25 Mar How to face distress and discouragement?
As human beings we all are prone to distress and discouragement. The Preacher had rightly said, “As long as you live, everything you do brings nothing but worry and heartache (Eccle. 2:23 GNT)
The Bible portrays the life-experiences of God’s people truthfully and honestly. It never hides or covers up even the failures and bad experiences of them. This is one of the proofs that the Bible is reliable and trustworthy. One reason for depicting how God’s people like Moses, David, Elijah etc., faced problems and bitter experiences in their lives is for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from their lives. (Romans 15:4, written in the past refer the Old Testament. (HCSB)
Now let us see how King David, “the man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13; 12) faced distress and discouragement in his life so that we can also learn practical lessons to face them courageously.
Let us read 1 Samwwuel 30:1-6 (AMPC)
Now when David and his men came home to Ziklag on the third day, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid on the South (the Negeb) and on Ziklag, and had struck Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken the women and all who were there, both great and small, captive. They killed no one, but carried them off and went on their way. So David and his men came to the town, and behold, it was burned, and their wives and sons and daughters were taken captive. Then David and the men with him lifted up their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail, the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. David was greatly distressed, for the men spoke of stoning him because the souls of them all were bitterly grieved, each man for his sons and daughters. But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
How did David encourage himself in the Lord?
When we study the above quoted Bible passage and circumstance in which he composed his Psalms, we can learn the following practical lessons to overcome distress and discouragement in our own lives.
1. David vented his feelings such as anger, doubt, fear, worries and sometimes sorrows with tears. He even questioned God, without any inhibitions.
* In the above-mentioned passage, we read that David and the men with him lifted up their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. (I Sam 30:4)
* When the Philistines captured David in Gath, he prayed, “You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8)
*How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide Your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? – Psalm 13:1, 2
*My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. –Psalm 22:1, 2
2. David thanked, praised and worshipped the Lord God in all circumstances, even while facing great dangers.
*When David changed his behaviour before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away, and sang, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!” (Psalm 34:1-3)
* When David fled before Saul into the cave, he sang,” My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth! (Psalm 57: 7-11)
*Even Jesus sang a song with His disciples before going to face the greatest agony in His life – the crucifixion. “After singing psalms, they [Jesus and His disciples] went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Matt 26:30 HCSB)
3. David trusted God under all circumstances and confessed His power and his own faith on Him.
*When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him, he sang “My God of mercy shall come to meet me; God shall let me see my desire on my enemies. I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble. To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; For God is my defence, My God of mercy”. (Psalm 59:10, 16, 17)
* When David was in the cave, he sang, “I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:5)
Why does God allow His people to go through distress and discouragement?
As I study the Bible, I found two main reasons for a child of God to go through a period of grief and sorrow.
Reason 1: To make them stronger in their faith, on the way to heaven.
In Psalm 84:5-7 (NKJV), we read that even those who enjoy the presence of God and worshipping Him, will go through the valley of Baca (weeping) so that they become stronger, on the way to heaven.
Reason 2: To equip God’s people so as to comfort those who face grief and sorrow.
Apostle Paul testifies, “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Cor 1:3, 4-HCSB)
In obedience to the call of the Lord of the harvest, my wife and I resigned our government jobs and joined the students’ wing of a missionary organisation in 1983. God had blessed us with 2 sons and 2 daughters. But our Lord had taken my wife into His kingdom in 1986 (Job 1:21, 22). At that time our eldest son was 10 years old and the fourth child (daughter) was just 13 months old. During the burial service of my wife, I carried my beloved baby-daughter in my arms and sang the Tamil song (composed by late Bro. Prakash Yesudian) “Yesu pothume, Yesu pothume, Entha nazhililume, En nilaiyilumilei, Enthan vazhvinilei, Yesu pothume (Jesus Christ is sufficient in any and every situation of my life) with tears.
I went and stayed with my sister’s family in Thoothukudy. Even though my parents, relatives and mission organization supported and helped me, I was filled with great sorrow and faced a bleak future. Then one morning, a few days after my wife’s death, I went alone to the beach, with my Bible and a song book. I chose a lonely place surrounded by trees. I sang a lot of songs thanking and praising God for granting me more than 10 years of blessed married life. I also sang songs of hope in Christ. I also thanked Him for the blessings in Christ. I loudly read out some Psalms (the book with ready-made vocabulary to express our emotions) with tear-filled eyes. I prayed loudly with cries and sobbing. I renewed my commitment to our Master. As we read in Philippians 4:6, 7, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guarded my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. While leaving my bereaved two young sons in Santhosha Vidhyalaya hostel, I taught them to pray, “O Lord, you alone are my hope; my trust from my childhood” (Psalm 71:5). Our Almighty God never forsook me and my 4 children.
(After a gap of about 6 years, as we read in Psalm 68:6, our loving Lord “who makes a home for the lonely”, not only blessed me again with a wife, but also with a mother to the four children. God also blessed us with a fifth child – a son. By God’s grace, all our 5 children are walking with the Lord. Our eldest son and daughter-in-law are actively involved in the EGF ministry. 4 children are well-settled in life and our youngest son has just completed his studies. My wife and I are fully engaged in the Lord’s ministry. Praise and Glory be to God! )
The Almighty God says, “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54:10)
David is a challenging example for us. Let us apply the lessons we have learnt from his life and live a peace-filled life in Christ Jesus -the Prince of peace.
Dear reader, are you passing through “the valley of weeping” with distress and discouragement? Never give up your faith and hope in our Living God. The omniscient Father is strengthening your faith as well as equipping you to be a channel of blessing for others.
Abraham JEBAVEERAN lives in a North Indian city with his wife and youngest son. They are ministering to young people including university students.