Helping Friends Through Tough Times : When a Friend is Discouraged

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Today we are closing out this series of posts on friendship by looking at how to help a friend who is discouraged.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit drains one’s strength.”  Proverbs 17:22 ISV

Notice the word “drains.” That’s the danger of discouragement. It drains your strength. No one wants to go through life that way, but the harsh reality of life can bring us to discouragement.

Health issues, marital problems, difficulties with our kids and job worries bear down on us. So there is a serious need to look at how to handle discouragement.

What do you do when life drains your strength?

We all face different types of discouragement. Discouragement brings a sense of hopelessness that reveals itself in many ways. When we are discouraged, we eat more, sleep more, isolate ourselves, we shop more, watch more TV…

Now if you struggle with discouragement from time to time, you are not alone. You’re just humanSometimes life is hard and we hit low spots and dark days.

Our problem isn’t checking into Discouragement Hotel, it’s when you start paying monthly rates. If you’re discouraged today or you have friends who are discouraged, there is good news.

Discouragement often stands at the door of spiritual growth. 

When we hit our low spots, when we get discouraged, we are often about to see God do something great in our life. In the Bible, God used people who were very discouraged, in amazing ways. 

Read the Psalms of King David. He had incredible highs and incredible lows. You don’t have to look far to find a discouraging Psalm. 

“My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sin. I am bent over and racked with pain. My days are filled with grief. A raging fever burns within me and my health is broken. I’m exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart.” Psalm 38:5-8 NLT 

“I’ve cried out to you day and night. God, hear my cry. My life is full of troubles and death draws near. You have thrust me down to the lowest pit, into the darkest depths.”  Psalm 88:1-4

In the midst of discouragement, God can use you in incredible ways like He used other people that we find in scripture. Here are three other people that God used in great ways even though they faced significant discouragement: 

  • Moses: Numbers 11
  • Elijah: 1 Kings 19
  • Jonah: Jonah 3

Let’s look at one scene in Moses’ life right after God delivered the Israelites from slavery. God had done so many amazing things, yet the people began complaining to Moses and he’s had it!

“Moses heard all the families standing in front of their tents weeping, and the Lord became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. And Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why are you treating me, your servant, so miserably? What did I do to deserve the burden of a people like this? Are they my children? Am I their father? Is that why you have told me to carry them in my arms—like a nurse carries a baby—to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep complaining and saying, ‘Give us meat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! I’d rather you killed me than treat me like this. Please spare me this misery!Numbers 11:1-15 NLT

If you look at the biblical characters of Moses, Elijah and Jonah they each have a breaking point.

  • Moses said, “I’d rather you kill me than treat me like this.”
  • Elijah said,  “I’ve had enough Lord.  Take my life!”
  • Jonah said,  “Just kill me now, Lord.  I’d rather be dead than alive.”

Out of this kind of desperation comes hope. If you’re down and discouraged, you’re at the front door of God using you, of God doing something in you and through you. There is hope on the other side. You may need to help a friend remember that as well.


We get discouraged for different kinds of reasons:

  • Physical reasons: exhaustion, chronic pain or low blood sugar
  • Emotional reasons: loneliness, grief, or abuse or childhood trauma
  • Spiritual reasons: guilt from unconfessed sin in your life

There are a thousand circumstantial reasons for discouragement, but there are some that are very common and most of us can relate to. Let’s be prepared for these in our lives and in the life of our friends.


Warning Signs To Look For

1.  Fatigue: Consumed by activity

“The load is far too heavy!  I’d rather you killed me than treat me like this. Please spare me this misery!”  Numbers 11:15 NLT

Moses realized the load was far too heavy. Imagine Moses’ life, he was the help desk for two million people.

In all three of these cases with Moses, Elijah and Jonah, physical exhaustion was a factor. So how tired are you? How worn out are you? If you are feeling tired and fatigued, there is a great prayer in Psalm 6. 

“I am worn out, O Lord; have pity on me! Give me strength for I am completely exhausted.”  Psalm 6:2 TEV

If you battle with discouragement fairly regularly, you might want to look at your physical condition. There is a direct correlation to physical exercise and a reduction in discouragement. Physical exercise reduces discouragement.

A good diet, exercise, a good night’s sleep can go a long way toward relieving discouragement. If you have a friend who is discouraged, take them for a walk, do something active, do something to build them up.


Every activity you are involved in is either draining or replenishing. Every relationship can be draining or replenishing. Take a minute to think through your activities and friendships to make sure you aren’t getting the draining and replenishing out of balance.

If all of your activities and relationships are draining, you are going to face constant discouragement. If all of them are replenishing, your life is going to lack substance and meaning because you are only soaking it in.

You need to be giving out and taking in. The questions you can ask yourself are, “What kind of friend am I? Am I always taking from my friends or am I pouring into them? What kind of friends do I have? Draining or replenishing?”

The key is to strike a healthy balance between giving out and taking in. If you are discouraged, it probably means you are out of balance in that area.

2.  Fear: Consumed by worry

“Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people?”  Numbers 11:13 NLT

If you have teenagers in your home, this could be a good memory verse for you. If you study Moses’ life you’ll find that Moses worried about a lot of things. Moses often assumed responsibilities that God never intended him to have. God wanted Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but He didn’t say that Moses had to provide for them.

What are you worrying about that is really God’s responsibility? It’s not to say that you should go through life and never worry.  There are just some things you ought to worry about less.

When you’re discouraged, you become consumed by worry. Worry gives birth to fear. Worry is like a dirty sponge that wipes away your joy and leaves a residue of fear. 

 3. Frustration: Consumed by unmet expectations

“Why are you treating me, your servant, so miserably? What did I do to deserve the burden of a people like this?”  Numbers 11:11 NLT

Moses had some unmet expectations. He expected God to treat him a certain way and that treatment wasn’t happening. Moses had given up a life of position and authority in Egypt, he sacrificed everything to lead these people and he expected the Israelites to not complain, but Moses had no such luck. 

Unmet expectations lead to frustration.

Maybe you have unmet expectations. Your marriage isn’t all you hoped it would be, your friendships aren’t as deep as you would like them to be or your career isn’t going where you thought it would. You had great dreams for many things. Now you have unmet expectations. 

When you have unmet expectations, you can wind up focusing on the person who let you down. People will always let you down eventually. Because we’re all sinners, we’re not perfect. Instead, put your faith in Christ. 

Unmet expectations consume our thoughts. It blocks our vision so we can’t see the big picture. Oftentimes, that’s what discouragement is.


Fatigue. Fear. Frustration.

Could any of those be why you move in and out of discouragement? Do you see any of those warning signs in a friend?

No matter what the cause of discouragement might be, Jesus offers what you need to break out of that discouragement. You need the hope that Jesus Christ offers. When you have a friend who is battling discouragement, they need you to point them to the hope of Christ.


The Hope Jesus Offers

1.  Jesus offers us power we don’t have.

When we are fatigued, tired or consumed by weariness, Jesus offers us a power that can keeps us going. When you have issues, problems and situations you can’t handle, it doesn’t matter how physically strong you are, you need a power that is greater than your own. 

God’s answer to your personal energy crisis is His power. 

You get His power when He fills you with His presence. With His presence comes His power.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13 NIV

God promises to fill you with His power. There are so many people who have asked Jesus to come in their life and forgive their sins, but don’t feel His power.

If you feel like you live a powerless life, you may be missing the key word in Romans 15:13. TrustAnother word for trust is depend. To depend on Him. 

Do you know someone who struggles with spring allergies? When the trees start blossoming in the spring, they are miserable! The solution is to get the allergy medicine out. Now these little pills only work when you depend on them. If you leave them on the kitchen counter, nothing happens. You can carry the whole box with you and it’s not going to do anything. You have to depend on it. You have to use it.

The same is true with God’s power. When you say “Yes” to God, His power is completely available to you. But most of us don’t depend on Him, because we keep depending on our own power, on our own wisdom, on our own way. 

We all want God to save us so we can go to heaven when we die, but we don’t access His power by depending on Him here. Depending on Him would mean we have to do what God wants us to do and not what we want to do. 

If you are going to beat discouragement, then you need Christ’s power in your life. 

“… I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”  Colossians 1:29 NLT

Why would God give you His supernatural power to pursue your own way instead of following His way? Why would God power you up to be disobedient? It just doesn’t make any sense.

God offers you His power to fulfill His purpose for your life.

“I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.”  Philippians 4:13 TEV

2.  Jesus offers us promises we can depend on.

When you live a life of fear and worry, the only way out is by depending on God’s promises. There are over 7,000 promises in God’s word. Depending on those promises is what gets us through. 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Hang on to that promise. Every day you trust in something, you trust in someone. Why not trust in someone who’s not going to let you down? Someone whose love will never fade, never disappoint. 

3.  Jesus offers us the perspective of His purpose

Frustration comes because we are just looking at the small picture. God can give us a bigger perspective. Jesus offers the perspective of His purpose in the midst of our problems.

When you’re in the middle of discouragement, there’s always a bigger perspective. God says “I love you, I will never leave you. I want to use you, fill you and give you my power. I’ve got a good purpose for your life.” 

Whatever circumstance you or a friend are going through right now, God has a bigger plan. His bigger plan will not disappoint. 

“And this expectation [salvation] will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”  Romans 5:5 NLT   

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28 NIV

When you’re discouraged and focused on the small picture, look upIf a friend is discouraged, encourage them to look up, because God has a bigger picture. The bigger picture is filled with hope. 

The thing about hope is, it is really attractive. Hope draws us to Christ. When we show the hope of Christ in our lives, it is attractive to other people. Jesus wants your life filled with hope and overflowing with hope, especially when life is tough.

“… My purpose is to give life in all its fullness!”  John 10:10 NLT

We don’t know what the future is going to bringBut there is one thing we know that no one else can offer that Jesus Christ can offer you. He offers you a life filled with His power instead of a life of fatigue. He offers you a life filled with His promises instead of your fears. He offers you a life filled with His purpose instead of frustration. As you receive God’s power, promises and perspective, God wants you to pass it on to other people.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. What do you remember from your discussion about how to be there for a friend who is dying?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Application

Discouragement Warning Signs:

Fatigue: Consumed by activity

  • In Numbers 11:15, what does Moses ask for?
  • What kinds of situations or events lead us to feel desperate like Moses?
  • Why do you think Moses continues to plead with God during his despair?
  • What does David tell the Lord in Psalm 6:2?
  • What kinds of things do people do that cause them to be fatigued?
  • How might we notice in ourselves and in others the symptoms of fatigue that could lead to discouragement?

Fear: Consumed by worry

  • Read Numbers 11:13. Why does Moses cry out to God?
  • What are ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed with worry in an imperfect world?
  • When too much worry overshadows our joy, how can this distort our perception of problems?

Frustration: Consumed by unmet expectations

  • What is Moses asking of God in Numbers 11:11?
  • What was the difference between what Moses expected and what was happening?
  • How does knowing that God creates imperfect people help us accept others who do not meet our expectations?

The Hope Jesus Offers:

Jesus offers us power we don’t have

  • According to Romans 15:13, when God fills a person with joy and peace, what is the result?
  • Instead of letting God fill us with joy and peace, what do people tend to fill themselves with in order to feel better?
  • In desperate situations, why do people often wait until they are physically exhausted before turning to God for hope?
  • In Colossians 1:29, whose power do we depend on to work within us?
  • Why do we often follow our own will when we know there is more assurance in depending on God’s power?
  • How can we be more aware of the power that lives within us when facing challenges?
  • Read Philippians 4:13.  Where do we draw strength to do everything?
  • Why is it appealing to feel the power of doing more ourselves rather than tap into God’s power by trusting him?

Jesus offers us promises we can depend on

  • According to Isaiah 41:10, why should we not fear?
  • Although the Bible tells us we should not fear, why do we?
  • What are some common fears all people experience?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 1:20. What does Paul tell us about the answer to God’s promises?
  • When God does answer our needs, why are we not always content with his answer?
  • Think of an example of how God has said “yes” to your needs though the request may have seemed impossible.

Jesus offers us the perspective of His purpose

  • What does Romans 5:5 tell us about our expectation of salvation and what God has given us?
  • What are examples of places we tend to put our trust, expectations, and faith rather than with God?
  • When we focus our faith on ourselves or others rather than on God, what are some likely consequences?
  • What promise does Romans 8:28 give us regarding those who love God and follow his purpose?
  • What are some ways we could focus on God’s purpose for our lives?
  • How does an experience of seeing God’s purpose in our lives affect our perspective?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you share this message of Jesus’ hope with? Who can you be praying for that is in the middle of a discouraging time?

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