Discouragement knocks on our door in a variety of ways almost every day. We get discouraged when we don’t get enough sleep or enough to eat, or when our favorite sports team loses, or when we don’t have enough money to pay for something, or when Wal-Mart no longer carries our favorite item. Maybe you are discouraged today because of the 2016 presidential campaign occurring in our nation this year. Discouragement happens all the time. So how are we to handle all this discouragement? Some of us deal with discouragement by ignoring it. Some of us deal with it by fighting against it. Some of us deal with it by caving in under it, which creates more discouragement. And there are some of us who look for that quick fix and quick way out of discouragement. Thankfully, the Bible gives us some great instruction for dealing with discouragement. Psalm 77 is one scripture that helps us. Let me share three ideas from Psalm 77 that will help you deal with discouragement.
First of all, cry to God for help. Psalm 77:1-4 (TLB) states, “I cry to the Lord; I call and call to him. Oh, that he would listen. I am in deep trouble and I need his help so much. All night long I pray, lifting my hands to heaven, pleading. There can be no joy for me until he acts. I think of God and moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help. I cannot sleep until you act. I am too distressed even to pray!” In this psalm, Asaph is the author. He is listed in the Bible as one of the leaders of worship in the Tabernacle. He was from the tribe of Levi, making him a Levite and worship leader. Even as a worship leader, he was discouraged, troubled, and distressed. The specifics of his discouragement are not given. Yet, we can get a clear picture of his physical and emotional state from his words here. He is crying out to God. Over and over he cries. He is wondering if God is even listening. He holds out his hands to God all night long in prayer. He knows that nothing will change until God does something. He knows that God is his only hope. The more he thinks about his situation, the less sleep he gets. His situation is so overwhelming that he no longer has any words to say to God. Asaph is sleepless, speechless, and joyless. He is distressed and depressed. However, he is crying out to God. When you are discouraged, make sure that you cry out to God. God is the only one who really understands you and knows your pain.
Second, ask God the tough questions. Psalm 77:5-10 (NLT) states, “I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion? And I said, ‘This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.’” These are some strong words of doubt and despair from a worship leader. Asaph can remember when things used to be better. He can remember being joyful. But all of that has come to an end. He can easily see the difference between his joyful past and discouraging present. So he begins to question the sovereignty of God. Has God rejected me forever? Where is God’s kindness? Where is God’s love? Can God no longer fulfill his promises? Where is God’s grace? Where is God’s compassion? It feels as though God has turned his hand against me. Asaph was so discouraged and depressed that he doubted some of God’s basic characteristics. However, I believe God is big enough to handle our tough questions about His sovereignty and character. In fact, I believe God welcomes our doubts, fears, and tough questions. For then and only then do we come to a deeper faith in God and His sovereignty. So go ahead and ask God those tough questions of life during your seasons of discouragement.
Third, remember who God is and what He has done. Psalm 77:11-15 (NLT) states, “But then I recall all you have done, O LORD; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. By your strong arm, you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.” After pouring out his heart to God and asking God those tough questions, Asaph finally remembers who God really is and what He has done. Asaph recalls God’s actions. He remembers them. He meditates on them. And then he breaks out into praise, “O God, your ways are holy. You are the God of great wonders.” The reason Asaph can remember the powerful actions of God is because they were written down by his ancestors, and the stories of God were told to each generation. He, too, was in the process of writing down God’s wonderful deeds. So when you are discouraged, take the time to remember who God really is and what He has done for you. The Bible is the best resource we have for teaching us who God really is. And we also have our own prayer journals. You do have one, don’t you? If not, start keeping a prayer journal right now. Make sure to write down each day your prayers and God’s answers to your prayers. Ten years from now, you can look in your prayer journal and remember who God is and what He has done for you.
When discouraged, cry out to God, ask God the tough questions, and remember who He really is. Be encouraged! And remember, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25 NIV)