The Back Story
This past week, as I prepared to talk with the community at the Healing House recovery center, I paused to think and pray, “What do they need? What’s going on in their hearts, Lord? As I rested and listened, two songs came to mind, “oldies but goodies,” one could say, but both speak about things to do when you’re discouraged.
I wondered if they would know those songs as many of the addicts in recovery are in their twenties. The words played through my mind:
Lean On Me
“Sometimes in our lives we all have pain,
we all have sorrow,
But, if we are wise, we know that there’s,
Lean on me, when you’re not strong,
And I’ll be your friend,
I’ll help you carry on.
For it won’t be long,
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on.”
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
Bridge Over Troubled Waters
“When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all.
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
and friends just can’t be found.
Like a bridge over troubled water,
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water,
I will lay me down.”
© Universal Music Publishing Group
What were the songs saying?
The lyrics of these songs touch on the same theme – weariness, weakness, pain, sorrow, the sense of “I may not be able to go on.”
“Discouragement,” I thought, “and what to do on the days when you’re discouraged. “Lord, I’m going to bet there are more than a few really struggling with feeling down. There always are. Yes, I hear You. I will talk about that.”
The solution to discouragement
Now, the songwriters spoke of the solution to discouragement being a good friend – someone to “lean on,” someone who is “a bridge over troubled waters.” The songwriters were speaking of themselves as being human friends and support systems. And oh, how we need that – a few, truly good friends with whom we can be really frank and share our struggles. Hopefully, in turn we can be that “somebody to lean on.”
But the truth of the matter is that sometimes even our best friends may be caught in their own battles or they may just be unavailable for some other reason.
What I said to the community as I began the talk is that we need to have an Encourager we can always depend on.
Who is this encourager?
There is one Friend who sticks closer than a brother, one Friend whose mercies are new every morning, one Friend whose steadfast love endures forever.
When we’re discouraged, we need that Friend to help us get our hope and our spirits back up. There are 4 ways that God, who is our one true Friend and our Father, can help us. The ways He does this can be found in the beautiful verses, Isaiah 40:27-31 NLT:
“O Jacob, O Israel, how can you say that the Lord doesn’t see your troubles and isn’t being fair? Don’t you understand? Don’t you know by now that the everlasting God, the Creator of the farthest parts of the earth, never grows faint or weary? No one can fathom the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the tired and worn out, and strength to the weak. Even the youths shall be exhausted, and the young men will all give up. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
He shows us as a way out of discouragement in these verses, 4 things to do when you’re discouraged, to get your hope back up and to lessen discouragement’s hold on you.
1. Turn to God and be real about your sadness.
The passage opens with God asking a question of His people, us: “How can you say that I don’t see your troubles and that I am not being fair?
If we have at all been trying to seem pious, putting on our good faces and pretending that nothing is bothering us, God “cuts to the chase” with a disarming question, “How can you say I don’t see your troubles?”
Immediately God is telling us that He does see our predicaments and our mood and He wants us to be real about it with Him.
A story about sharing feelings of discouragement
Recently, my husband and I have been watching an old British tv drama about World War II called The Enemy at Our Door. There is a scene in it where a doctor and his wife are having dinner with a dear friend, a widow with an only son. They are all residents of one of the islands off Britain and the Nazis have been occupying the island.
The son of the widow is, at the very moment of the dinner, trying to slip off the island in a boat and join other men in fighting the war by getting to England. The three dining friends all know this, but the widow doesn’t know the couple knows and the couple doesn’t know the widow knows. Consequently, they are having a dinner of small talk. “Pass the water. Isn’t the fish tasty?” etc. Suddenly, the doctor’s wife says, “I can’t take this another moment. We must be open. Do you know Peter is trying to escape right now?” The widowed mother answers, “Yes, but I didn’t know you knew. Of course, let’s talk about this. It is what really matters to us.”
Love invites honest sharing…
When we truly love others, we want to talk about what is really on our hearts, bring tensions and hard emotions to the surface and help each other manage them.
God is no different, in fact, our Father in heaven is much more this way. As the Apostle Peter advised us,
“Cast all your cares upon the Lord, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
Tell Him what’s going on but as you do so, keep in mind that it hasn’t always been this way.
You have had these moments before. But you’ve come out of them too – through His goodness. The second way God helps us with discouragement is when we:
2. Remember God’s character and capabilities.
I know with my friends at the Healing House, some, even many might say, “But I don’t really know His character or what He is capable of doing.” My response is always, “Well, let’s learn together. Scripture will tell us. In the passage from Isaiah we hear 4 things about God:
a) v. 28, He is everlasting. God has existed long before our problems and weariness and He will exist long after them. He is forever without beginning or end. Our God can work out our problems, even if the solution takes a while because there are many pieces to put in place. God remains in control, available, eternal.
b) v. 28 He is the Creator and as stated in this translation, “of the farthest parts.” I think that wording simply adds stress to the idea that He has created everything, everyone. He knows what makes us tick. God has creative ideas for our needs. He can bring something brand new out of nothing. There is no situation that He faces where He is not able to provide. “Nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37
c) v. 28 He never grows faint or weary. Psalm 121:4 says “the God of Israel never slumbers, never sleeps.” While we get worn out and faint, feel like giving up, God is ever fresh and ready to come alongside His people.
d) v. 28 His understanding is unfathomable. God’s wisdom and knowledge are infinite, beyond our knowing and understanding. Our limited ability to solve our problems and think of solutions is eclipsed by God’s ability to help us.
3. Know yourself, but don’t fall into condemnation.
The third thing that helps us to overcome discouragement is to simply realize that it comes and is a part of our human lives. We don’t need to feel ashamed of it or feel that God will back away from us with distaste. It is in this passage that several words are used in association with us as people – “weak, worn out, tired, giving up, exhausted.”
God is more than aware that sometimes, even profound believers, can feel shaken by the things that they face and need to have help to get back up to a place of hope and courage. He knows us. God knows how we are made. And these adjectives are not applied to us with scorn in this passage. No, chapter 40 of Isaiah begins with God saying, “Comfort, yes, comfort my people”…”speak tenderly”…tell them… “the sad days are gone.”
God’s heart is to provide for us. And so a fourth way that God helps us, described in these verses, is in the form of a promise that He gives to us:
4. Wait on the Lord and be encouraged
When I gave this talk, I said to the people, “But there is one Friend who sticks closer than a brother, one whose mercies are new every morning, one Friend whose steadfast love endures forever and ever.”
God’s final word in chapter 40, verse 31, His glorious word of hope when we get discouraged is that “those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; walk and not be faint.”
In v. 29 it is stated that He GIVES power to the tired and worn out, and strength to the weak. It is a gift of God that we will get power and strength and be re-energized. And here in the final words of chapter 40 we receive the promise that we’re not going to just get re-energized but we will mount up, we will soar like eagles. “They shall.”
Our part is to look to the Lord
Our one job, our one contribution is to wait on the Lord and allow Him to do the rest.
If we “wait” on Him, He will cause us to mount up like an eagle, to run, to walk, to do all things, once again, without weariness or fainting. We will come alive again with encouragement. But what does “waiting on the Lord” look like?
Our 4-year-old grandson came with his two sisters by airplane to visit this last Christmas. Like many little boys and some little girls, he has loved the Disney car movies. One of our presents to him was a collection of mini-cars based on characters from these movies. And as happens with little kids, he lost one of the toys after only playing with it for a short time. He could not find “Sheriff,” a mini-car that looks like a little police car. And so he went home without it.
“Nana, Papa, please find it and bring it to me.”
Keeping eyes focused with hope
On a subsequent trip to see them, I came without the car. A few months had passed. I had forgotten the little car. But Papa was arriving a few days after me. “Don’t worry, Danny, Papa will find it!”
And Papa did. Somehow in our big basement with many toys for grandkids, he found a tiny car hidden under piles and he put it in his briefcase and made the trip to join me and our daughter and her family.
Danny, now thrilled that he would be reunited with his small car, waited by the door. He even built a tower of Lightnin’ McQueens (another Cars’ character) and a couple of other cars. They all sat facing the door.
He waited by the door
Danny didn’t move, amazing for a 4 year old. He just sat and sat so patiently, knowing his Papa would come through for him.
Danny didn’t turn away. He didn’t lose patience. No distractions took his eye off the door. There, he just continued to trust in the man who had proved himself trustworthy so many times before.
And sure enough, Papa walked through the door, and put the car in Danny’s hand, and this little boy was ecstatic over getting it back.
O my soul, don’t be discouraged
That waiting and watching without turning away, that remembering, “He’s done it before for me, He will do it again” attitude is the same as David’s in Psalm 42:11 NLT:
“But, O my soul, don’t be discouraged. Don’t be upset. Expect God to act! For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise him for all that he will do. He is my help! He is my God!”
“Waiting on the Lord” is continuing in trust in Him because He has been so trustworthy in the past. It is not turning to shortcuts, lesser means of dealing with our need. Waiting is prayer, clinging to and declaring scripture. It is having a focus only on God.”
Recap of things to do when you’re discouraged
When discouragement comes knocking at your door, and it will, because we are simply human beings, turn to God, be real, remember how great He is, and trust that promise that He’s not going to just make a slight improvement in your circumstances or mood, but He’s going to cause you to soar like an eagle. All you need to do is just wait on Him and keep your hope in Him alone.