Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him. Psalm 42:5
Some mornings it seems like nothing goes right. I wake up to a messy house and find that we are out of milk, and already I feel stress. Add a forgotten early morning appointment or a husband with no clean socks to this equation and it becomes “the perfect storm.” By 8 a.m. I am already discouraged and overwhelmed, and I haven’t even finished my first cup of coffee!
I know that prayer should be my first line of defense in situations like these, yet my flesh tells me I am too busy. If I’m already behind on my day’s work, how can I afford to spend time praying? Ironically, that is exactly what I need to do. Not only does it calm my anxious heart, but I find those minutes easily regained once I start thinking clearly and making more productive decisions.
The Psalmist gives us a model in Psalm 43 for how to pray when we are discouraged.
1. Pour out your heart to the Lord, remembering His character and His promises.
When the tasks of the day loom large, I am tempted to cry on my pillow. Instead, I should cry out to God, telling Him that I feel inadequate for the tasks He has put before me, and asking Him to “equip me with everything good for doing His will” (Hebrews 13:21). His Word says that He will “renew the strength of those who hope in the Lord” (Isaiah 40:31) , and that He will “give rest to the weary when they turn to Him” (Matthew 11:28). These promises give us hope and comfort in the midst of our discouragement. When we pray His Word back to Him and ask Him to be faithful to do what He has promised, we can surely expect Him to answer.
2. Ask the Lord to open His Word and apply it to our hearts.
When we are discouraged, we often hear the voice of Satan, whispering in our ear. “You can’t do it! You’ll never be good enough. You may as well give up now.” We need to silence that voice with God’s Word. When I pray in the midst of discouragement, the Lord penetrates my heart with the sword of the Word. Sometimes He encourages me with reminders of His goodness. Other times I am challenged to “run the race marked out for you with perseverance” (Hebrews 12:1). All too often I am convicted of sin, as He gently reveals that my frustration is caused not by the tasks He has put before me, but by my foolish decisions to waste time when I should be “busy at home” (Titus 2:5).
3. Preach God’s Word to yourself.
When I get discouraged, I tend to evaluate everything in light of my feelings. Instead, we need to discipline ourselves, that our feelings would be informed by the truth of the Word. We read in Jeremiah that, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure,” (Jeremiah 17:9). Slowly, slowly I am learning to challenge my feelings and sink my trust into the anchor of God’s Word instead.