Discouragement is a human feeling that even we, as Christians, can go through. Even though we know God’s promises, our situation can appear so overwhelming to us that we forget God’s faithful character. We are not alone—there are many examples of discouragement in the Bible.
Even though the feeling of discouragement is powerful, God’s Word is more powerful. If you feel discouraged, don’t beat yourself up for not trusting God. Just remind yourself you are human.
Turn to God and His promises and learn how to overcome dis-heartedness.
What does the Bible say about discouragement?
The Bible records many examples of discouragement- people discouraging others, people feeling discouraged, admonishments not to be discouraged, and people comforting the discouraged.
In Ezra 4 verse 4 (NLT) we can find an example of people intentionally trying to discourage others: “Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building.”
Discouragement is a powerful force! In Ezra and several other places in the Bible, people use it as a tool to manipulate and get what they want or stop what they don’t want.
Net Bible Psalm 57 verse 6 tells about David when he felt discouraged: “They have prepared a net to trap me; I am discouraged.” David’s discouragement here results from people’s actions, not from his own attempts to do something. It simply shows David is human! Even though he is a great example of having faith in God, he also had times he simply felt overwhelmed. You can remember this when you feel that way, so you don’t feel guilty about it.
The feeling of discouragement can block us, making us deaf for advice. In Exodus 6 verse 9 (NLT), the people didn’t listen to Moses because of their discouragement: “So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery.”
1 Thessalonians 5 verse 14 (NET Bible) tells us we can reach out to those around us that feel low-spirited: “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all.” Together, we are the body of Christ. If one feels down, we can lift her up—all as an expression of our faith.
God’s promises in times of discouragement
The Bible is full of God’s faithful promises and examples of the reliability of God. Some examples:
Deuteronomy 31:6 promises that God never abandons us and that He walks with us during our times of discouragement. “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord, your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Deuteronomy 1:21 (NLT): “‘Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT): “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
What is the root of discouragement?
Discouragement is a loss of confidence or enthusiasm. It also means low-spiritedness. In either case, it comes up when things we hoped for or desired to have or do didn’t happen.
Typical causes of discouragement are fatigue (working hard on something, draining our energy, without seeing the end), frustration (trying to get things working but without results), fear (we desire something but fear holds us back), and failure (things went wrong, taking all hope away).
However, none of these are the root cause of discouragement. The actual source is a lie from Satan. We can see discouragement as the opposite of faith and hope. Hebrews 11 verse 1 (NLT) states: “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”
Discouragement pops up when we don’t see results or get setbacks instead of experiencing boosts forward. These can give us a sense of unhappiness. But God’s Word tells us to have faith when we don’t see the things we hope for. God wants us to trust Him and His promises even when we don’t see results.
A brief prayer for faith when feeling discouraged:
Lord, I am discouraged. Everything that I tried didn’t work out. I am tired of it! I feel sad, dispirited, and unhappy. Help me trust Your Word and have faith, no matter what. Let me recognize the discouraging voice of Satan and help me tune in to Your comforting voice.
Guide me. Help me lean on Your promises, even when things go wrong. Father, I don’t see an end to this dark tunnel, but I know you know the end from the beginning. Thank You for making a way out for me. Help me overcome this feeling of discouragement, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
What is spiritual discouragement?
Discouragement is spiritual—it’s a powerful weapon from Satan. He often uses it to convince God’s children that they have brought God’s wrath upon themselves by not measuring up to his holy standards, or that they did things wrong.
This spirit of discouragement comes when you do the right things but get little or no results. Instead of trusting God for a positive outcome, you feel bad about yourself. This spirit is a tool of Satan to hinder your progress and your faith in God.
Prayer against spiritual discouragement:
Father, teach me to discern Your voice from that of the enemy. You said in Your Word we should discern the spirits. Help me see when it is the negative voice of the spirit of discouragement whispering in my ears and have the strength to reject it. I choose to trust You and Your promises, no matter what I face. I know Your mighty hand will prevail. Thank You, Lord, for answering my prayer. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Stories of discouragement in the Bible
Discouragement is as old as humanity (after the fall). Satan tries to use the spirit of discouragement to let people give up on God and turn away from Him. There are several Biblical examples of discouragement.
During the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the promised land, they encountered discouragement frequently. And in most cases, they blamed God for the things that went wrong or were missing. Here, a full nation was discouraged.
Gideon was discouraged even before he did anything. He looked down on himself and thought he could not do the task God wanted him to do. In the same way, we can get discouraged by the thought of having to do something we believe we can’t do—forgetting we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
After Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal, he became so discouraged that he ran more than a hundred miles away from where he sensed danger. He abandoned his servant and finally felt so bad that he prayed he might die. This shows how overwhelming the feeling of discouragement can be. Elijah is a ‘great man of God’, yet he encountered such a high level of discouragement that he preferred to die.
In the book of Haggai, when working to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, people moved from being spirited and effective to despondent and defeated in a short time.
1 Samuel 30 verse 6 (NKJV) shows David’s depth of discouragement: “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” But David did not allow the spirit of discouragement to overtake him. He knew what to do. He turned to God, as he knew God is our only source of strength.
What to do when you feel discouraged?
When discouragement overtakes you, the first thing to do is to give your feeling of discouragement to God. 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT): “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
The second step is to know that God did not promise us a trouble-free life. He simply didn’t. But whatever we go through, He uses it for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28). Remember that God uses even the trouble you are going through. Let that be a source of encouragement and hope.
Then, keep your eyes on Jesus instead of on your troubles (Hebrews 12:2). That way, we turn our hearts to God instead of ourselves.
The next step is to rely on God’s promises, as stated in His never-failing Word. His Word is alive and powerful and it never loses its power. All of God’s promises as captured in the Bible are reliable. When He speaks, it will happen.
Finally, pray. Pray about your feeling of discouragement and the source of the discouragement. Tell God how you feel. Tell Him what is bothering you. And ask Him to help you overcome.
Following these steps will help you overcome discouragement by setting your mind on the things above.
Bible verses to cling to when discouraged
Many Bible verses can strengthen us when we feel discouraged.
When you are overwhelmed, you can remember that God is with you and cling to the promises in His word. God will never, ever abandon you. So don’t lose heart. Don’t give up.
“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT)
You can also remind yourself of God’s instructions. You can speak those verses directly to yourself, thus encouraging yourself in the Lord and taking head to the instruction. God says we should not be discouraged but rely on Him. Why would we want to do otherwise?
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NLT)
A powerful verse is in Psalm 34:18. This verse comforts us: even when we feel discouraged, God is not angry at us but understands our human nature. He will be close to us, comfort us in our discouragement, and set us free from it!
NET Bible: “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he delivers those who are discouraged.”
NLT: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
Jesus also told us not to be discouraged but to prepare ourselves by knowing we will face setbacks and tribulations while here on Earth. We can hold on to Him and receive peace. We can encourage ourselves with the fact that Jesus has overcome.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage—I have conquered the world.” John 16:33 (NET Bible)
Prayer for holding onto God’s promises when you are discouraged:
Father, help me! I am completely overwhelmed. My heart is failing me—I don’t know what to do. Your word says I shouldn’t be discouraged, but I feel disheartened so often. Help me rely on Your faithfulness and the promises in Your word.
Today, I choose to let discouragement go. Sustain me in my decisions and help me not to fall for that trap again. I know with Your help I can do it.
Thank You for always being with me. I know You will never leave me. I receive the peace You promised and I will walk in victory. You have defeated the spirit of discouragement, and I don’t have to be afraid anymore. Thank You for my deliverance. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Nothing can come between you and God’s plan for you. His Word stands forever.
He said, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)
Even though negative events, disasters, setbacks, and challenges may let you feel discouraged, they don’t change God’s plans for you. The discouragement of today will not last forever.
Don’t give up when you feel discouraged, no matter what the source of your feeling is and no matter the level of your discouragement. God will use it for your good and for His glory. Nothing that happened to you will stop His plans for you.
Don’t look at your troubles of today, but think of God’s promises in His Word and the reliability of God Himself.
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)
Christel Owoo is a Confidence Coach, Mentor, Women’s Ministry Leader, Author, Wife, and Mom. She writes about Bible Study, Christian Living, and Personal Growth on her website, through guest blogs, devotionals, books, and in Christian magazines.
Her ministry is to help Christian women live confidently and victoriously in Christ, to the fullest of their God-given potential. Christel’s books speak of life-changing encounters and second chances when you follow, obey, and apply the Word of God.