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Life Principle 20: Overcoming Discouragement

Disappointments are inevitable, discouragement is a choice.

November 4, 2023

If you feel like you're caught in the grip of discouragement, learn how to overcome discouragement from one of the most powerful servants of God, King David. Dr. Stanley explains how David, who experienced great spiritual triumphs, also had emotional struggles. But he found victory, in part because he knew how to overcome discouragement by seeking encouragement from God.

Sermon Outline

Everyone has known the ache of sadness that comes when life moves in an unanticipated, undesired direction. Disappointment may come as a result of a negative change in circumstances, a sudden reversal of plans, or a frustrating personal issue. If someone close to you behaves in a manner that lets you down, you may experience deep sensations of loss. For example, if someone works spitefully to thwart your plans, you may be tempted to lash out against them. Yet, regardless of what has caused your disappointment, the dream you once cherished seems to be in ruins. You may not know how to respond because it is difficult to sort through your emotions.

Perhaps that was the case for Joseph, the Nazarene carpenter who was betrothed to the godly young woman named Mary. Like any Jewish man, he looked forward to the day when he would take a wife and start a family.

Then the news came.

Imagine the emotions of Joseph’s heart when he heard that Mary was pregnant. What a devastating blow to his hopes and plans, for, according to the Law, she deserved to be stoned (Deut. 22:23-24). Not only would he have no bride, but his betrothed would be put to death. The disappointment must have been overwhelming.

Matthew 1:19 shows that Joseph pondered a different course of action, perhaps trying to diffuse some of the terrible anguish of the situation: “Joseph her [betrothed] husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.”

Yet, as we know, Mary had by no means violated the Law; and in fact, God had very special plans for that pregnancy (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:26-38). The Lord’s angel told Mary, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32).

The Lord sent an angel to confirm His extraordinary plan to Joseph. He said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20-21). Joseph did not allow his initial disappointment to give way to discouragement. Rather, he accepted God’s will, obeyed the Lord, and brought Mary home to live with him, as a virgin, until the birth of Jesus (Matt. 1:24-25).

The Lord has a unique plan for your life, too—one that does not change according to unexpected circumstances. When you confront a situation that does not line up with your understanding of how God wants your life to proceed, you must stop and look to Him for direction. Sometimes He allows disappointments to occur so that you will learn to rely on Him more fully—to walk by faith and not by sight. But never forget this: while disappointments are inevitable, discouragement is a choice. You should not allow the challenges that arise to steal your enthusiasm or confidence in Him.

In the daily disappointments that threaten to consume your emotional resources and deflect your attention away from the Lord, you have real hope and a real choice for joy and abundant living in Christ. Circumstances do not control you; Jesus does. You never have to be the victim of your feelings. You can choose to look to God, listen, learn, and move ahead. As you do, the wounded, dejected places in your heart and the scars of old disappointments will melt away in God’s restoring love.

God does have blessings for you—more than you can imagine. Let go of disappointments and the fear of hoping and trusting again. God holds your future in His hands, and you will never lose by looking forward to what He has in store.

Adapted from The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, © 2009.

This post is a part of the series Life Principles to Live By.

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