Many years ago I received a note that had a very meaningful message: “My faith is down. My husband has no job. My mother is overworking herself and I’m worried. My brother is out of work and he is going in the wrong direction and his family is suffering greatly. I want to help, but there is nothing I can do but pray. And God forbid, I’m losing the will to pray. God, please tell me what to do. Tell me what to say.” I think this note speaks volumes. Many people today can identify with what this person was going through.
In John 5:1-9 we discover a man who had been sick for thirty eight years. He had fought a constant battle with discouragement. Year after year he failed to be healed. “Wait until next year,” became his personal slogan. But next year came and went and things were still the same. He had tried to get into the healing water but someone else always shoved him aside. He had hoped and prayed for a miracle but someone else always beat him to the pool. Time was running out. He was now probably all alone; life had become one long series of disappointments, hurts, and setbacks which had led him to be totally discouraged and almost defeated in life.
Discouragement comes when we feel that the opportunity for success is gone. When we lose hope, discouragement begins and without correction it will intensify, and become depression, and unchecked until it deepens into dark despair. When we are terribly discouraged and depressed we become extremely self-centered and we think primarily of ourselves. We feel that we have not been successful in our attempts to do something. We get down because we feel that we are a failure and life has become one long series of failures. You get to the point where you become paralyzed, inactive, and tend to withdraw, isolate yourself and feel sorry for yourself and give up.
Maybe you have tried to stop a bad habit but continue to do it. Or maybe you have done your best on a test or paper but you get a bad grade. Or possibly you tried to find a job but all you get is rejection slips. You may feel unappreciated, used, and feel like no one cares whether you live or die. Or perhaps you have been to the doctor in anticipation of a good report but the news has turned out not as you expected. You’ve tried and tried but your relationship seems to only be getting worse in your marriage. Or you have fought for years to make your dreams become reality but you never seem to get any closer. And for many of you, you’ve prayed and prayed for a miracle but the miracle never seemed to happen. Or possibly it is your spiritual life in the pits. God seems to be a million miles away. Your prayers do not seem to be getting any higher than the ceiling.