Chapter 12 of Soul-Help Papers
And why art thou disquieted in me?”
— Psalm 42:5 —
that seem to fall on us
for which we feel in no way responsible.2
We may not desire discouraged days. We cannot wholly control them, but we may limit their duration. Their spell may be broken. In them we are never at our best. They interfere with progress of all things desirable, at least for the time. We may get out from under them as good as we went in; or we may be worsted by their oppression; or we may learn in their school a new road to new victories. Just now we do not desire to inquire how we came into them, so much as how to get out of them or get on through them.
And yet our coming into them may have much to do in the solution of our getting out of them. The subject of the spirit’s moods and tenses is perhaps more inexplicable than other things about the movement of our nature. Yet it is evident that we may come into some kinds of discouragement because of our own acts. A failure through neglect, or through a spell of rising ill fortune, has a sure rebound in a discouraged state of the soul. When we have dallied with a temptation and been caught, there is the same aftertide of ebbing hope in the soul, which we call discouragement. In all such cases, deliverance implies the righting of wrongs and confessions to God, and perhaps to man. We need not expect deliverance otherwise.
Then there are discouragements that seem to fall on us for which we feel in no way responsible. Job had a fearful siege of these. He was not to blame at all. The Bible says he was perfect.3 Yet the storm came; the robbers came; death came; property went; health went;4 his wife even turned against God and away from him;5 and yet in no way was he to blame. Today the papers are full of reported floods, destroyed homes, drownings, loss of property, and loss of livelihood through the coming year. Few feel that they are responsible for this kind of discouragement into which they are cast by that over which they had no control.
Then there are seasons that seem to come on us for which we can in no way assign any cause, either providential or otherwise. The soul feels its weakness, its loss of hope, its want of inspiration and the inviting look of cheer in everything about it. Prayer seems to fail; we look in the Bible for some promise on which to build, and oftentimes it seems like a sealed book. We turn from one thing to another, and there is no interest. We hunt through the details of our late experiences, and like Job, may make sacrifices lest in some way we have failed,6 but we are unable to find any record against us; the sun still remains behind the cloud, and we cannot lift up the head as of old.
At such times it may be that there is a long line of circumstances which must transpire, during which we shall still have to wait on God in the order of His events, until He makes His own revelation. Job did. There were days when the iron seemed to be fast upon him on all sides, and yet he knew in his soul he was right with God. We can only get victory over some things by learning to endure them. I find that all around me. I would be forever discouraged if I waited till all the discouraging people and circumstances and things about me wheeled into line and robed themselves in rainbows.
Perhaps the greatest source of discouragement is with ourselves. I don’t get on as I want to. I did not accomplish what I expected. The chickens did not hatch. The rains spoiled my crops; the snows killed the blooming plums and pears; I plowed my ground and the same day the pelting rain beat the soil down hard and reset all the weeds the plow had uprooted; the clothesline broke, and I was just so tired I felt as though I could never take another step; the Sunday school class didn’t act as if they had any kind of care or conception for the lessons or the day or the meeting. So the lines of our discouragements run.
What shall I do?
- Reckon “discouraged states” as part of life’s discipline. Look at those which come upon you, concerning which you feel no measure of responsibility, as real problems—test problems—for advancement. Nothing reveals our needs like tests. Perhaps we are but little advanced in the graces of patience and soul balance. We are too easily disconcerted and thrown off our guard. A shower of contrary things will soon tell us how this is. If we get vexed with ourselves, and perhaps with God, we but get into the mire more and more. Victory lies both in submission and in seeking for the intention or reason for the condition. Endurance of those things which cannot be helped is a very needful kind of grace of which to have a good stock. Nothing brings that grace like testings.
- Pray and wait on God. It might be that we have been too much taken up with that which has no permanent supply of encouragement in it. When we build too much on that which is only to pass away, then God finds it needful for our eyes to be opened and see that our tower of Babel does not reach the skies. It falls, and we fall into discouragement. We cry awhile for our fallen hope, and by and by, when we look again, on its ruins stands a golden stairway whose last step is just by the great white throne. It is enough. God took away the first that we might see the second. We loved our Ishmael, but God wanted us to have an Isaac.7 He cannot take away that to which we are endeared, without the pall of its death falling on the soul.The prayer need not always be for light or the understanding of the matter. We need help more than we need light—strength to endure, consciousness of Divine support, and that which keeps the soul from fainting. We come to places where the written “promise prescription” will not do; we must have the medicine, and not merely the knowledge that there is a cure. At times nothing, not even Scripture, will do; we must have God.
- There are times, however, when the burden of the trouble seems more of the nature of perplexity. Then we need light. Then it is that some passage of Scripture breaks the cloud and lets in the sunlight. So it is well, when discouraged, to turn to the Bible. Even if there is no flashing of light from a certain passage, the fact that we can lose ourselves in the consideration of any great truth is in itself a start for deliverance. Taking our mind off our discouraging circumstances is to be halfway cured. So that which takes up and absorbs, or so engages, the mind, especially if it be some great thought like some of God’s thoughts, and so holds my attention for a time, never lets me return to the scene of my discouragement the same as I was before. In all great thoughts there is a kind of inspiration which has lifting power in it. Or we may say God uses good and great lines of thought to bring to the human soul inspiration. Inspiration is help. The new thought is not the inspiration; it is God’s way of bringing Himself to us. The surest way to get a thought which brings help is to turn to God’s thoughts—your Bible.
We must contend with ourselves in discouragement. We must fight discouragement from whatever source it comes. It is through discouragement that Satan reaches the soul most readily. If we court discouragement by coddling ourselves and nursing our trouble, we give Satan a better chance to defeat us. What is called “self-assertion” here has its place. But it is not the self-assertion of the individual upon himself alone, but the self-assertion of his dependence in God, like old Job crying out, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”8 The new-thought theology trusts the individual. The old-thought theology trusts God through the agency of the individual. God expects us to use our intelligence in this battle against discouragement. We are to resist it. We must not allow the mind to harbor the discouraging thoughts. We must think other thoughts. It is at such times that we need to fall back upon some theme which easily and quickly and strongly carries us out of the discouraging thought. A sister once told me she was having some dental work done in the way of filling, and it hurt so badly that she did not know what to do. So she said, “Finally, I just went to thinking about Jesus, and the pain seemed much less.”
- Work has a place oftentimes in our deliverance. Whatever takes the mind off itself is more or less of help. While I am thinking of something else, I am not thinking of my trouble. Suppose a fire breaks out in your neighbor’s house! How soon you forget yourself in the misfortune of another. While you are enthused to the highest point of strength and expedience to render relief, you entirely forget your discouragement. Any other kind of work that wholly absorbs you will have the same effect.
- Consider Jesus, Who never failed nor gave way to discouragement. On the way to Calvary, He went every step of the way that you and I might be reached by His example and be brought into touch with His sustaining grace. “Consider Him…lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”9
- The text itself is public domain. The original book, Soul-Help Papers, was transcribed by Jim Kerwin, biographer of Isaiah Reid, and co-edited and emended with Denise Kerwin. Annotations and emendations are copyright © 2008 by Jim Kerwin along with his other contributions to the online, print, and e-book versions of Isaiah Reid's Soul-Help Papers. ↩
- Title image created using a photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger on https://unsplash.com/@eberhardgross. ↩
- Job 1:1, 8; 2:3 ↩
- Job 1:15-22; 2:7 ↩
- Job 2:9,10 ↩
- Job 1:4,5 ↩
- The allusion is to the rather involved story of Abraham’s slave-born son Ishamel and his promised, free-born son, Isaac. See Genesis 16-18; 21:1-21; Galatians 4:21-31. ↩
- Job 13:15 ↩
- Hebrews 12:3 ↩