top of page

3 Tips for Overcoming Discouragement

By Dennis Rainey

I remember when a close friend of ours went through the heart-ripping experience of a divorce. Their 5-year-old, freckle-faced daughter was jerked north then south as the two people she loved the most began the process of ripping up their marriage covenant.

Because Barbara and I knew this couple very well, for nearly three years we prayed. We counseled, called, wrote letters, pleaded, reasoned, and wept. Miraculously they agreed to attend two Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.

But two hardened hearts couldn’t let go of the hurt and forgive one another.

The day the divorce was finalized, a little girl’s heart was crushed as the judge’s gavel came smashing down. And she was left with a living mosaic of deceit, betrayal, and broken promises.

We were bewildered. Confused. We had prayed. Didn’t God say He hated divorce? Yet in the end, we felt sin had won.

Disappointment with God soon followed. If prayers so close to God’s heart are going to be unanswered, then why pray? The incident rattled our faith. It shouldn’t have, but it did. We were tempted to lose heart.

After a time, we both closeted our discouragement and unbelief—we buried them. Instead of working out the emotions of being discouraged with God’s answer, we sort of tucked it all away like a box full of Christmas ornaments in an obscure closet in our lives.

On occasion, when we were encountering another gritty situation, we could both hear our doubt and discouragement rattling around in that closet. They would accuse and chide, “Why pray, anyway? Why try? In the end people are going to do it their way!” Unresolved discouragement and disillusionment had replaced faith and expectancy.

Infrequently exposed

Discouragement. Who hasn’t felt its chilling grip on his/her heart?

Discouragement neutralizes optimism, assassinates faith and hope, and robs people of courage. Perhaps no other human emotion is so commonly experienced and yet so infrequently exposed.

Have you ever been tempted to lose heart because God didn’t answer a critical prayer for you? You know, something urgent—something inextricably linked to your heart—and even something that you were certain was God’s will?

I’m convinced that many Christians closet their disappointment with God. Denying doubts, we become dishonest with God and put on a spiritual veneer that says, “All is well!”

Unprocessed discouragement results in mistrust. And it is at this critical point that the enemy of our souls has us exactly where he wants us. Paralyzed in unbelief from the neck down, our eyes see and our minds know what we ought to believe, but the faith of our hearts lies dormant. Frozen. And a subtle mistrust of God sets in.

Disheartened, we passively allow other weeds to sprout. Discouragement creates fertile soil for the weeds of doubt, fear, unbelief, and compromise to grow.

A friend shared a story with us about a public auction that the devil organized. As the prospective buyers assembled, they noticed an assortment of tools that the devil was selling. The tools of worry, fear, lust, greed, and selfishness were all carefully inspected before the sale. But off to one side, standing alone, there was one oddly shaped, well-worn tool which was labeled, “Not for sale.”

Asked to explain why, the devil replied, “I can spare my other tools, but I cannot spare this one. It is the most useful implement that I have. With it I can work my way deep into hearts otherwise inaccessible. After I have plowed deeply with this tool, the way is open to plant anything there I desire. It is the most effective tool I have. It is the tool of discouragement.”

Overcoming discouragement

In Galatians 6:9-10, the apostle Paul tells us, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

As Barbara and I have worked through periods of discouragement—like the one I described earlier of the couple that gave up—some simple steps have helped us move from unbelief to hope:

1. Be truthful with God.

I’ve found that God is not fooled by my lofty prayers for missionaries in Africa when deep inside my faith is closeted by discouragement. God is able to handle your emotion