Several years ago, I was ministering in the Philippines. Part of our ministry took us on a catamaran to a nearby island. When we left, the tide was in, and we easily stepped from the dock onto the boat and sailed away. When we returned in the evening, the tide was out, and our boat sat about ten feet below the dock. Our only egress was a rickety ladder sitting precariously in the rocking boat. I don’t normally like to climb short, firmly grounded ladders, so I definitely was not comfortable with the thought of climbing this ladder.
Discouragement settled over me. Suddenly, through my spirit and out of my mouth came “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). One of the men holding the ladder gave me a hand, and I went up that ladder like a seasoned sailor. Courage came when I knew that I didn’t have to do it in my own strength.
In our difficult world, we are surrounded, bombarded and often overwhelmed with discouragement. Negativity fills the airwaves, the newspapers and the coffee klatches. A spirit of discouragement has attached itself to many people, even believers.
The spirit of discouragement can be so oppressive that we may neglect to cry out to the Lord for encouragement. We may also be so distraught that we do not recognize the encouragement when it comes.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines encourage as:
to make (someone) more determined, hopeful, or confident; to make (something) more appealing or more likely to happen; to make (someone) more likely to do something : to tell or advise (someone) to do something.
These definitions are all about doing something. They miss the mark by not telling us what we need in our lives in order to do something. In order to chop down the tree of discouragement, we need to lay the axe to the root.
The root word of “encourage” is “courage.” In other words, if we want to be encouraged, we must be filled with courage. The Lord spoke to Joshua as he was stepping into the role of leadership after the death of Moses: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).
God does not want us to be afraid. Fear tries to rob us of courage, and it is the fear that we need to lay the axe to. We fear tomorrow. We fear the unknown. We fear because we lack understanding. We fear because we perceive that God has distanced Himself from us.
Believers, however, are called to be Joshuas in this world. God has commanded us to be strong and of good courage. The word translated as courage has many synonyms. In the Hebrew, to be courageous is to be strengthened, established, strong, fortified, and obstinate.
Courage is the strength to overcome in spite of fear. Courage is being established in the truth of the Word of God. Courage produces strength and fortification. Courage enables us to stand firmly for the Lord. We need encouragement.
I find that cliche expressions like “Remember, God is in control,” “Everything will be alright,” “Everything happens for a purpose,” or “It will all work out in the end” feel frustrating and trite. I know that the speaker's intent is to encourage, but the intent does not bring forth the desired fruit.
When people are discouraged, instead of all the conventional expressions, can we say, “I’ll go with you,” “What can I do that will help,” or “How can I pray for you?” That’s what God has promised us—that He will never leave us or forsake us. We must stand and not forsake either ourselves or others around us.
In the Word of God, we will find words that dispel fear and fill us with courage. Speaking forth the Word causes courage to resonate on the air waves. Declaring the Word allows us to anoint ourselves and others with courage. Meditating on the Word—allowing that truth to become part of our spiritual DNA—enables us to move forward in boldness.
Make a list of encouraging scriptures and hide them in your heart through memorization and meditation. The Holy Spirit will call them to your remembrance in the midst of discouragement.
Consider these words: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). Encouragement comes in realizing that the spirit of fear, the discouragement that we feel, has not come from God. Instead, God has given us the strength in Him to overcome that fear. We don’t have to face it alone. We face it in the power and love of God. Our relationship with Him brings us into a sound mind.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Encouragement is actually a choice. Let’s open our hearts to the encouragement of the Lord, so that we may encourage ourselves and others.