Most of you have probably never heard of Lawrence Hanratty, who was profiled in the Los Angeles Times as being named the “Unluckiest Man in New York City.”
He was nearly electrocuted to death in a construction site accident in 1984
For weeks he lay in a coma, with his lawyers fighting for his liability claim—until one of them was disbarred and two of them died
Then, Hanratty’s wife left him and ran off with her lawyer
After recovering from the coma, he lost his car in a terrible wreck and when the police left the accident scene, he was robbed
Later, his insurance company fought to cut off his worker’s benefits
His landlord tried to evict him
He took an oxygen canister with him wherever he went, and took 42 pills a day for his heart and liver ailments
He suffered from depression (well, I guess so!)
A city councilman took up his cause. Neighbors began to rally around him. Incredibly, Mr. Hanratty summed up his life this way: “There’s always hope.”
We all feel for this guy, don’t we? You know why we feel for him? Because we’ve all been discouraged before. We know what it feels like to be discouraged, and to feel the pain, despair and frustration it brings.
In fact, many of you are probably experiencing a time of discouragement in your life right now. Perhaps you’re discouraged because of a family situation. Perhaps your marriage isn’t the best right now, and you’re discouraged. Or your kids are giving you a fit. Maybe you’re down about your finances (because your finances are down!). Or your job is discouraging you. Perhaps your discouragement has moved to another level…maybe it’s more like depression now. You’ve been struggling for weeks or months or even years. You’re tired, worn out, spent, at the end of your rope…but you’re not exactly sure what to do about it.
Let me give you four common causes of discouragement and the biblical solution to each.
1. Fatigue—Perhaps you’re just tired. You’re exhausted. Your tank is empty; your battery is dead. You feel like Atlas, trying to carry the entire world on your shoulders. The truth is that many of us are running around like chickens with our heads cut off. I’ve noticed that our problems tend to become “bigger” and seemingly overwhelming and unmanageable when we’re tired.
God’s Answer: Rest. Many of us never stop long enough to just simply rest, be in God’s presence, and recharge. Maybe you need to do that…and do it soon! Schedule times of rest and soul recharge every day. Jesus promises to fill us when we rest in Him. He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). God designed us to live a rhythm of work and rest. Make sure you’re resting…and resting in Jesus.
2. Failure—Many people are discouraged because they feel like one giant failure. They feel like a failure in their relationships, in their job, in their decisions. They live a life of guilt (for not measuring up to their own expectations/perfections or others’ expectations). They constantly feel like they don’t measure up, and they never will.
God’s Answer: Your Identity in Christ. God says that you are His child, uniquely made and specially loved. You don’t have to be perfect because you are trusting in the Perfect One, Jesus. Keep reminding yourself who you are, and whose you are. God loves you, not because you are perfect, but because He is perfect. And God loved you enough to save you by grace (not by your perfect works). Rest in the grace of Jesus.
3. Frustration—Perhaps you’re just frustrated with life. Nothing seems to be going well. It seems like everything is going against you. Perhaps you keep trying the same things over and over, and they’re not working. It’s like Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” That might be you…you’re frustrated with your marriage, your children, your grandchildren, your job, your finances, your health, your life, and maybe even God.
God’s Answer: Spending time in prayer and in God’s Word. The Bible is filled with examples of frustrated people. I would encourage you to go back and read Psalms. It is chock-full of people (especially David) who were so frustrated. However, they turned to God in their frustration…they vented to Him, reminded themselves of God’s faithfulness, and ultimately rested in the promises of God that He is there, and He cares.
4. Fear—Maybe you’re worried about your future, your finances, or your health. Perhaps you’re just a born worrier who continually lives with anxiety and the fear of “what if.”
God’s Answer: Trust God. The Bible is clear that fear is not from God, but from our enemy (2 Timothy 1:7). As missionary J.O. Fraser said, “All discouragement is of the devil. Discouragement is to be resisted just like sin. To give way to the one is just as bad and weakens us as much as to give way to the other.” Remember that God loves you, and He cares for you. We’re told to “cast all your anxiety on God because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Take your fears and anxieties to God, and allow the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, to guard your hearts and minds in Christ (see Philippians 4:4-8).
Discouragement attacks us all. Resist it by remembering the truth…the truth of God’s Word, His love, His presence, and His promises. Read Psalm 121, and be encouraged:
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.