One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is encouragement. Probably all of us at times become discouraged, especially given the crazy world we live in today that has lost its moorings and has become exceedingly corrupt, evil and anti-Christian. The Psalmist, David, had much reason often to be discouraged. King Saul made attempts on his life and he had to run and hide to avoid Saul’s murderous anger. Later, partly due to a lapse in his own godly standards, David’s family became very dysfunctional and his own son, Absalom, turned against him and then was killed. David writes: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? (Psa. 42:5 cf 42:11; 43:5).
Maybe you can relate with David right now in the circumstances of your life. Maybe you have been “lonely, hibernating in the den of discouragement, licking your wounds under dark clouds that won’t blow away. You wish the world would stop so you could get off. You’re probably praying hard for the rapture. You’re probably beginning to wonder when and if relief is coming. You’re probably questioning the truth of I Cor. 10:13” (from Encourage Me by Charles Swindoll).
If negativism and cynicism have crept in—if the light at the end of the tunnel appears to be the headlamp of an oncoming train!—if life has become terribly unfunny—take heart, the Lord can and will lift you up! No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still. No valley so dark that the light of His truth cannot penetrate. Going back to David’s honest expression of his deep discouragement in Psalm 42 and 43, note Psalm 42:5b: “Hope in God for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.”
One of the reasons many are discouraged is that they don’t know they have a refuge to which to go. Shelters are hard to come by these days—people who care enough to listen, who can keep a confidence. We need harbors to pull into when we feel weather-worn and blasted by the storm. That’s why the local bars are crowded. The bar is probably the best counterfeit there is for the fellowship of believers in a local assembly. It’s an imitation dispensing alcohol in place of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting fellowship where you can bare your soul. The problem is, that’s where it ends. There is no real help offered to resolve your depression.
Where do you turn when the bottom drops out of your life? Maybe you discover that your son is on drugs or your high school daughter is pregnant, or your parents are going to get a divorce, or you lose your job, or a close loved one dies, or…. When the circumstances of life come down on you like a ton of bricks, you need a shelter, a listener, someone who understands, someone to encourage you. David, when suffering adversity and struggling with depression, wrote in his “journal”: “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; Let me never be put to shame; deliver me in Your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since You are my rock and my fortress…”(Psa. 31:1,2). David found in God a protective place, a place of safety, security and secrecy. Hurting people don’t need critics. They don’t need guilt piled on distress. They need encouragement, they need a refuge—a place to hide and heal. They need a willing, available, confidant. David calls God his “strength, mighty rock, fortress, stronghold, shelter, refuge, high tower.” And, David’s refuge never failed.
Note David’s testimony in Psa. 61:1-3: “Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth, I call to You, when my heart is faint; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” I think it is important to note that David was willing to cry out to God for help. A poster reads: “A prayer to be said when the world has gotten you down, and you feel rotten, and you’re too doggone tired to pray, and you’re in a big hurry, and besides, you’re mad at everybody… ‘My Son, slow down, ease back, admit your need. Cry out ‘HELP!’ ’ Our entire life, most of us have been told to ‘buck it up!’ to ‘grin and bear it!’ It has been bred into us by parents, competition in school, in business, in sports, etc. That inner voice says ‘prove it to ‘em! Show them you can do it without anyone’s help!’ We have been molded by our society to have a sense of self-sufficiency and it is hard for us to admit we are discouraged and need help. Hey, none of us is the Messiah! We are human—made of dust, remember. So, stop trying to run all the bases and sell hot dogs in the stands at the same time!” (Encourage Me).
In 1968 an airliner bound for New York couldn’t get the landing gear to come down. The pilot announced over the intercom: “We are beginning our final descent. In accordance with International Aviation Codes established at Geneva, it is my obligation to inform you that if you believe in God, you should commence in prayer!” There’s nothing like a crisis to reveal the otherwise hidden truth of the soul. We may mask it, ignore it, cover it with activity, but take away the cushion of comfort, interject the threat of death and most cry out to God. if you are in need of encouragement today, head for cover! “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I” (Psa. 61:2b).