Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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What to Do When You Feel Discouraged

Dannah Gresh: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says words can be powerful—just like weapons of war.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The occasion was the Boer War that took place in South Africa, and the specific battle was the Siege of Ladysmith. It was about 1900. It was at a critical point in the war. Tensions were running high and the survival of the whole town was at stake.

During this time there was a civilian who would go in and out among the troops, and he would make discouraging comments. He never fired a shot for the enemy; he just sowed seeds of discouragement.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Monday, February 15, 2021. I'm Dannah Gresh.

Today Nancy begins a two-day series on how to handle discouragement. She’s picking up with that story of the man who was spreading discouragement among the troops.

Nancy: That was the last thing these courageous fighting men needed! They were discouraged by the words that this man would speak as he walked in and out among the troops. This man was finally brought to court, he was tried, and the judge said it was a crime to speak discouraging words at a time like this.

So this man was court-martialed. He was sentenced to a year in prison just for being a discourager. Now, let me ask you this question: If speaking discouraging words were illegal today, would you be breaking the law?

Now, it may not be against the law to be a discourager, but I want to tell you today, it is a sin and it can do a lot of damage! I think many of us have experienced—probably all of us at times—what happens to us when people speak words of discouragement into our lives. They strip courage from us. But we’ve also seen how God and others can speak words into our lives that encourage!

Discouragement is one of the most effective tools of the enemy in the lives of believers. Sadly, sometimes we become the instrument of the enemy when we sow those words of discouragement. I’m so glad that in the Scripture we read about some godly men and women who faced really discouraging times. They had to deal with discouragement.

One of those who experienced a lot of discouraging circumstances was David. In fact, we wouldn’t have many of the psalms in our Jewish hymnal today if David had not had to deal with discouragement. Today I want us to look at one incident in the life of David. We’ll look at it today and tomorrow, just a short series here.

If you have your Bible, let me encourage you to open it to 1 Samuel chapter 30, there in the Old Testament about halfway through, I’d say. I want to give you this setting before we get to chapter 30, and just give you the context for how this scene takes place.

We know that David had been anointed by God to be the next king of Israel. But he didn’t actually get the throne; that promise of God wasn’t fulfilled for another fifteen years. During that time there was a maniac—an egomaniac—on the throne whose name was King Saul. He became insanely jealous of David and set out to destroy David so that Saul could protect his own throne.

David spent years running for his life—hunted, haunted, pursued, hiding in caves, hiding in the wilderness, dodging spears. He was experiencing all kinds of trials and discouraging things. During this time, there was no visible evidence that God’s promise for his life was ever going to be fulfilled. So there was a lot of discouragement during those years.

The Scripture tells us that during that time there 600 men and their families who gathered around David. There’s one part of the Scripture that says these were men who were in debt. They were discouraged, and they were discontent, but they gathered around David. (see 1 Sam. 22:2)

They all had issues, and these became the fighting men of David who helped to protect him and that God used in his life during these fifteen years. So all these men are fugitives from King Saul. At one point of weakness and fear, David and his troops joined the Philistines—who were the enemies of God and the enemies of God’s people. But God actually used the Philistines to protect David’s life from King Saul. It’s a messy story!

I’m just giving you a quick snapshot of the background before we get to chapter 30. Now, just for a moment, let me roll back to chapter 27 of 1 Samuel. I won’t read from there, but the Philistine king, whose name was Achish, gives David a city for him and his men to live in.

The city is called Ziklag, and that’s where David and his men settled for sixteen months—they and their families. During that time (because David was actually loyal to Israel; I told you this is messy here), David and his troops went out regularly and secretly raided Philistine settlements.

They were being harbored by the Philistines, but they would go out and have these raiding trips and would raid the Philistine settlements. They would kill everyone, take the loot, and return to Ziklag without the Philistine king ever knowing what David was doing. So David was actually working against the one who was trying to protect him.

Then you get to chapter 29 where David travels fifty to seventy miles with the Philistine army. The Philistine army was setting out to fight against the Israelites, who were David’s own people. David joined up with the Philistine army and said, “I’ll go with you, and I’ll help you fight the Israelites.”

Well, the Philistine leaders said to Achish the king, “Don’t let David go with us. He’s going to be loyal to his own people. When we get into battle, he’s going to leave us; he’s going to help them.” They said, “He’s going to turn against us! You’ve got to send David back!”

And reluctantly, Achish finally sent David and his men back to their home-away-from-home, called . . . Ziklag. That march home took three days. So here’s David having experienced rejection and disappointment and, undoubtedly, on that three-day march home, he’s looking forward to getting home (as are all his men) to their wives and their children, to some peace and quiet, finally!

But what happened next (and this is where we get to chapter 30, verse 1) is not at all what they were expecting. They were totally caught off guard! Let me read 1 Samuel chapter 30, beginning in verse 1.

Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it [this is all while David and his warriors were away from town], both small and great. They killed no one . . .

Talk about the providence and protection of God! The Amalekites were a fierce people, but they killed no one.

. . . but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire (vv. 1–3).

The implication is that you could still see the smoke rising up above what they had known as home. You can just imagine that their hearts sank! They got there, and they found out, “. . . and their wives and sons and daughters [had been] taken captive” (v. 3).

So you have here a huge tragedy, a huge loss! Their city has been burned with fire. They’ve lost all their possessions, their wives, their children—everything! We understand that, probably, those wives had been taken off to be sold as slaves in Egypt. They knew that was the likely outcome of this raid. So 1 Samuel 30, verse 4:

Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep.

When I read that verse, it reminds me of a friend whom I was standing next to when she received news . . . In the last couple of years a number of close relatives and friends of hers had died in unexpected ways. Then I was with her when she received the news that a trusted and valuable employee had died suddenly of a heart attack—I think age forty-three, something like that.

I was with this woman when she received the news, and she just began to wail and to weep and to go, “No! No!” I mean, it was just like this outpouring. I think it was kind of pent-up because of all the losses she had experienced recently, and this was just one more loss on the top of that.

Well, David experiences not just this general collective loss like all the men had lost a lot, but this was a huge personal loss to David. Look at verse 5:

David's two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel.

So here’s David trying to help these 600 men—his fighting men—deal with their loss. They’ve lost all their stuff, all their houses, all their possessions, their families. and he’s dealing with his own grief at the same time. Just a parentheses here: Being a true committed follower of Jesus does not exempt you from suffering and pain.

We know that, but we forget that. And in the middle of loss we think, Why did this happen to me? I was trying to obey God. I was loving Him. I was following Him. I was trying to do His work! Remember that God actually sometimes uses the pain and the loss to do a sweet and gracious work of His Spirit in our lives that might not happen any other way.

And then, remember that God was sovereign even over this attack and this loss. We saw that the Amalekites did not kill the women and the children that they took from Ziklag. It is as if God had said to them, “This far but no further. You can do this, but you can’t do that.” God had restrained them, because God always determines the limit to which the enemy can go.

I think it was Warren Wiersbe who said when God’s children are in the furnace, God keeps His hand on the thermostat and His eye on the clock. I like that! God determines how far the enemy can go. Remember, we don’t see the big picture, but God sees all that.

What David didn’t know at that moment, after fifteen years of running for his life and waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled, was just around the corner was the death of King Saul, and then David would accede to the throne.

You don’t know what God has ahead for you; you don’t know what God has planned for you just around the corner, how God is working and moving to fulfill His eternal purposes in your life! Your current circumstances that are so desperate may actually be exactly what God is using to bring about a great victory in your life! So trust His heart, trust His hand.

So now, David has been driven from his country by King Saul, the Philistines have driven him from their camp, the Amalekites have plundered his city, the wives and the children have been taken captive. You’d think that at least his closest friends, the 600 men that he had led, cared for, provided for . . . you’d think at least these guys would support him, that they would be sympathetic, that they’d be loyal.

But now those men turn on David, to add insult to injury, because they saw David as the cause of this disaster. So they actually become mutinous. They’re murmuring against David. Look at verse 6 of 1 Samuel 30.

And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul each for his sons and daughters.

So this is a personal attack of these men against David. They’re threatening him. His life is in danger! This is a helpless, hopeless situation.

Just imagine some of the things that might have been going through David’s mind at this moment: If only I hadn’t joined with the Philistines. If only we hadn’t left Ziklag. He’s feeling emotional burnout. He’s feeling the burden, the responsibility, of caring for 600 men and their wives and their children.

He’s feeling betrayed. He can’t even trust his own men—his own team. He’s physically weary. As the story unfolds later in the Scripture, we see that a third of his men were so weak and so exhausted from this trek that they couldn’t make the journey to rescue their own wives and children. They just fell behind, fell down, and said, “We can’t keep going!” So they’re exhausted!

But notice the difference between the way David’s men responded and the way David responded. His men fretted over their loss, which gave way to deep emotions and passions and resulted in bitterness, anger, vengeance, disloyalty, blame, discontent, impatience. Am I describing the way that we sometimes respond to pressure and problems? But how did David respond?

You see in David—flawed though he is, in process of becoming a man of God as he is—we see in David a trust in God’s providence, a trust in God’s grace that allowed him to respond differently to the very same circumstances, that gave him the ability to provide wise, godly leadership under pressure.

So what did David do? I see three things in this passage. We’re going to talk about the first one today and then the second and third ones we’ll talk about tomorrow. The first thing, and the first thing we must do when we’re in distress, when everything is surrounding us, conspiring against us, we see that David got his encouragement and strength from the Lord in this vulnerable, weak moment—from the Lord.

Look at verse 6: “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” Some of your translations say, “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (KJV). Here he is in the midst of discouraging, disheartening circumstances, but he encourages and strengthens himself in the Lord His God.

Now that doesn’t mean this was easy. Verse 4 tells us that he wept; verse 6 says he was greatly distressed. Listen, there is no sin in that. There’s no sin in weeping when life is hard. There’s no sin in being distressed—greatly distressed—in the face of enormous loss.

You lose somebody precious to you and people say, “Oh, just buck up. God’s in control; God’s in charge. You shouldn’t be weeping; you shouldn’t be grieving.” That’s not God’s way of thinking!

Now, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope, but it is our humanness. The Lord Jesus Himself, here on earth, experienced very human emotions. It’s not sinful to weep; it’s not sinful to be in distress. But David strengthened and encouraged himself physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. In every way, he strengthened himself in the Lord.

He turned to God first before turning to human counselors, human helpers, human means of support. God was available to David in that distressing moment . . . even though David had probably been out of God’s will in the first place by being allied with the Philistines.

But God was merciful! And God was available to David when he turned to the Lord to strengthen himself in God. All through the Scripture we see that God is the true and ultimate and perfect source of encouragement. Whenever we need it, for whatever reasons. Whatever people around us may be doing, God is the God of encouragement!

I love that verse in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. It’s a benediction. It says:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, [may he] encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word (vv. 16–17 NIV).

“The Lord encourage you and strengthen you.” God is the source of encouragement! The apostle Paul understood that. Time and time again this New Testament character when he faced distressing circumstances and situations such as in 2 Timothy chapter 4:14, where he says,

Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm . . . At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear (vv. 14, 16–17 NKJV).

What was Paul’s goal? To be able to testify to the gospel and power of Christ. And so he said, “Everybody left me; I’m in these distressing circumstances! Everyone forsook me, but the Lord stood with me. He strengthened me so I could keep preaching the gospel, so that all the Gentiles might hear.”

He’s saying, “It’s okay what I’ve been through as long as God gives me the strength to do what I need to do so others can hear.” Listen, God wants, in your weakness—when you’re destitute, when you feel forsaken, when maybe you are forsaken by others—God will stand by you.

He will give you courage. He will give you strength so that you can testify to the amazing grace of God. It’s all for a purpose. It’s all to make you more fruitful. So David strengthened himself. He encouraged himself in the Lord his God.

Here’s what one of my favorite commentators, Matthew Henry, has to say about that verse. He says,

Those that have taken the Lord for their God may take encouragement from their relation to Him in the worst of times. It is the duty and interest of all good people, whatever happens, to encourage themselves in God as their Lord and their God, assuring themselves that He can and will bring light out of darkness, peace out of trouble, and good out of evil to all that love Him and are called according to His purpose.

He says that’s our duty, to encourage ourselves in the Lord. It’s in our best interest to encourage ourselves in the Lord. He’s the One who can strengthen us, will stand with us, and has our best interests at heart.

I was reading last night about one of my missionary heroines of the faith, Ann Hasseltine Judson. She lived in the late 1700s and the early 1800s. She was one of the first women American foreign missionaries. At age twenty-three she married a man named Adoniram Judson, who had the world on his heart!

And, in fact, when he wrote to Ann’s father asking for permission to marry his daughter, he listed all the things that could possibly go wrong—all the sacrifices that Ann might have to make and the losses that Ann’s parents might have to suffer if she were to become his wife.

Basically he was saying, “You’re giving your daughter away to the Lord’s service. You may never see her again; she may lose her life.”

And the Dad said, “Yes,” amazingly! He trusted God with his daughter’s life.

Two weeks after Adoniram and Ann were married, they set out for the mission field—first for India and then the following year they moved to Burma, where they spent the rest of their lives. On the way to Burma, enroute, Ann had a miscarriage. She later gave birth to a son who died at eight months of age. She herself had fragile health—liver issues and others.

Her husband, Adoniram, was imprisoned for seventeen months during the Anglo-Burmese War because he was accused of being an English spy. Ann and her newborn daughter at the time—who was still nursing—moved into a shack outside the prison so she could lobby for her husband’s release and provide food for him and the other prisoners (that’s how the prisoners were fed). Someone had to come and bring them food and blankets, whatever they needed. Ann died shortly after her husband’s release when she was just thirty-six years of age. Her little girl Maria, the one that she had been nursing at the time he was in prison, died six months after her mother.

So a life of hardship and heartache and distress and discouragement. She didn’t live to see the fruitfulness of the gospel in Burma, for which they had longed and prayed. On the way to India, there was theological matter that had caused her and her husband to separate from their sending mission. It was a distressful time.

She wrote this in a letter to a friend:

These things have caused us to weep and pour out our hearts in prayer to Him whose direction we so much wish and need. We feel that we are alone in the world with no real friend but each other . . . no one on whom we can depend but God.

But God! In her diary in 1813, as they were enroute to Burma, she wrote this:

It seems as if there was no resting place for me on earth. O when will my wanderings terminate? When shall I find some little spot that I can call my home while in this world? Yet I rejoice in all thy dealings, O my heavenly Father; for thou dost support me under every trial and enable me to lean on thee.

She strengthened herself in the Lord. Upon their arrival in Burma, she wrote back home to her parents a letter that said this:

We felt very gloomy and dejected the first night we arrived, in view of our prospects; but we were enabled to lean on God and to feel that he was able to support us under the most discouraging circumstances.

When everything precious to you seems to be lost—everything secure, everything that you trusted in, everything that you hoped in—when there’s no human, visible means of encouragement or support around you, learn to strengthen and encourage yourself in the Lord, as David did.

Tomorrow we’ll hear what David did next, but let’s just pray as we close this session.

And, O Lord, I pray for sisters listening today (perhaps some brothers as well) who may be discouraged, no human visible means of support. I pray that You would draw near to them, that You would encourage their hearts, that You would strengthen them by Your grace, that You would assure them of Your presence and You would shine hope into the darkest places of their hearts. And this we pray with thanksgiving, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Dannah: Discouraging words can do a lot of damage. You’ve likely felt this firsthand. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been reminding us to turn to the Lord for strength when we feel discouraged. If you’re dealing with difficult circumstances or inner turmoil, we want to point you to resources that offer you encouragement for whatever you may be going through.

And sometimes the best way to be encouraged is to become and encourager! So, let me tell you about the Revive Our Hearts Ambassador Program! One of the main goals of our ambassadors is to provide encouragement to women—specifically, women’s ministry leaders. The ambassadors are women who are passionate about helping women thrive in Christ. They sense a deep call to reach women in leadership positions by coming alongside them and equipping them for the role the Lord has called them to.

Leading others in a ministry role can be wearisome. Ambassadors aim to strengthen these women in the Lord through prayer and connection. If you’re a Bible study leader, a women’s ministry director, pastor’s wife, small group leader, or you know someone who is, we encourage you to connect with a Revive Our Hearts Ambassador today. Visit to find an ambassador near you.

We’re praying for God to raise up an ambassador in every state in the United States. Could the Lord be calling you to become a Revive Our Hearts Ambassador? Head to our website,, to find out details and take the next step, or you can call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Tomorrow we’ll hear more about what David did to find strength in the Lord during a distressing situation. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is helping you deal with discouragement. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.