From time to time over the centuries some Christians have taught, sometimes with tragic consequences, that a truly spiritual person never gets discouraged. To be cast down is, by definition, to be ‘unspiritual.’ Unless we are well-grounded in Scripture, it is very easy for us to be overwhelmed, confused, and even more discouraged by such teaching.
This teaching certainly seems logical: if the gospel saves us, it must save us from discouragement! It also appears to be wonderfully spiritual. After all, are we not ‘more than conquerors through him who loved us’ (Rom. 8:37)?
But this is not biblical logic, nor is it true spirituality. The gospel saves us from death, not by removing death, but by helping us to face it in the power of Christ’s victory and thus to overcome it. So, too, with sin. And similarly with discouragement. Faith in Christ does not remove all of the causes of discouragement; rather, it enables us to overcome them. We may experience discouragement; but we will not be defeated by it.
Nor is this the biblical spirituality; it is a false ‘super-spirituality’ that ignores or denies the reality of our humanity. We live in frail flesh and blood and in a fallen world which, John says, ‘lies in the power of the evil one’ (1 John 5:19). There is much to discourage. Jesus felt that. To be free from the possibility of discouragements would be more ‘spiritual’ than Jesus—and therefore not truly spiritual at all.
Psalms 42 and 43 teach us the biblical approach to discouragement: we feel it, we recognize it for what it is, and we analyze the reasons for its presence.
This blog post appeared on TABLETALK MAGAZINE ONLINE and is an excerpt from Sinclair Ferguson’s book, Deserted by God.