By Luke Shope | Assistant to the Pastor | Lighthouse Baptist Church
We have all had times in our lives where we have been discouraged. Maybe you are going through one of those times right now. We are human. We feel things. We get hurt. Sometimes we might even get discouraged about things that have not even happened. We might get discouraged over things we think are happening. I know these things are true in my life.
Discouragement does not always work alone. There is something that often comes with it. Discouragement often never ends with just being discouraged. Discouragement often has company. Discouragement’s close companion is bitterness.
If we are not careful and do not handle discouragement in the proper way, bitterness can creep in very quickly and without much warning.
It happened to the children of Israel often. They would get discouraged; they would get bitter; then they repented. Here is just one account in the Old Testament of the cycle.
“And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in Oboth.” – Numbers 21:4-10
Notice in verse four it says, “the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.” We must understand that if we are going to move forward in the way that the Lord has prepared for us, there will be discouragement. There will be much discouragement.
I do not believe discouragement is a sin. I believe the Lord Jesus was discouraged on several occasions. He was especially discouraged when He was dealing with people who refused to see the truth He was teaching. He even got angry, but He never sinned.
I hope the following things will help us keep discouragement from growing into something deeper.
Don’t Play the Blame Game
In verse 5 of Numbers chapter 21 we see that the people “spake against God, and against Moses..”
When we get discouraged, we tend to start blaming others for our situations. The children of Israel blamed two people. God and Moses.
We must be careful about blaming the God of Heaven for obvious reasons. In fact, one of the reasons is found in verse six of Numbers chapter 21.
“And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.”
If we have given our lives to Christ and know Him as our Savior, God is not the first one we usually blame. No, we are too spiritual to blame God, right? We do what comes naturally to us; we blame other people. But know that when we do this, we are in good company. Adam did it and even Moses himself did it. In fact, Moses even blamed God for allowing him to oversee those people.
When discouragement sets in, the first thing we tend to do is start thinking who is at fault in the situation. By the way, it is usually never us. We think of the people who have wronged us, or at least who we think wants to wrong us. When bitterness is coupled with discouragement, our minds tend to take us places we do not want to go.
It does not matter where we go or who we are with, discouragement will be there. It can be found in our work, our home, and our family. Discouragement is natural. Just do not let it be the bridge to bitterness. That is easier said than done. Thankfully, the Bible gives us some more help on the issue.
Look for Healing
For healing to take place, we must come to the place where we see the need for healing. We must identify the problem. If bitterness has crept in to our lives, we must understand that the problem is us. We are our worst enemy. We make up scenarios and make ourselves miserable.
Instead of looking at the negative that seems to be in every circumstance in our lives, we must look for encouragement. Encouragement is the catalyst in the healing process. Just as discouragement is all around us and natural, so is the encouragement. We tend to miss the encouraging things in life so often because we are focusing and dwelling on negative and destructive things. We are focusing on ourselves.
How does healing come? It came to Israel through repentance. In verse seven of chapter 21 it says, “…the people came to Moses, and said, we have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee…”
Ask the Lord for Forgiveness
Even the sin of bitterness is a sin against God. We must ask God to forgive us and then ask Him to heal us. This will be a process and will not happen overnight; we cannot expect it to. When you are not fully surrendered to His Spirit, your flesh will be your biggest enemy.
The people of Israel went to Moses and let him know how they were feeling. We should go to the people that have offended us. This will never be an easy task. Healing is never easy, and it always takes time. Just as lifting up their eyes to the serpent on the pole was the antidote for the deadly bite for the Israelites, the antidote for bitterness is always forgiveness which should be accompanied by humility. If you have been on the receiving end of the offense, you must extend forgiveness; if you committed the offense, you must receive His forgiveness.
“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” – Matthew 18:15
We begin the healing process by asking the Lord to help us and confessing to Him, but the healing process will never be complete until we go to the person who has offended us or we have offended. It is not their responsibility to come to us. If they are Christians, then it is very likely that they will want the air cleared as much as we do.
The local church would be a very joyful place if church members would practice Matthew 18:15. In fact, it would not just be a joyful place, it would be a breeding ground for revival. So why not start by asking the Lord to forgive and help us? It will take His help to complete the forgiveness process by speaking to the ones who have offended us. Do not let pride stand in your way. The Israelites needed it. You and I need it.
Verse 10 of chapter 21 says they, “…set forward” after the healing took place.
Moving forward spiritually, physically, and emotionally should be our goal as Christian people. When we are discouraged it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is especially hard when we get encumbered with bitterness.
When we follow God’s plan, even in the discouraging times, we can know that all will be made right.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
Romans 8:28 is a fun verse to quote but a very hard verse to claim. The discouragement we are experiencing right now could be God’s refining fire that will grow and strengthen us. God wants us to move forward. He wants us to experience the abundant life that He talked about in the book of John. We cannot live that abundant life while bound by discouragement and bitterness.
We must let God use the discouragements in life to strengthen us and ask Him to heal us from the bitterness. We have much to do in these last days. Let us “set forward” for the cause of Christ in unity.