Have you ever been discouraged? That’s like asking, “Are you human?” Rare, if not non-existent, is the person who has never been discouraged.
Even many well known, successful pastors have struggled with discouragement and admitted to times of serious discouragement .
Why do we become discouraged? Sometimes discouragement stems from a physical cause. We are simply tired and worn out from working too long and too hard without a break.
Or perhaps a bodily illness inclines us toward depression and discouragement.
Another cause of discouragement is that we can be too idealistic. This is a special hazard of pastors. “The pastor, if he is dedicated at all, is a man of ideals; he wants to achieve for the glory of God.
Yet, no matter how hard he prays and works, it seems that his goals forever elude him” .
Coupled with idealism, discouragement often comes when people disappoint us. We were counting on someone who let us down.
We had high hopes for a person who turned against us or failed spiritually and morally. Pastors especially are subject to disappointment when someone who made a good beginning in Christ turns back to the world.
It’s not hard to hear the discouragement in Paul’s lonely voice from prison, “Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Tim. 4:10).
Pastors also are often the objects of criticism and slander. If you don’t keep your focus on the Lord, laboring for His “well done,” you can get discouraged.
Disappointment with God is another cause of discouragement. You prayed and worked for something, but it did not happen.
As far as you could tell, it would have been for God’s glory if it had come about, but it fell apart. You even had claimed a promise from the Bible as you prayed and worked, but from your perspective, God didn’t keep His promise. You begin to wonder whether you should ever try again to do anything for the Lord.
People try to deal with spiritual discouragement in many wrong ways. Many plunge themselves into other things that they think will bring them fulfillment: entertainment, sports, travel, or their careers. Tragically, some turn to drugs or alcohol or adultery.
All these things only dig them deeper in discouragement. A few become so discouraged that they take their own lives.
In Ezra 4:4, we read, “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building.” The work on rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem stopped for about 16 years.
According to Haggai 1:4-9, the people’s focus shifted to building their own houses, and they neglected building God’s house. If the subject came up, they responded, “We tried that. It didn’t work!”
How could this dismal situation be reversed? How could the Lord’s people put their discouragement behind them so that they could finish the task of rebuilding the temple?
To turn things around, the Lord raised up two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, who spoke to the people in the name of the God of Israel (Ezra 5:1).
Under the renewed leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, the people began to rebuild and in spite of further opposition, the work was finished in a little over four years. So our chapter gives us some clues on how to overcome discouragement in our work for the Lord: