Christians get discouraged for many reasons, a few of which I will mention. I also want to take a look at understanding discouragement, as I have the idea that some people are discouraged because they set their attainment goals too high. Others may be discouraged by genuine failure and are unsure if there is a way of recovery. So, in order to share a little encouragement I aim to give examples of a simple strategy that one well-known New Testament writer uses again and again. He definitely believed it was a strategy that would encourage. See if it does that for you.
Discouragement is a loss if optimism causing you to feel despondent and often lethargic. Discouragement is an experience that may cause you to question or abandon some of your goals. The experience may vary from short-lived discouragement to something deeper that might lead to feelings of depression.
Well, why are you discouraged? Something has turned out worse than you were expecting. That longed for promotion didn't happen, a relationship soured, the examination results were not brilliant after all. Or perhaps you tend to be self-critical, down on yourself. You think you compare unfavourably with others, or you had an argument with someone and now feel sorry for the misunderstanding, you simply wanted to be more successful but never made the grade and now life is slipping away and you are not young anymore.
Some of these issues are undoubtedly one of temperament. Some people with perfectionistic traits are never happy, because whatever happens in life, church, the pastor, husband, wife, children, house, the car, the weather - everything in life is imperfect and less than it ought to be.
If you are seriously discouraged try to get a handle on it. Aim to recover a little bit of realism and self-understanding. Sometimes a confidential talk with a responsible and mature friend, your pastor or church leader or suitably qualified counsellor may help. So, this article is not a substitute for relevant and professional help.
Remember too that the historic Genesis fall of our first parents, the fall into sinful rebellion has affected our thinking, our minds and bodies. At times we may even loathe or hate ourselves in an unhealthy way.
Now let's see how Peter set out to encourage some early Christians. The strategy straight from God's word is simple and direct. If you are a discouraged child of God, a person who has trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, this is for you.
Look at what Peter says; he says by God's 'great mercy' you have been 'born again to a living hope', you have received a rich inheritance that will never fade 'kept in heaven for you' (1 Peter 1:4). So, remember what you already know and refocus on the great and glorious things God has done for you. One way to attack discouragement is to recover hope - the strong, secure promises of God.
Peter reminds them that the salvation they have received did not just come out of the blue, totally unexpectedly, but was carefully revealed by various prophets in past centuries, when the 'Spirit of Christ' then even 'predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories' (1 Peter 1:11).
Peter says that the ministry of the Old Testament prophets was such that; 'It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look' (1 Peter 1:12). They were serving 'you'!
There are many other things Peter says, but this little sample shows his strategy. How does it work? Here are exalted words that reveal the extent of the sheer glory and extraordinary lengths to which God has gone to save people for his own eternal glory and praise. So, Peter says, look at the marvel of what God has done for you.
He repeats how all these events and ministries and even Jesus Christ's death and resurrection and the preaching of the great good news in the power of the Holy Spirit, all these amazing things, so beyond human thought that they even baffle the amazed angelic powers in heaven itself, were accomplished with a special goal in view - they were all done for 'you'! Does that stir your sense of wonder?
- FOR YOU!
Now we can see Peter's strategy. It simply reminds Christians how great, how wonderful and marvellous, nearly beyond words, are all the things that God has done for us, as individuals - even for YOU. When someone does something for you that surprises you and makes you feel valued, you deeply appreciate that. Now, Peter applies that in an all-surpassing way to what God has done for each one of his children. With this renewed sense of wonder, they find they are given strong courage to persevere and to give thanks to God, as we remember we walk by faith and not by sight.
Of course, this is not the only way to encourage Christians. This goal focuses on one of the ways the Apostle Peter encourages Christians in his first letter by the teaching that he shares on the exalted themes of all that God has done in Christ - Oh, what a wonder, how glorious! If such things have been done for you, why wouldn't you have your courage renewed?
To God be the glory, great things he has done!