Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. (Psalms 42:11)
In the past several weeks, my wife and I have been dealing with a common spiritual issue. I say common because each of you has experienced it and some of you may dealing with it presently. The condition is discouragement. The cause of our discouragement is, of course, Pam’s prolonged illness and the continual degrading of her health. This is compounded by accidents and illnesses that are incidental to her major problems. Our doctor expressed our sentiments exactly: “Oh boy, when it rains it pours.” Thus, is the feeder of discouragement.
I know there are some who believe discouragement is sin, or at best it is lack of faith in God. I can assure you we trust God and have no sense we are living in special sin because of these feelings. Discouragement is not sin. It is part of the human nature. Discouragement can devolve into sin if we do not trust in God. While a true Christian can never stop trusting God for final salvation, he may become discouraged while living his faith. A discouraged Christian must be reminded that God is our refuge in times of discouragement.
Many believe, as do I, that Psalm 42 is messianic. Through the psalmist’s eyes, we get a snapshot of Jesus’ thoughts in His humanity as He faced the impending death of the cross. He was fully human and experienced the natural anguish we experience and yet without being overcome with despondency in His grief. This would be sin because it would be failure to trust the source of His strength. Importantly, Jesus was maximumly filled with the Spirit. How then could He experience Psalm 42:11? How could His soul be disquieted, that is troubled, so that He groaned within? He was human.
You and I as believers are indwelled by the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit is enabled by the indwelling, but it is not the same. While human and sinful, yet we may be filled which enables us to have victory over our human conditions. One definition of discouragement is to be less enthusiastic. Do you believe Jesus was enthusiastic in the Garden of Gethsemane as He contemplated the cross? This would not be a human response. Any time we are less enthusiastic, we are in some degree discouraged. The answer is to always hope in God. It does not mean we have lost hope; it means we realize greater dependence and only dependence on God.
When we are saved, we are not saved from our humanity. We still live in this body that is cursed with the effects of the fall. We still get sick and we still die. The effects of the fall are not expunged and will not be until we receive our glorified body. We are not saved from sickness, but we are saved from the power of it. We have ability to overcome it. As one theologian said well, “Faith in Christ does not remove all causes of discouragement, rather it enables us to overcome them. We may experience discouragement, but we will not be defeated by it.”
Are you unspiritual because sometimes you are discouraged? If so, you are capable of greater spirituality than Jesus. I think if you measure your spirituality on that scale, you have invented a spirituality that is not Christian. It is not commensurate with biblical teaching.
I write this for you today to help you not to heap on more discouragement by thinking you have entered sinful territory with these feelings. No, we must evaluate discouragement and see how God works it for our good. While discouragement is not pleasant, God may use it to the good of our souls when it turns us to Him in greater faith. If faith is increased by discouragement, who can question God’s wisdom in using it?
Give God the glory for His wisdom. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. (Psalm 42:5).
Pastor V. Mark Smith