The Answer to Discouragement

Not everyone becomes depressed, but everyone on our planet becomes discouraged or sad at one time or another. It’s simply a human malady. Your hours at work are cut; the stew burns, bills are more numerous than usual; your children are going through a hard time; a valued relationship seems broken. Maybe you’re discouraged about the direction our nation is heading, and you see no resolution. Maybe you are stuck in your grieving process, which is making you downhearted. We could go on and on to describe times when sadness and discouragement feels like a heavy blanket over us. Life is simply complicated.

The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk began writing with these words, “How long, O Lord must I call for help, but you do not listen?” These words reveal the prophet’s discouragement, and he had many reasons to be upset. Although the date of the prophet’s writing is uncertain, it may have been when Nebuchadnezzar took the first group of captives to Babylon. Judah was reeling under God’s judgment, evil in Judah seemed to have the upper hand, and the Babylonians were closing in.

So Habakkuk pours out his heart to God as he expresses his heartaches, offers his questions, and waits for God’s answers (1:13). Why God are You tolerating the evil? Why are you silent, God, while the wicked prosper? Why are our prayers unanswered?  Why are you silent when disaster surrounds us?

God gives Habakkuk several answers: [T]he righteous will live by his faith (2:4); things will eventually be made right (2:14); and God is still on His throne (2:20). God also tells him that judgment is coming because of greed and aggression (2:6-8), injustice (2:9-11), violence and crime (2:12-14), immorality (2:15-17), and idolatry (2:18-20).* While this may seem like a very dark picture, Habakkuk’s next prayer is full of worship and faith.

He asks God to send revival and remember mercy (3:2). It’s difficult to pray in faith when everything around you is falling apart. In these times of great challenge, God is drawing us closer to Him. He wants us to get our eyes off of our discouraging circumstances and focus on His sustaining faith and His power to deliver. Habakkuk says, “I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us (3:16). Babylon was eventually destroyed in 539 B.C. when King Cyrus of Persia came to power. It was Cyrus who made it possible for the Jews to return to Israel after their captivity.

Habakkuk’s book begins with questions and discouragement but ends with praise and affirmation of who God is (3:17-19, NIV).

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

As we wait for God’s answers, I hope our prayers in these discouraging days will be full of faith in God’s care and provision for us. May the Lord also give us joy, as He did with Habakkuk, as we grapple with life’s disappointments.

*Notes from Life in the Spirit Study Bible, p. 1367.