As we read the words of David in Psalm 38, we find this godly, righteous man at the end of himself. He was downcast and discouraged, and his struggle had drained him of all strength. Listen to his distraught cry:
I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs (Psalm 38:6, 8, 10, 13-14).
As I read this psalm, I imagine David slumped in despair. Perhaps what troubled him most was that he couldn’t understand why he was suddenly cast down so low. This man hungered for the Lord, pouring out his heart daily in prayer. He revered Gods word, writing psalms that extolled his glory. But now, in his depressed state, all he could do was cry, Lord, I’m at the end of my rope. And I have no idea why its happening!
Like many discouraged Christians today, David tried to figure out why he felt so empty and broken in spirit. He probably relived every failure, sin and foolish deed in his life. At some point he must have thought, Oh, Lord, have all my reckless acts left me so wounded that I’m beyond hope?
Finally, David reasoned that God must have been chastening him. He cried, O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over my head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me (verses 1-4).
Let me point out here that David isn’t just writing about his own condition in this psalm. Hes describing something that all devoted lovers of Jesus face at some point in their lifetime. Hes talking about being under a demonic attack from a plaguing spirit of discouragement!
This kind of discouraging spirit comes straight from the bowels of hell. And the time comes when every dedicated believer is overwhelmed by this sudden and unexpected experience. No Christian brings it on himself, nor does the Lord send it. Such an attack usually has nothing to do with any specific sin or failing by the believer.
Very simply, the spirit of discouragement is Satan’s most potent weapon against Gods elect. Most often, he uses it to try to convince us we’ve brought Gods wrath upon ourselves by not measuring up to his holy standards. But the apostle Paul urges us not fall prey to the devils snare: Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Paul is saying, You have to see your discouragement for what it really is! Its a demonic weapon an arrow that Satan shoots at you from his quiver to get you to doubt yourself. He knows he cant tempt you to turn away from Jesus. So he swamps you with vicious lies to make you think you’ll never be good enough to serve Christ. He wants to get you so downcast that you’ll want to throw in the towel!
Ask Yourself If Davids Heart-Cry
Is Your Own Cry
Whenever You’re Overwhelmed
by the Spirit of Discouragement.
Feebleness, soreness, brokenness, troubles, disquietness, mourning all of these things bowed Davids spirit low. He felt dry and empty, without direction, as if he’d learned nothing over the years. as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me (Psalm 38:10). David is saying, I’ve lost my spiritual understanding. My vision and revelation of the Lord have left me. I cant reach God as I used to!
I know just how David felt. I’ve led evangelistic crusades in which thousands at a time have come to Christ. And I’ve helped lead multitudes of drug addicts and alcoholics to deliverance in Jesus. My life has been full of such rich blessings. But often, within days of these events, I became overwhelmed with discouragement. I ended up thinking, Lord, my life has been a complete waste. I haven’t accomplished anything for you!
That’s the work of Satan’s spirit of discouragement. It makes us a target for the powers of hell within moments of our greatest spiritual victory!
This heavy, demonic spirit laid David so low, he was dumbfounded in Gods presence. He said, But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs (verses 13-14).
The Hebrew meaning of this last phrase is a man who has no more answers or arguments left. David was saying, Lord, I’m too down and discouraged to even lift my hand up to you. I cant pray, because I’m too confused to speak. I’m drained and empty. I have nothing to say.
Davids trial was not at all unique. I’ve read many biographies of devout men and women whom the Lord used mightily, and every one of these people struggled through the same kind of crippling discouragement.
The great British preacher C.H. Spurgeon led multitudes to Christ through his powerful sermons. But he suffered awful bouts with melancholy. He often felt as if he’d accomplished nothing in his life. He once lamented, I’ve got the blackest heart in Britain. Frequently he would go into his garden, raise his hands to God and cry, Lord, I’ve never desired you more, yet my spirit has never been so low. Why is this happening?
David voiced the universal cry of the righteous soul that endures an attack of discouragement: I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me (verse 17). The word halt here in Hebrew means fall. David was telling God, I’m not going to make it, Lord. Im at my absolute end and I’m about to fall!
God Will Always Be Tender With Us
in Our Helpless Condition
But We Are Never to Allow Unbelief
to Settle in Our Hearts!
We can talk to God all we want about our feelings of failure. We can tell him about our despair over our sins and foolish mistakes. But we are never to entertain the thought that he has abandoned us. This is a serious accusation, and our Lord doesn’t take it lightly. We see his immediate response to this kind of accusation in Numbers:
(Israel) journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red Seaand the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread; and the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died (Numbers 21:4-6).
When the Bible tells me my loving heavenly father sent fiery serpents upon his own people, and that they died from the snake bites, I cant ignore the very clear message: God will not allow such unbelief among his elect! After all that our precious Lord has done for us, the most hurtful accusation we can make against him is that he has neglected us. We are to beware of such unbelief, especially in our difficult times.
David is our example of someone who kept his faith. Even at his lowest point, David wouldn’t allow himself to wallow in unbelief. He cried, For in thee, O Lord, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God (Psalm 38:15).
If you’re enduring an attack from a demonic spirit of discouragement, I suggest you do these three things:
1. Do Not Try to Maneuver
Your Way Out of It.
Don’t try to escape the attack through your own wits. You’re no match for the demonic spirit you’re up against. The battle is far beyond your human skill or physical power to wage. Nor can you merely talk it out with friends, or try to overcome it through books, seminars or counselors. The conflict is in the spiritual realm, and it has to be fought in the spirit.
In his time of discouragement, David couldn’t figure out why he was so cast down. He asked, Why art thou cast down, O my soul? A’nd why art thou disquieted in me? (Psalm 42:5). Yet his questions weren’t doubts about God. David actually begins the psalm by expressing his deep thirst for the Lord: As the hart [deer] panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? (verses 1-2).
In the midst of his discouragement, David cried out for a revelation of the Lord. He was saying, God, there’s never been a time when I’ve loved you more. I thirst for you like the running deer who pants for water. So why am I so cast down? Why am I suffering such overwhelming discouragement?
Of course, at times David experienced despair and depression because of his sin. He endured the Lords chastening for his pride when he numbered his fighting men, which was against Gods law. And he felt the pain of Gods rod when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged to have her husband murdered. His heart broke with dejection over the judgment he brought on his family because of these sins.
So, too, many believers today are discouraged because of their sins. Some are depressed because the Holy Spirit has wanted to bring them into victory, but they resist. They’ve chosen the way of the flesh, and that always leads to pain and discouragement.
However, I’m addressing repentant believers here those who seek God with all their hearts. These faithful servants are gripped by a different kind of discouragement. This kind comes upon them suddenly, out of nowhere, for no apparent reason. And it totally dumbfounds them.
If this is true of you, you can be absolutely sure you are under attack. Satan has sent a cloud of discouragement to overwhelm you. And he has his reasons for doing so!
You see, discouragement is the devils most devastating tool in his attacks on Spirit-hungry saints. It has been the enemy’s weapon of choice for centuries against Gods elect. And from the day you became serious about the things of God determining in your heart to know Christ in his fullness Satan has sought to discourage you. He has watched you dig deeper into Gods word every day. He has seen you changing, growing, overcoming all worldliness. So he has made you a target for heavy attack. And you’d better believe that attack will come!
Right now you may be able to praise God loudly in church, saying, This is the greatest day of joy I’ve ever had! But watch out for what comes tomorrow. Satan will use his most powerful weapon discouragement to try to bring you down.
However, when the attack comes, don’t think its unusual. God allows this kind of fiery testing with all his saints. Peter writes, Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you (1 Peter 4:12). Discouragement is a trial Gods people have endured for centuries!
2. Go to Prayer,
Giving the Holy Spirit
Time to Do His Work!
When you’re under attack from the enemy’s spirit of discouragement, you won t feel like praying. But you must still go to the secret place and be in Jesus presence. You don’t need to worry about trying to pray your way out of despair. This is the time for Gods Spirit to go to work in you. Its his job to lift you out of the pit.
When you go to the Lord, be honest with him. Tell him how weak and helpless you feel. Let him know, Jesus, I’m dry. I have no strength left. If I’m ever going to get out of this depression, you’re going to have to make it happen.
In such low times, the Lord is very patient with us. He doesn’t expect us to exert some intense, fervent effort in prayer. He knows our condition, and he sympathizes with us. So, just sit in his presence and trust his Spirit to do in you what he has been sent to do. It doesn’t matter how cast down you are he will never forsake you!
We have the notion that every time we fail the Lord, the Holy Ghost flits away like a bird. Some Puritan divines taught this. They believed that Gods Spirit leaves Christians for a season whenever hes grieved with them.
I could never understand or accept this doctrine. How could Gods Spirit abandon me when I need him most? If he leaves me whenever I fail and fall deep into discouragement, how could he be my comforter? That wouldn’t provide any comfort at all. In fact, it would leave me in Satan’s power!
Likewise, if the Holy Ghost is my souls sanctifier, how could he do this work if he flies in and out of my life every time I fail? How could I ever see my sin without the Spirits presence there to convict me of it? How could I know how to change if he wasn’t there to guide and direct me?
Jesus promised us, I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14:16, 18).
When the devils heavy spirit of discouragement settles over your life, you may be so distraught you cant even whisper a prayer. But even if you cant utter a word, you can talk to Jesus in your spirit. Just tell him softly, Lord, help me. This attack is too much for me. I cant do anything but sit here in faith. I’m trusting your Spirit to drive it out of me.
The First Thing the Spirit
Will Do When He Comes Is
Expose All of Satan’s Lies!
The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26).
I remember experiencing a particularly heavy attack of discouragement at a certain point in my life. It happened when I was as close to Jesus as at any other time. I was diligent about my prayer life, pouring my heart out daily to the Lord. And I spent hours searching his word, devouring both Testaments. I enjoyed sweet communion with the Lord and saw many of my prayers answered. As far as I knew, I was in Gods perfect will, doing everything he told me.
But one morning, as I was preparing a message for the following weeks sermon, something hit me. I was overcome by an intense despair. It came out of nowhere, weighing me down heavily. And it happened for no apparent reason.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake it. As I sat at my desk with my Bible open, I tried to continue working on the sermon. But I couldn’t get anywhere. Suddenly I was bombarded with doubts about my ability to put together a true message from the Lord. My mind was flooded with horrible thoughts that told me, You don’t understand Paul’s writings. You haven’t grasped the old man and new man concepts. You don’t comprehend dying to sin when sin still exists. How dare you presume to preach Gods holy word?
I sat there for three hours, determined to dig out a message. But nothing ever came. By mid-morning, all the words on the pages of my Bible seemed to run together. My mind was confused, and my spirit was dull, unable to hear anything from the Lord.
I sank deeper into despair, thinking, ‘I’m totally ignorant of Gods word. Yet I keep churning out sermon after sermon, week after week. I’m not really serving anybody. After all these years, I still don’t understand the Bible. My light has gone out!
I was convinced I had nothing to give the people in our church. So I closed the Bible and left my study.
As I walked around the house, my discouragement only grew. I tried to figure out why it had come upon me in the first place, but I didn’t have a clue. I did’nt have any financial troubles. I had no family crisis. I felt great physically. And I had no known sin. I didn’t have a single reason to feel the way I did.
Finally, I went into my prayer room and sat on the floor. I couldn’t even muster up a word to say to the Lord. Instead, I cried out to him from my spirit: Lord, I don’t know what to do. I feel so down I cant even reach out to you. Yet I know I’ve never loved you more than right now. Why is this happening? Please, God help me.
When the devil comes with his spirit of discouragement, he bombards you with one lie after another. He lies to you about your marriage, your family, your friendships, your calling, your walk with the Lord. Then he begins to replay in your mind every sin, failure and foolish thing you’ve ever done. By the time hes finished, you’re crying, Oh, God Ill never make it!
This is just what the devil did to me. While in prayer, I endured his bombardment of hellish lies for about half an hour. That’s when Gods still, small voice broke through to my spirit. He spoke to me words full of love and compassion: David, you’re greatly loved. Don’t worry my hand is upon you. You’re under severe attack, but you don’t have to fear. You don’t need any strength of your own for this battle. I have everything you need.
The first thing the Holy Spirit does in such times is to bring to your remembrance all the precious promises of Jesus. And so he did with me. He flooded my soul with dozens of promises I knew from Gods word. And he assured me, Your life isn’t over. You don’t know it, but you haven’t even started yet. The best is still ahead of you.
My spirit soared within me. As I stood to my feet I thought, Why did I ever put up with any of this discouragement? Its not from my Lord!
That is the work of the Holy Spirit. He undoes the lies of the enemy and brings encouragement from on high!
4. Dare to Believe
the Incredibly Good Things
the Holy Spirit Is Going to Tell You!
Multitudes of Christians enter Gods presence every day expecting to be reproved by him. How that must grieve our Lord. When we go to prayer, we ought to be prepared to hear a good word from our loving father. But many believers rarely are. I lived that way for years. Every time I entered my prayer closet, I expected to hear a rebuke from the Lord. Thank God, he has taught me a better way.
On the other hand, there are entire denominations that avoid any mention of holy reproof. They say very little about sin because they want to preach only positive, upbeat messages. In the process, they ignore all the convicting, life-giving reproofs spoken by Christ and the New Testament writers. Such churches claim to preach a gospel of love, mercy and grace. But, sadly, they misuse Gods grace, turning it into a license to sin.
I realize I’m not writing this message to that kind of people. Rather, I’m speaking to overcoming Christians who avoid sin as one way of loving the Lord. I’m speaking to those who enjoy intimacy with Christ because they hunger and thirst for him constantly. If this describes you, and you’re downcast and depressed, please know its happening not because you’ve gotten easy on sin. Its happening because you’re under attack for loving Jesus!
Be assured all who wait on the Lord will receive his glorious promises:
- Since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him (Isaiah 64:4).
- As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
Lets take a closer look at two phrases from the passage in Corinthians:
1. the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (verse 9). Satan can attack you, flooding you with lies and discouraging words. But if you’ll simply wait on the Lord, his Spirit will come to you in the midst of the attack and drive out all the devils lies. How? Hell give you a revelation of all the good things God has prepared for you because you love him!
Our Lord has a wonderful plan for every single child who loves him. And no satanic attack against his children can ever alter those plans. God knows the sorrows, struggles and pain we may be facing today. But he also knows the glorious things he has laid out ahead of us. He knows the revelation we ll receive, the usefulness well enjoy, the fruit well see, the joy and peace well possess. He has a good word for all who love him!
2. God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit (verse 10). The Lord desires to show us his good word about what he has prepared for us. And his Spirit is the messenger who bears that good word. The Holy Ghost will give wings to our drooping spirits with Gods revelation to us and well fly like eagles out of Satan’s snare!
Listen to these wonderful words from Isaiah:
Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:28-31).
That is the work of the Holy Spirit to encourage us. Our work is simply to trust him to fulfill what the father has sent him to do.
Go to your secret closet right now, even in your discouraged state, and quiet yourself before the Lord. Even if you don’t have strength enough to speak, you can reach out to him in spirit. Speak to him this prayer:
Lord, I know your Spirit abides in me. And I know you’ve sent him to comfort me, strengthen me and reveal the mind of Christ to me. So, Holy Ghost, I turn to you right now in simple, childlike faith. Speak to my heart your words of comfort. I don’t have any strength left. You’re going to have to lift me up and lead me.
The Spirit of Christ wont let you be deceived. Hell show you the good things God has ahead for you. But you must dare to believe he will speak to you!
You’re not going to faint. You’re going to come out of your trial more victorious, because your faith will have been tested and tried as gold. And you’ll see the Lord fulfill every promise he has made to you!