Deut 1:28 "Whither shall we go up? our brethren have
discouraged our heart..."
Discouragement is an exhausting state of mind. Unfortunately, those
of us who are facing a difficult time are quite familiar with it.
Where does discouragement come from and, even more important, is
there anything we can do about it?
chapter of Deuteronomy tells us about the final words Moses said to
the Israelites before his death and their crossing Jordan into the
Promised Land. He recounted their forty-year journey in the
wilderness, their rebellion, their distrust and also their
As I read
this story again this morning, I was surprised to find Moses also
reminded them the things they and others had said were often the
source of their discouragement. It wasn’t the difficult journey, it
wasn’t the lack of water, and it wasn’t the hardships they had left
behind in Egypt.
of their brothers had “discouraged [their] hearts.” Words are very
powerful things, aren’t they? They have the power to build up, and
they also have the power to tear down. There are two parts to the
use of words…the words I say and the words I hear others say.
thing I thought about was the words that come out of my own mouth. I
was reminded again how important it is for me to say things to
encourage and build up rather than adding to the already heavy
burdens my friends and loved ones are carrying. They don’t need to
hear a litany of complaints and negativity from me. They probably
have a list of their own legitimate complaints.
might need to vent from time to time, my hurting family might not be
the ones who need to hear it. I have a few trusted friends, who not
only listen compassionately but also encourage me to see my part in
any situation and challenge me to change what I can and let go of
what I can’t. I need that counsel even when I don’t like hearing it.
takes me to the second part, which is what I listen to and accept as
fact. If I’m going to not only survive this journey but also to walk
it in joy, I’m going to have to set limits. I can’t afford to listen
to negativity all day long and expect to be filled with hope and
peace and joy. It just doesn’t work that way.
one hand, I want to and need to be available to others who are
walking a hard path. However, if they consistently dwell on the
negative instead of trying to help themselves, I may have to limit
the time I spend with them. It’s important for us to surround
ourselves with people who want to be part of the solution instead of
wallowing in the problem.
can I accept the words or agree with people who think everything
that’s happening in my family or my own life is completely my fault
or the result of some secret sin. It isn’t logical, it isn’t true,
and it isn’t helpful.
point, I might need, like Job, to conclude some “friends” are
actually “miserable comforters” (Job
16:2). Just because someone, whether family, friends or a
Christian leader, thinks I’m to blame for everything since the
Korean war doesn’t mean I have to accept it as fact.
important of all, I think, is that while I am the only one
responsible for the choices I make, I need to remind myself my own
words and the words of others can easily “discourage the heart.” So,
I’m responsible to ask God to set a guard my own lips and guard my
heart from the false conclusions and negative words of others.
Challenge for Today: What might happen if we, just for today,
chose our words carefully and surrounded ourselves with people who
both speak positively and hold us accountable to do the same?