Dealing with Discouragement

by Mike Ratliff

23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. (Genesis 40:23 ESV)

My natural tendency is to heartily participate in self-pity, outrage, and unforgiveness thereby opening doors in my heart that Satan enters causing me to become discouraged. When this happens to me, I find that my circumstances drive me to become very negative and impatient. I suppose that this is one of my besetting sins which clings closely to me ready to cut in on me causing me to drop out of the race God has set before me to run with endurance. (Hebrews 12:1-2) My sense of joy that strengthens me as I run this race comes from looking unto Jesus. My focus has dropped from Him to me and my circumstances. When this happens the slide into self-absorption is very quick. I suddenly find myself in this ugly spiritually flat mood whose fuel seems to be anger. I have often pondered how this happens. Prior to my personal restoration in 2004-2005 I was probably in this mood or mode the majority of the time. Since then, however, these falls into this dark ditch have been rare enough so that when I find myself there I am very surprised. Now, I implore the Lord and ask why this has happened. Why am I so full of joy on Tuesday and so fleshly and down on Wednesday?

Early in my restoration, I was convinced that I had actually committed some horrible sin to bring this about. But, as God has matured me I have learned that He is teaching me something. When I am walking in the joy of the Lord, running the race with endurance it is because He is with me and drawing me to do that. There is not one thing I can do to cause this to happen. I can deny myself, turn to Christ, worship Him, fast from the world and feast on Him and find peace and joy, but that is not the same thing as walking in such a way so that Christ’s character is being manifest through me no matter what my circumstances are. I would dearly love to stay in that place all the time, but God has other plans. He has taught me that when I detect that I am sliding into the Valley of Humiliation that I am being taught something or am being prepared for something. My response to finding myself in this valley is, as I said earlier, to turn to God in humility. I draw near to Him and He draws near to me. My sense of overwhelming Joy that I slid from is not there and I have learned to not expect it. Instead, I must walk forward in bold brokenness in obedience fully expecting some battle requiring godly armor and much prayer.

When Joseph was forgotten by the cupbearer (Genesis 40) surely he struggled with the temptation of becoming impatient and complaining. When Satan saw this, he attacked Joseph with his fiery darts. Jesus Christ Himself experienced these flaming darts so why would think that we would be exempt from that dreadful experience? (Matthew 4:3) As we struggle in our personal Valley of Humiliation doesn’t Satan come to us, trying to reinforce our negative feelings by telling us to not waste any time praying useless prayers or singing empty praise songs or quoting archaic scripture. He tells our hearts that it is all a waste of time. We are in this dark place because God has rejected us. We are sinful and have disqualified ourselves. All of our beseeching, seeking God’s face is for naught. It is all a waste of time. Satan loves to kick those who are wounded and down. However, He is nothing more than a tool in the hands of God. God is allowing Him to attack us like this. Why? The fires of tribulation are the refining fires that burn away those parts of our hearts that are not of God. We may love to be out of the fire and walking in the light before Him, fully rejoicing in all things, but we don’t become the refined Christian that God is designing when we are on the mountaintop. No, we are refined in the fire. My personal fires are dark, ugly, spiritually flat experiences of emptiness, despair, anger, and unforgiveness. However, What God has taught me is that when I am in the Valley of Humiliation, I must not participate in any of that self-focused, self-absorbed prideful stuff. Instead, I must seek His face. When I am kicked in the face, accused of things that I did not do nor never even considered, I must respond in gracious humility as I rely on God’s grace to uphold me. When I do this, I find that I have learned what God was teaching me. He has actually changed my heart. After a time, or a season, I find myself again back in the race, in the light, full of joy with no sins clinging closely to me tripping me up as long as I keep my eyes fully fixed on Christ the author and finisher of my faith.

I have found that when I am in the Valley of Humiliation I can worship my Lord and rejoice in Him deeply. This may sound strange to some, but I have found that the Valley of Humiliation is a wonderful place to be for a season if I use that time to pray deeply, worship God deeply, rejoice in Him because He is my all-in-all. I may rejoice and worship on the mountaintop, but the fires of tribulation seem to draw an even deeper devotion for Him from this Christian.

On the other hand, one thing that I have found while in the Valley of Humiliation, the things I love to do, such as listening to certain preachers via podcasts on my iPod, are not very attractive. Nor do I want to listen to my favorite Christian music. It seems that those things would distract me from the lesson God is teaching. Also, I have sat down in this chair to write a post for this blog while deep in the fire. I had NO drive or motivation or anything encouraging me to write. What I have found, though, is that as soon as I turn my heart to God, asking Him to help me, I can write with a clarity that surprises me to no end. In fact, this post is one of those. Yesterday, I was a very joyful person. I was rejoicing in God all day. It was great! Then, as I was preparing to drive home, a dark cloud of despair seemed to drop over me. Why? It made no sense to me at that time. However, I wrote the post “The Dragnet” in that mode and this one as well. I have learned to be very observant when this happens. The people I work with probably couldn’t tell anything was wrong today. In fact, I was very professional in meetings and gentle with everyone I worked with and made some very good decisions doing my job as a Database Administrator. However, all this time I knew that Satan was trying to make me despair. As I worked through this day, I just kept seeking the Lord’s face, worshipping Him with a grateful heart. As I sat down this evening to write this, the attacks became very severe. However, I asked God to help me and now in just a few minutes here we are at the end. I pray that the one(s) God had me write this for will read it, be encouraged, and use those fires they are in right now to draw closer to God than they ever have before.

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23 thoughts on “Dealing with Discouragement

  1. I am SO encouraged by this post, Mike, it make me weep! I go through exactly what you are describing and God has been teaching me the same things. My pride is so great that He puts me through these trials about a week at a time with deep joyful experiences at His table in between the fiery trials. I also agree that there is NOTHING (sermons readings etc) that helps me out of these trials until God has taught me what He wants me to know and then it is ONLY Him that brings me out of this valley by His power when I least expect it. When I come out of this valley by His might, I feel as though I am literally laying in His arms…I am usually laying on my bed after the most intense part of the trial and I am just basking in His joy and peace. I really can’t explain it well, but I know you know what I am talking about. During these trials, I often wonder if I am even saved they get so intense. It is as if God is stripping me of everything that I might lay hold of instead of laying hold of Him. I’m glad and it is SO encouraging that I am not the only one who goes through this because Satan is a great accuser of the brethren and we need share our experiences to help reinforce that what is happening is also happening to other Christians because God is doing His great work in us. After these times, don’t you have a greater sense of not wanting to do anything that would offend the Holy Spirit? I think God teaches us in layers. I am definitely bookmarking this one, brother! Thank you!!! I do have some poems that I have written during these times if you want to read them.

  2. Sarah,

    My dear sister in Christ, yes there were times when I was in the fire that I was positive that all the spiritual “progress” I had made was as sham and a deception and that either I was a complete fake as a Christian or God had drawn me into a horrible deception. Of course, that was the enemy speaking. Right next to the Valley of Humiliation is the Valley of the Shadow of Death where God allows evil spirits and our enemy to attack us like that. Yes, when God takes me from the fire and I rest in Him it is as if His Holiness permeates everything around me. My sense of fear and devotion to the Lord is so granular that it is at these times that God shows me how blasphemous most professing Christians really are. As you said I become extremely aware of anything in my heart that might offend the Holy Spirit.

    Keep your armor on!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. Thank you for sharing this Mike.
    It was something I needed to hear.

    I sometimes can get very discouraged with myself and i know it is it from pity at times. As I grew up I struggled a lot. My dad was in the Air Force and we moved a lot. I had to make new friends each time we moved and it got harder and harder and I got more insecure each time.

    As an adult I rebeled and made some foolish mistakes. The Lord brought my husband into my life and thankfully The Lord drew me to Him and I was saved.

    But even now as a christian I have my low times, I feel sometimes I am not worthy to be His Child. I sometimes feel like such a screw up. A lot of the things I type on my blog is me speaking to myself.

    I keep having to remind myself He know my heart better then anyone does and He accepts me and is continully working to do the work He promised to complete in me. Thank you again Mike. it was an encouragement for me.

    Cristina

  4. Cristina,

    Like you, what I write in blog is often me reprimanding myself to straighten out and fly right. Of course, I can’t unless it is by the grace of God. What we have to learn is that in our valleys God does His work in our hearts to grow us and change us. You are His precious daughter Cristina. Never forget that.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. Mike,

    Would you pray for me. I find myself also in a time of great testing. My earthly father abandoned me when I was a child. I believe the enemy is now using my past to make me question the Father’s Love in this present time of testing.

    Ron

  6. Ron,

    Of course my brother! Never forget that God will never lose one of His because nothing can separate us from His love. I have prayed that God will help you stand, fully armored, and not fall. You are His child and He is using these attacks against you to draw you to rely solely on Him whilst you are in the fire.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  7. This was encouraging indeed…

    I wrestle with discouragement as our church plant gets smaller and smaller…as members leave in pursuit of “larger, more seeker-friendly and exciting” churches.

    I do realize that ultimately I shall come out as pure gold, once the refining fire is over and I learn the lessons that God is teaching me.

  8. Lavern,

    Yes, I see you do “get it.” I pray that the Lord will uphold you and keep you standing, fully armored and living for His glory alone.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  9. Pingback: That You May Know « Possessing the Treasure

  10. These posts are now months old, but they encouraged me yesterday. Stumbled across this as I was surfing for something completely unrelated.

    So reasurring to know that I am not alone, and that there really is no condemnation for those in the fire. So many “explain” suffering in a guilt-ridden way. The sick are told that they must be in sin or have no faith. Those hurting in other ways are told that it certainly must be from unforgiveness. Salt in the wounds of those in pain. Many in the Body judge those who hurt, as if it’s their fault. I know what that feels like.

    I know God has an eternal purpose for the fire, yet I too have experienced many things described in the posts above. SO HARD TO PRAY for things needed/desired in the here & now. My faith for the temporal things I need & desire for this life is overshadowed by, as described above, the thoughts that it’s “a waste of time”, that God has rejected me. Prayer has become a burden.

    I feel useless as a witness to those in my family. I cannot let them know the Valley I am in, yet I long to be a light for them, for those who do not know Him yet.

    The hardest part is seeing no end in sight; the Valley that I am in has been so long & wide. My fear(?) is that I will never come out of it this side of heaven.

  11. sisterP,

    My dear sister in Christ, I know what you mean about the Valley seeming to have no end. I can’t tell you how long God will have you there, but you are there for good not evil. God uses the fire to humble us and bring us in line with His will. The more we surrender to His will the more we experience His peace and joy and the rest of the fruit of the spirit. In other words, the more we become Christlike.

    I have prayed that the Lord will give you encouragement and comfort in Him. I have prayed that He will take away whatever is making prayer a burden. He is able, Praise Him O’ Praise Him!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  12. Mike,

    I spent a long time in the Valley of despair. I fought depression and it kept me there longer. I even had a thought that God was trying to tell me the whole time and eventually I found out. He was bringing me into His truth. Then were on that mountain top just rejoicing of how amazing He really is!
    I am down in the valley today because I realized I have to quit my job. My only source of income. My sin is my bosses skimming and me doing his tax reports. I can’t handle this very heavy burden of sin any longer. My boss knows were I stand and he isn’t stopping. He can send in his own tax reports and he can also claim what he stole. It isn’t to late for him to come clean. I really feel I have let God down and repent fully ask for forgiveness and pray he gives it to me. Blessing and love to my brothers and sister in Christ Deborah

  13. Deborah,

    Now you are being brought to the place where our Faith is either real or it isn’t. This is Christianity where the rubber meets the road. Yes, you are being called by our Lord to do right. Will it be costly? Yes, it probably will, but it will be glorious on the eternal side of the ledger.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  14. Mike,

    Thank you for replying. I have heard all the worldly excuses: You didn’t do it, the government rips us off, you won’t get in trouble, and everybody does it.

    I knew I had to leave. I have been in prayer about it for a long time. It requires me to move to another town where there are jobs and hope someone buys my house here. This town is in recession and I am not wealthy and educated. I was on my own at 50 years of age and I’m almost 55 so I’m not getting any younger.:)

    I am giving notice on Tuesday and I am a real Christian with a real desire and a real commitment to obey our Lord in all things.
    In Him
    Deborah

  15. Deborah,

    I pray that the Lord will take you through this fiery trial and that you will come out the other side more pure, more holy, more committed and that He will sustain you through it all.

    I believe I am about year or so older than you. How hard it would be to start over! However, God is sovereign and we must either trust Him or not. If we do then we will find ourselves in a very good place, even if it looks hard. If we do not then we will find ourselves in the false sanctuary of compromise.

    I can tell from what you have written that you see compromise as the path to destruction. May He uphold you and bless you in ways you never thought possible!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  16. I wrote a post above, about being in a deep valley. It got worse today. It is almost 4:00 A.M. and I have not been asleep. My husband of 26 years says he is leaving me. Until about 2 weeks ago, everything seemed fine. He is like a completely different man from just 3-4 weeks ago. Yes–there Is another woman. I have always felt that emotional attachments from a straying spouse was much worse than affairs. I believe I am facing that.
    Now after I have felt abandoned by God, my husband really IS abandoning me. He was once a pastor’s right-hand man; he taught, he was on a worship team, and sang solos. He walked away from God after serious abuses in ministry; he has never been the same. I have prayed for him…and now he is leaving me.

  17. sisterP,

    My heart breaks for you. I believe that once this settles, and it will, you will find God with you again. He is there, but your circumstances are flooding over you and you are in despair. I have prayed for you to be drawn into a close intimate walk with our Lord. Draw near to Him my sister and He will draw near unto you. I have also prayed for God to give you rest in Him.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  18. I guess the reason I feel such despair is because this is the second traumatic experience of my life. Something happened 15 years ago (completely different) from which I never recovered. I have cried out to God so many times, but I have never found closure or even peace. So when I am facing this horrendous pain right now, it is with the fear that it will never go away…because what happened 15 years ago is still with me today. I have waited for His faithfulness and am still hurting, so it’s hard to believe He will bring me through this. I am being real here. This is the agony I face.

  19. sisterP,

    Yes, I understand, but the fact that you are seeking the Lord through this tells me that you do have embers of hope and faith within you. Please read this article then use the Contact Me form to email me. I am praying for you.

  20. It has been 3 weeks in this latest heatbreak. After my husband announced that he was leaving, after about 5 days he said he had changed his mind. It certainly seemed that way, but my relief was short-lived. He was “nice” for about 3 days, then the distance began again. I felt that he was waivering, and I was right. There is no shock this time, because he hadn’t gained back my trust.
    I can hope that time by himself will cause him to turn back to God. He has been away for so many years, having had trust broken by a pastor, after which he drew back. Ironic…now he HE himself is breaking trust.

    Mike, I read what you asked me to. I think I missed what was intended in it, possibly in my emotional state I couldn’t see the forest for the trees?

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