Disappointment, Yes, Discouragement, No!

DiscouragementArtyThere’s the old story of Satan holding a garage sale where he offered a variety of his tools for sale to any demons who stopped by. There were tools of anger, lust, fear, lying, and so many more. A demon noted a tool in Satan’s garage that didn’t have a price on it and so he inquired what Satan might be selling it for. Satan replied, “That tool’s not for sale. It’s my most effective tool against God’s people.” What’s the tool?” the demon asked. Satan replied, “Discouragement.”

I’ve dealt with discouragement at various times through my years of pastoral ministry. I’ve asked myself if there’s any record of Jesus being discouraged. To my knowledge, there isn’t.

There are many accounts of Jesus being disappointed. Remember the story of Jesus coming down off the mountain top experience of being transfigured into His heavenly glory before Peter, James, and John? The remaining nine disciples had attempted an exorcism on a boy and had failed. When Jesus arrived the religious leaders immediately called His attention to the failure of His followers. “Jesus answered, ‘O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? (Luke 9:41) Sounds like Jesus was disappointed, even exasperated.

Then there was the time when the disciples forgot to pack a lunch and Jesus used it as a teachable moment. He then said to them, “Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:9-11) His disappointment clearly comes through the printed text. It seems there were plenty of times when Jesus was disappointed, but never discouraged.

I infer from this that to be disappointed is not a sin but that discouragement is, for the perfect Son of God was disappointed but not discouraged. My own experience confirms this. Disappointment has rarely brought me to a conviction of having sinned, but being discouraged, upon honest and sometimes prolonged reflection, has brought me to such a conviction. I’ve come to realize that being disappointed is usually prompted by the outcome of circumstances surrounding me or the behavior of people around me. Discouragement, on the other hand, comes from an inadequate or wrong view of God. If I really trusted Him for what was happening to me, that He has His reasons and purposes, then I wouldn’t be discouraged, perhaps personally disappointed, but not discouraged.

I’ve come to realize that discouragement is the fear that I’ve lost control and there is no way things are going to turn out well. Such fear of what has happened and what seems to be an inevitably bad outcome is based on a lack of faith that God is still on His throne and in full command.

As a follower of Jesus, and a servant of His, I seek to be like Him. This means I am willing to embrace disappointment because I live in an imperfect world but will reject discouragement because I serve a perfect Lord who is still in ultimate control and gives me the courage to keep from being discouraged.

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Joshua 8:1, 10:25, 1 Chronicles 22:13, 28:20, 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17, 32:7)

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