, gravity, the planet and our body organs to work according to God’s plans, then we can certainly trust the Creator of them all.
Hebrews 11:1 ESV Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
God powerfully reminds us in Isaiah 49 that we are precious to Him and that He watches over us. God loves us too much to let anything or anyone snatch us from His hand! He is always close to us, in both the ups and the downs.
Isaiah 49:15-16 ESV “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.
John 10:28-29 ESV I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
Here are some ways to practice faith when the going gets tough.
1. Don’t look at the problems, look at the potential through God
When we keep thinking about our challenges, we leave little room to think about God’s power to transform things for His glory. Meditating on our worries, instead of God’s Word, is like entertaining worry in our living room and shoving God’s promises into the closet. It really should be the other way round.
Jeremiah 32:27 ESV “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
2. Remember that God’s ways are not our ways
From childhood, we have been taught to solve problems on our own. So we may find ourselves thinking, “When I prayed about this, I expected God to …” It is very dangerous to presume we know how things should work, because it makes our thoughts higher than God’s and turns us into our own idols. Presumptions are offensive to God.
Isaiah 55:9 ESV For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
1 Samuel 15:23 ESV For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.”
There are still many, many things in this world that man does not understand and may never figure out. God’s ways are too high for our little minds to fully grasp. For instance, things may even appear to get worse after we put our faith in God. To most people, this doesn’t make sense. Joseph’s life (Genesis 37,39-47) is a case in point. Joseph made it a point to focus on God’s plans even when he was sold into slavery and betrayed by people. At the end of the day, he was able to say to those who meant to harm him, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” A life that is focused on trusting an almighty God brings many blessings to many people.
Let us not limit what God can do with what we think is humanly possible. God is not human!
Matthew 19:26 ESV But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
3. Don’t waste time “imagining the worst”
It’s very counterproductive to try to imagine and plan for the future in great detail, when we can’t even accurately predict everything that will happen in a week’s time. We all suffer from severe shortsightedness and have no ability to control the future. Our power to “imagine the worst” is probably better used for more productive things. Let us use our imaginative skills and time on things that benefit others, and not to destroy ourselves.
Matthew 6:34 ESV “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
4. Don’t forget all of God’s blessings
Humans are strange beings. When one major thing doesn’t go according to our plans, we suddenly suffer amnesia and forget God’s goodness. Discouragement has a poisonous way of making us lose sight of all the wonderful things we do have. We need to make it a point to remind ourselves of all the blessings that God has given us.
Psalm 103:2-5 ESV Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
5. Consciously praise God and use words of life
When we are discouraged, we can think and say words that are pessimistic and gloomy; the Bible calls them words of death! God’s Word warns us that we will suffer the consequences of entertaining words of death in our lives if we focus on them.
Proverbs 18:21 ESV Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
King David knew this truth and often strengthened himself in the Lord, with words of life. He encouraged himself by reciting scripture or singing praises to God, even when he faced extremely discouraging situations, like when his own people wanted him dead.
1 Samuel 30:6 ESV And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.
6. Recognise that Satan wants to destroy our faith
Whenever discouraging thoughts come, we need to remind ourselves that God is in control. We must protect our faith in God, because Satan will only try to shipwreck our beliefs and flood us with self-pity, doubt and despair.
James 1:6 ESV But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
When we despair, it’s usually because we have believed some lie about God. Let us not fall for Satan’s schemes.
7. Always cling to God’s promises for a future and a hope
The verse Jeremiah 29:11 is often quoted amongst Christians. It’s a good one to remind ourselves to look ahead of us into the future that God has prepared, and not focus too much on the present troubles.
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
8. Embrace character development
Finally, let us grow in our patience and continue to trust God through prayer and praise. God is interested in developing our character and will stretch us in areas that we need to grow in.
Romans 5:3-5 ESV Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 12:12 ESV Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Our good Father will do this for His children because He loves us. Let us praise Him for what He is doing in our lives!
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