“My soul melteth for heaviness...” (Psalms 119:28a). Have you ever felt that way? Didn’t it feel as if your whole being is poured out in weeping or near it? According to the Strong’s Concordance, heaviness in the Bible is depression, grief, and sorrow.
No?! Then how about: “My soul cleaveth unto the dust” (Psalms 119:25a) and “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?” (Psalms 43:5a).
Very few of us have not encountered this bone-crushing despair that is called discouragement. The Psalmists describe it as heaviness, a feeling of the soul dragging in the dust, a death-like experience. Admittedly or not, this can be an upsetting experience, and how should it be handled?
Perhaps the thought that discouragement can cause us to sin causes panic. Why? Because total despair eradicates all hope in God to deliver us from our troubles. One asks, “Should I ignore it and pretend it’s not happening?” or “Shout for help from the Lord!”
The Dead Man Walking
Dr. Park Tucker, the former Chaplain of the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, told of walking down the street of an unknown city, feeling depressed and worried about life in general. Seeing a sign in a window, he blinked his eyes a couple of times, wondering whether his eyes were deceiving him.
But sure enough, what he saw in the window of that funeral home was this sign, in big, bold words: “Why walk around half-dead? We can bury you for $69.50.” Dr. Tucker saw the humor of it as good medicine for his soul.1
The poet Thomas Hardy wrote of such despair in “The Dead Man Walking”:
Are worry and the cares of this world causing you to walk around half-dead? Has anxiety built a problem over which there is no path, and you feel you have surrendered to defeat?
Understanding the Root of Discouragement
One way of thinking about discouragement is viewing it as a state that disallows encouragement. It is experienced when you are dissuaded to break from the confidence you have in your chosen path. Discouragement finds its root in negative emotional biases that may be triggered by various fears.3 What do you fear? Financial instability? Food and shelter insecurity? The loss of your dignity?
The Doorway Out of Discouragement
David, in deep distress, likens his soul as cleaving unto the dust and asks God to revive him (Psalms 119:25). Then, in the following verses, we read how he finds a way out of his discouragement.
Sharing the secrets of his life to God, and perhaps even his plans, the Psalmist asks God to teach him what to do (v. 26). He takes God up on His invitation to “Come now and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). He chooses understanding, and he meditates on the wonders of God’s goodness towards him. And by beholding, he becomes changed (2 Corinthians 3:18).
In sorrow, the Psalmist “melts” in tears at the vicissitudes of life (v. 28), yet he prefers crying to hardening his heart towards God. He does not consider lying about how he felt in his own heart as an option (v. 29). He elects to come clean with God and to choose the way of faithfulness.
The Way of Faithfulness
The way of faithfulness is trusting in God, as does the Psalmist here, and as did Job (Job 13:15). We ought to carefully consider the choices we make during periods of sadness or discouragement because they will either lead us to eternal life or death.
As for me, I believe the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Why shouldn’t I? He already fulfilled the promise of beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3) by strengthening me to use the experiences of my past to write these articles.
“Strengthen thou me according unto thy word” (Psalms 119:28). So, applying the Bible to overcome discouragement entails focusing on the following promises:
- “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9).
- “Quicken thou me (recover me, give new life) according to thy word” (Psalms 119:25). “O LORD, put me not to shame” (Psalms 119:31).
- “Hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Psalms 43:5b).
All we have to do is follow Him and keep His commandments, then He will make more room in our hearts to trust Him and through His guidance, to see our way clearly (Psalms 119:32).
Call to Action
Conquer discouragement by trusting in the Lord, and totally surrender your plans to Him for His keeping!
All scripture taken from the King James Version.
- Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Rockville, Maryland: Assurance Publishers, 1979), 336.
- Thomas Hardy, “The Dead Man Walking.” Poetry Foundation, poetryfoundation.org/poems/44326/the-dead-man-walking. Accessed March 19, 2021.
- Dr. Dhanisha Jhaveri and Dr. Susannah Tye, “Depression and the brain.” Queensland Brain Institute, qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-diseases/depression/depression-and-brain. Accessed March 19, 2021.