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March 2016


More Than Money


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INTERSECT: Dealing With Discouragement


Tom Carson was an ordinary pastor, and often a discouraged one. In his book, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, His son Don (D.A.) Carson devotes an entire chapter to his father’s ongoing struggle. He shares glimpses of Tom Carson’s private journals, including entries like this one:

Sunday, March 5, 1961

Rose 6:50 a.m. Prayer and study. Preached (poorly) from 2 Cor. 2. Twenty-four present.…rested. Studied. Evening 19 present. Preached from Rom 1:1–17 (poorly).

Tom Carson didn’t write this for anyone else. He had no idea his journal entry would one day be published. Obviously, he was discouraged. His son writes, “The reasons for such discouragements are many, but some of them, at least, overlap with Tom’s self-doubt, guilty conscience, sense of failure, long hours, and growing frustration with apparent fruitlessness.”

We all relate. We know what discouragement feels like. How would you define it? (It is often easier to feel than to define.) I think you would be hard pressed to find a better way of describing it than what is said in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “so we do not lose heart.” “Losing heart” is the essence of discouragement.

Encountering discouragement is not a matter of if but when. How do you deal with it? Some deal with discouragement by shopping, others by eating, still others by alcohol or substance abuse. None of these are helpful. They may serve as diversions, but they are only temporary and only make matters worse. How did the Apostle Paul deal with discouragement? How did he keep from losing heart?

By keeping the right perspective (verses 8-9). Paul did not recommend that we ignore the harsh realities of life—quite the opposite. Paul spelled out of a number of difficulties he had encountered. Some were simply the result of living in a fallen world and some were a direct result of his faith.

“We are troubled on every side…perplexed…persecuted…cast down,” Paul wrote. It is obvious he was fighting the difficult fight of faith, but he realized his struggles were not the only reality. He understood the bigger picture. That is why Paul could say, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” Then, in verse 10, Paul shared the keystone of his faith: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in our body.”

When Paul suffered and experienced discouragement, he was able to take a step back and observe, by faith, that God was ultimately working for his good (Romans 8:28). Paul’s faith helped him keep the right perspective. He understood that the suffering of this life was only temporary. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (verse 17). We can deal with discouragement with the right perspective.

By experiencing the resurrection power (verses 11-17). It takes power—real power—to guide us through times of discouragement. And, for the believer, that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. According to verses 11-17, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you. Paul spoke of his identity with the death of Christ, but he also reveled in the power of His resurrection: “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you (verse 14)…For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (verse16).

The inward man is where the Holy Spirit does His work. He is not some outside impersonal force, but a living Person who abides within, giving believers power for abundant living. Not trouble-free living but abundant living in the face of difficulty.

If you want to deal with your discouragement, you must keep the right perspective and experience the resurrection power of Jesus. Let me offer some practical suggestions to help you:

  • Identify the source of your discouragement. First, Satan is out to destroy you, and one of the chief ways is through discouragement. Second, other people can be a great source of encouragement and joy, but also great discouragement and disappointment. Finally, take a hard look at yourself. From physical challenges to unrealistic or unmet expectations, discouragement often rises from within.

  • Don’t face discouragement alone. Seek accountability and encouragement from those who will confront you in love—kindly but honestly. Let them help you identify the drift of discouragement in your life and identify why you are discouraged.

  • Prayer. Use your discouragement as a powerful motivation toward God. In 1858, in the hymn, “My God, I Thank Thee,” Adelaide Proctor penned the following lyrics: “I thank thee too that all our joy is touched with pain; that shadows fall on brightest hours; that thorns remain; so that earth’s bliss may be my guide, not my chain.”

  • Spend time in God’s Word.

This is how you keep the right perspective. This is how you find daily renewal and strength in spite of difficulty. And as you fight to keep the right perspective, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”


About the Writer: Barry Raper chairs the Pastoral Ministry program at Welch College. Learn more at



©2016 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists