STUDY ARTICLE 52
How You Can Fight Discouragement
“Throw your burden on Jehovah, and he will sustain you.”—PS. 55:22.
SONG 33 Throw Your Burden on Jehovah
1. How might discouragement affect us?
EACH day we face problems and deal with them as best we can. But would you not agree that we handle our problems much better when we are not discouraged? So we need to view discouragement as an unwelcome visitor that can rob us of confidence, courage, and joy. Proverbs 24:10 and footnote says: “If you become discouraged in times of trouble, your strength will be meager.” Yes, discouragement can drain us of the energy we need to cope with life’s problems successfully.
2. What can cause us to feel discouraged, and what will we consider in this article?
2 We can become discouraged by many things—some internal, some external. The causes may include imperfections, weaknesses, and ill health. They may also include our not receiving a desired assignment in Jehovah’s service or our having to witness in a territory that seems unresponsive. In this article, we will consider some things we can do to deal with discouragement.
WHEN DEALING WITH IMPERFECTIONS AND WEAKNESSES
3. What can help us to have a balanced view of our imperfections?
3 It would be easy for us to develop an unbalanced view of our imperfections and weaknesses. As a result, we might believe that because of our failings, Jehovah would never welcome us into his new world. Such an attitude can be harmful. How should we look at our imperfections? The Bible reveals that, with the exception of Jesus Christ, all humans “have sinned.” (Rom. 3:23) But the Bible’s Author is not a faultfinder or perfectionist. Rather, he is a loving Father who wants to help us. He is also patient. He sees how we struggle to fight our weaknesses and overcome an unbalanced view of ourselves, and he is ready to help us.—Rom. 7:18, 19.
4-5. In line with 1 John 3:19, 20, why did two sisters not give in to discouragement?
4 Consider the examples of Deborah and Maria. * As a child, Deborah was often treated in ways that made her feel humiliated. She was rarely commended. She thus developed a negative view of herself. When she made small mistakes, she felt that she was a complete failure. Maria had a similar problem. Her relatives humiliated her. As a result, she struggled with feelings of worthlessness. After coming into the truth, she even felt unworthy to bear God’s name!
5 Yet, these two sisters did not stop serving Jehovah. Why? For one thing, they threw their burden on Jehovah by means of fervent prayer. (Ps. 55:22) They came to accept that our loving heavenly Father knows how our past experiences and our negative thinking have affected us. But he also sees the good in our heart—qualities that we may not see in ourselves.—Read 1 John 3:19, 20.
6. How might someone react if he experiences a setback?
6 Someone who is struggling to overcome a deep-seated bad habit might have a setback and feel disappointed in himself. Of course, it is normal to feel a measure of guilt when we sin. (2 Cor. 7:10) However, we should not go to extremes and condemn ourselves, thinking: ‘I’m a complete failure. How can Jehovah ever forgive me?’ Such negative thinking is not based on the truth and could cause us to stop serving Jehovah. Remember what we read at Proverbs 24:10—our strength will be meager when we are discouraged. Instead, “set matters straight” with Jehovah by going to him in prayer and seeking his mercy. (Isa. 1:18) Considering your sincere repentance, he will forgive you. In addition, approach the elders. They will patiently help you to become spiritually well again.—Jas. 5:14, 15.
7. Why should we not feel discouraged if we are struggling to do what is right?
7 Jean-Luc, an elder in France, says to those struggling with a weakness: Rom. 7:21-25) So do not condemn yourself if you are struggling with a weakness. Remember that none of us can earn a righteous standing before God. We all need God’s undeserved kindness by means of the ransom.—Eph. 1:7; 1 John 4:10.“A righteous person in Jehovah’s eyes is, not someone who never errs, but someone who is sorry for his mistakes and always repents.” (
8. When we feel down, to whom can we turn for help?
8 We can turn to our brothers and sisters—our spiritual family—for encouragement! They may provide a listening ear when we need to talk and offer reassuring words that can cheer us up. (Prov. 12:25; 1 Thess. 5:14) Joy, a sister in Nigeria who has battled with discouragement, says: “Where would I be without the brotherhood? My brothers and sisters are proof that Jehovah answers my prayers. I have even learned from them how to encourage others who are downhearted.” We need to keep in mind, though, that our brothers and sisters may not always know when we need encouragement. So we may need to take the initiative to approach a mature fellow believer and open up about our need for help.
WHEN DEALING WITH ILL HEALTH
9. How do Psalm 41:3 and 94:19 encourage us?
9 Turn to Jehovah for support. When we are not feeling well and especially if we are dealing with a chronic illness, we may find it hard to think positively. While Jehovah does not cure us miraculously now, he does comfort us and can give us the strength we need so as to endure. (Read Psalm 41:3; 94:19.) For example, he may move fellow Christians to come to our aid when we need help with chores or shopping. He may move our brothers to pray with us. Or he may bring back to our mind comforting thoughts found in his Word, such as the wonderful hope of perfect life without sickness and pain in the coming new world.—Rom. 15:4.
10. Why did Isang not remain downhearted after his accident?
10 Isang, who lives in Nigeria, had an accident that left him paralyzed. His doctor told him that he would never walk again. “I was heartbroken and crushed in spirit,” Isang said. But did he stay crushed? No! What helped him? “My wife and I never stopped praying to Jehovah and studying his Word,” Isang explains. “We were also determined to count our blessings, including our hope of life in God’s new world.”
11. How did Cindy find joy during a health crisis?
11 Cindy, who lives in Mexico, was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. How did she cope? When she was receiving treatment, she made it her goal to give a witness every day. She writes: “Doing so, I was able to focus on others instead of on the surgery, the pain, or how awful I felt. My approach was this: During a conversation with doctors or nurses, I would ask about their families. Then I would ask why they chose such a demanding occupation. After that, it was easy to see which topics might touch their heart. Several mentioned that it was rare for a patient to ask them, ‘How are you doing?’ And many thanked me Prov. 15:15.for caring. Some even gave me their contact information. So during this difficult time in my life, Jehovah gave me a deep inner joy that surprised even me!”—
12-13. How have some sick or infirm ones been able to share in the ministry, and with what results?
12 Sick or infirm ones may feel discouraged because they are limited in what they can do in the ministry. Still, many have been able to give a fine witness. In the United States, a sister named Laurel was confined to an iron lung for 37 years! She endured cancer, major surgeries, and chronic skin disorders. But even these extraordinary challenges did not silence her. She witnessed to nurses and attendants who came to her home. The result? She helped at least 17 people come to an accurate knowledge of the Bible! *
13 Richard, an elder in France, has a practical suggestion for those who are confined to their home or to a nursing facility. “I recommend that they have a small literature display. The display arouses curiosity and leads to conversations. This can encourage our dear brothers and sisters who can no longer go from house to house.” Those who are housebound can also share in the ministry by means of letter writing and telephone witnessing.
WHEN WE DO NOT RECEIVE A PRIVILEGE
14. What outstanding example did King David set?
14 Because of the limitations of age, health, or other factors, we may not be eligible to receive a certain assignment or privilege in the congregation or circuit. In that connection, we can learn from the example of King David. When told that he had not been chosen to build God’s temple—something that David had dearly hoped to do—he gave full support to the one whom God had selected for the assignment. David even contributed generously toward the project. What an outstanding example to follow!—2 Sam. 7:12, 13; 1 Chron. 29:1, 3-5.
15. How did Hugues overcome discouragement?
15 Because of health problems, Hugues, a brother in France, stopped serving as an elder, and he could not even care for simple tasks around the home. He writes: “At first, I felt worthless and deeply discouraged. But in time, I saw the importance of accepting my limitations, and Judg. 8:4.I found joy in serving Jehovah within those limits. I am determined not to give up. Like Gideon and his three hundred men—all of whom were tired—I will keep up the fight!”—
16. What can we learn from the example of the angels?
16 The faithful angels are a fine example. During King Ahab’s reign, Jehovah invited the angels to suggest ways to fool the wicked king. A number of angels responded by offering ideas. But God chose one angel and told him that his suggestion would succeed. (1 Ki. 22:19-22) Did the other faithful angels become discouraged, perhaps thinking, ‘Why did I bother?’ We have no reason to believe that they did. The angels are truly humble and want all honor to go to Jehovah.—Judg. 13:16-18; Rev. 19:10.
17. What should we do if we feel down because we do not have certain privileges of service?
17 Fix in mind the privilege we have to bear God’s name and to announce his Kingdom. Assignments may come and go, but they are not what make us precious to God. It is when we are modest and humble that we become truly lovable to Jehovah and to our brothers and sisters. So beg Jehovah to help you remain modest and humble. Reflect on the many fine examples of modesty and humility that are recorded in his Word. Willingly serve your brothers in any way you can.—Ps. 138:6; 1 Pet. 5:5.
WHEN YOUR TERRITORY SEEMS UNPRODUCTIVE
18-19. How can you have joy in your ministry even when your territory seems to be unproductive?
18 Have you at some point felt discouraged because your territory seems to be unproductive or because few people are found at home? In such a situation, what can be done to maintain or increase our joy? Some practical suggestions are listed in the box “ Ways to Enrich Your Ministry.” It is also important to have the right view of the ministry. What does that involve?
19 Keep your focus on proclaiming God’s name and Kingdom. Jesus made it plain that relatively few will find the path to life. (Matt. 7:13, 14) When we are in the ministry, we have the honor of working with Jehovah, Jesus, and the angels. (Matt. 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 3:9; Rev. 14:6, 7) Jehovah draws those who are deserving. (John 6:44) So if a person does not respond well to our message this time, he may listen the next time we call.
20. What can Jeremiah 20:8, 9 teach us about fighting discouragement?
20 We can learn much from the prophet Jeremiah. He was assigned a territory that was extremely difficult. The people insulted and jeered him “all day long.” (Read Jeremiah 20:8, 9.) He became so discouraged at one point that he felt like giving up. But he did not. Why not? “The word of Jehovah” was like a fire inside Jeremiah, and he could not hold it in! The same is true of us when we fill our mind and heart with God’s Word. That is an added reason for us to study the Bible daily and meditate on it. As a result, our joy can continue to increase, and our ministry may become more productive.—Jer. 15:16.
21. How can we win the fight against discouragement, whatever its cause?
21 “Discouragement can be a formidable weapon used by Satan,” notes Deborah, quoted earlier. But Satan’s weapons are no match for Jehovah God. So when you feel discouraged for whatever reason, supplicate Jehovah for his support. He will help you to deal with your imperfections and weaknesses. He will support you through illness. He will help you to keep a balanced view of assignments of service. And he will help you to have a positive view of your ministry. Moreover, pour out your concerns to your heavenly Father. With his help, you can win the fight against discouragement.
SONG 41 Please Hear My Prayer
^ par. 5 We all get discouraged at times. In this article, we will discuss some specific things we can do when we feel downhearted. As we will see, with Jehovah’s help we can win the fight against discouragement.
^ par. 4 Some names have been changed.
^ par. 12 Read Laurel Nisbet’s life story in the January 22, 1993, issue of Awake!
^ par. 69 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A sister was discouraged for a time, but she reflects on her past service and prays to Jehovah. She is sure that he remembers what she did and is doing.