The Devil Knows How to Discourage You - 999
This principle seems to hold true in nearly every area of life: The
most satisfying joys we experience are realized mainly through
adversity and struggle, while poor, unhealthy, thin joys can be had
without much effort. Fulfilling joys usually require strenuous
Another similar principle also seems to be true: When the pursuit of a
fulfilling joy moves from an inspiring idea to actually having to work
hard for it, the reward suddenly diminishes in appeal. Therefore, we
must often strenuously pursue a fulfilling joy when we don’t feel like
I find both principles are often true when it comes to thanking God. A
heart full of thanksgiving experiences profound joy. But cultivating a
thankful heart is hard work — work we often don’t feel like doing.
But God knows this about us, and his many commands that we “magnify
him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30), “come into his presence with
thanksgiving” (Psalm 95:2), “sing to [him] with thanksgiving” (Psalm
147:7), pray “with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6), eat “with
thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:3), indeed, “give thanks in all
circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) are not intended as guilt-ridden
reminders of how ungrateful we are. Rather, these commands are
prescriptions written by the Good Physician to help us escape from
chronic bouts of discouragement.
Why Are We Discouraged?
Discouragement is, by definition, a deficit of courage.
Biblical courage is the ability to face uncertainty, adversity,
danger, or suffering with faith-fueled hope that God will keep his
word to us, come what may. Paul went so far as to say that since “all
the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ],” especially the
resurrection, we should “always [be] of good courage” (2 Corinthians
But we are not always of good courage. Why? Because unbelief in the
promises of God dis-courages us. This is the focus of all Satan’s
massive, multifarious strategies: to dis-courage us through dis-belief
in God’s promises. His strategies are disorientingly sophisticated,
but his goal is simple: to discourage Christians. Discouraged
Christians are immobilized threats. They are diffused gospel bombs.
They are silenced evangelists whose faith-anemia can be contagious.
Is it really any surprise that we find discouragement a chronic
problem? Daily placed before our eyes, spoken into our ears, and
breaking our hearts are reasons to be discouraged — and our indwelling
sin is quick to believe them.
That is precisely why right after Paul says, “we are always of good
courage” (2 Corinthians 5:6), he says, “for we walk by faith, not by
sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Worldly perceptions will tend to sap our
courage. But faith perceives a reality so hopeful that even death
itself cannot quench the resulting courage.
Thanksgiving and Courage
What does this have to do with thanksgiving? Nothing is as
en-couraging as seeing God’s abounding grace (2 Corinthians 9:8), and
gratitude is what we feel when we see it (2 Corinthians 1:11).
But what we need to understand is that biblical thanksgiving is not
merely our grateful response to a perceived grace received from God;
it is a means to perceiving that grace. Biblical thanksgiving is not
merely a command to be obeyed; it is a call to see beyond our normal
perceptions to hundreds of graces we would otherwise miss due to our
sin-induced myopia. And it is a call to see future graces in God’s
promises so certain that we can thank God for them now.
That’s why God commands us so often in the Bible to give thanks. The
commands prompt us to ask, “What do I have to be grateful for?” That
question alone can stop the train of our thoughts from derailing into
discouragement, while it draws us back on the track of faith. It
forces us to answer, and in answering, we start seeing graces. So, the
obedient act of giving God thanks actually results in our feeling
grateful to God. The commands are in and of themselves gracious.
God intends for this practice of thanksgiving to become a gracious
habit. The more habitual thanksgiving becomes, the more gratitude we
will feel. We will find that to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1
Thessalonians 5:18) is not an impossible ideal, but an increasingly
satisfying joy, and a potent, counterintuitive antidote to discouragement.
The Best Things Are Hard to Learn
Thanksgiving is a counterintuitive antidote to discouragement because
when we feel discouraged, we don’t feel like giving thanks. That’s why
we must remember those two common principles: 1) fulfilling joys
usually require strenuous pursuit, and therefore, 2) we often don’t
feel like pursuing the things we need most. This experience is “common
to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13). When we experience it, we shouldn’t be
surprised as if something strange were happening to us (1 Peter 4:12).
Experiencing the joy of gratitude requires the hard work of learning
the habit of thanksgiving through daily practice. It’s difficult to
learn because of our deeply ingrained habits of seeing the world
through self-centered lenses. And because Satan works hard to distract
us with all sorts of discouraging things.
But there is abounding grace available to help us see grace (2
Corinthians 9:8). That’s why there is an abundance of commands for us
to give thanks! These commands are a grace, for they call forth in us
what they demand of us.
Mine the Bible for the “thanks” and “thanksgiving” commands, and
practice them — especially when you don’t feel like it. That’s likely
when you need them the most. And “give thanks in all circumstances” (1
Thessalonians 5:18). Fight discouragement with thanksgiving. Fight
hard! God will supply the strength you need (1 Peter 4:11; Philippians
As you obey, you will begin to see and savor the grace you missed before.