Discouragement is a universal experience for ministry leaders and the word actually defines itself … dis-courage, meaning no courage.
Some of the Bible’s greatest characters faced it: Moses, David, Paul, Mary the mother of Jesus and the apostles. Nehemiah, the great Old Testament leader, faced it when he led the Jews to rebuild the wall. Yet, his response offers us hope when we face it.
Nehemiah had been hammered with criticism and it was taking its toll. Discouragement had set in. Nehemiah 4:10-21 tells us what Nehemiah did in response to it.
This part of the rebuilding story gives us eight discouragement busters.
Buster 1: Monitor your thoughts.
This buster is perhaps the most important one. An unconscious chatter is always active inside our minds because our mind simply wanders a lot. When we are not thinking about anything else, it wanders off into worry, fear, anxiety or discouragement.
A key concept gaining greater prominence today is something called metacognition, which simply means thinking about what you are thinking about. To battle discouragement, we must discipline ourselves to be aware of this constant chatter that often leads us into discouragement.
I believe the Apostle Paul understood that when he wrote this verse.
Phil. 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
So, to bust discouragement, stop and ask yourself, “What am I thinking about?” Monitor your thoughts, your self-talk, the inner chatter. Change your thinking if it’s going negative.
Buster 2: When you feel discouraged, call it what it is, don’t stuff it, ignore it or rehearse it.
Nehemiah didn’t ignore the discouragement the people felt.
When we name our negative emotion, we actually decrease its power, contrary to what we often tell ourselves: “Just ignore it or stuff it.” Neuroscientists have discovered that when we stuff our emotions, it actually reinforces them over the long term. But when we actually name them, it decreases the power of our emotional centers and engages the thinking centers of our minds.