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#64 Discouragement and Depression in the Ministry -13 Ways to Overcome

If you haven’t experienced discouragement in ministry then you likely haven’t experienced ministry.

Discouragement and depression often attack with little warning. They heap heavy loads of guilt, hopelessness, and apathy on your shoulders it all but impossible to move forward in ministry.

In this episode of Now Is the Time I talk about the reasons for discouragement and I give you 13 tips to help you overcome.

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In the News

  • This week I took a team of youth from our church to Kherson, Ukraine, which is on the border of Crimea. I preached and they ministered with music in one church.

  • I’m taking a group of Ukrainian pastors for a mini missions trip and conference in Georgia (the country). I leave tomorrow, Oct 30th and return on Nov 5th. Please pray for the safety and success of this trip, pray also for Christina and the kids while I’m gone.
  • I know Halloween is coming up! We don’t really celebrate it here but if you want a Biblical view of everything related to Halloween, I suggest you listen to this podcast. 

 13 Tips to Overcome Discouragement

Many of these tips come from my personal experience. I’m not immune to discouragement and lately it seems like we’ve had a few more discouraging episodes than usual. That’s partly why I decided to do this podcast episode. I hope you’ll find these tips helpful, I know I did.

1. Find the source.

I found that in general discouragement comes only from a few sources. Understanding those sources and realizing where your discouragement comes from can do a lot to help you overcome it.

  • Church conflict

Every church leader knows about conflict. As long as there are people in the church there will be some sort of conflict. Sometimes however, it seems that conflict can be more intense and longer in duration than usual. These conflicts can drain your spiritually and physically.

  • Family conflict

There are also times when everything is going wonderful in the ministry but it’s home-life that’s the source of conflict, whether it’s marital problems, problems with the kids, the in-laws or even the neighbors, these conflicts spill into every area of life and can cause overwhelming discouragement.

  • Personal sin

Then again sometimes it’s just persistent personal sins that we don’t want to let go of; like anger, pride or even a porn addiction. Hiding sins from our congregation is taxing work and will lead to discouragement.

  • Burnout

It seems like in nearly every cause burnout is at least part of the issue. We might not have conflicts at home or in the church but working more than we should for a prolonged period will eventually result is disappointment, discouragement and depression.

  • Success

It may seem odd to have success as a source of discouragement but believe me, I’ve seen it and experienced it before. Success is a mountain top experience and all mountain climbers must eventually come down. Just after a big ministry event, an amazing sermon, or the completion of a long project is the time when we are often vulnerable to discouragement.

2. Look at the bigger picture.

Discouragement often focuses our attention on specific people and situations. It limits our vision to the current problem and blinds us to everything else. We must step back and recognize that the conditions which led to our discouragement are both limited in time and in scope. We must lift our eyes up and see the broader picture.

3. Realize that you are in a spiritual battle.

Recently God has opened my eyes to the reality that every day is a spiritual battle. My marriage is a spiritual battle, my attitude is a spiritual battle, staying disciplined is a spiritual battle, homeschooling my kids is a spiritual battle!

If I don’t prepare for that spiritual battle I will become a casualty in that battle. No matter how I feel or how busy I am I can not afford to go about my day without strengthening my soul with God’s Word and covering my heart with prayer.

Satan wants to make you ineffective in ministry and one of the easiest ways he can do that is through discouragement.

4. Go outside and exercise.

God created man to live in a garden, not in front of a computer screen. Lack of exercise, fresh area and sunlight will discourage you. Don’t wait until you feel discouraged to go outside and get some exercise, make it a part of your regular routine, you’ll feel better physically and your attitude will be better.

5. Get some rest.

No where in Scripture are we called to burnout for God. Overworking ourselves leads to a host of physical and spiritual problems. We need to stop regularly and rest. Often discouragement comes when we are overwhelmed an overworked.

STOP your work for one whole day, leave the computer off and spend some slow time with your family. If you’re wondering what you shouldn’t do on that day, read this.

6. Read the Psalms.

Many of the psalms were written during times of discouragement and even depression. Just think about how David writes in Psalm 23 “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” if that doesn’t describe a depressed person I don’t know what does!

Seeing how the authors of Psalms dealt with their discouragement often helps us give voice to our own feelings. Even more important is seeing how the psalmist trusted in God despite the difficulties and believed that He would ultimately be victorious.

7. Talk with a mentor.

If you don’t have an older and more experienced person in ministry to whom you can turn then you’re in trouble. Don’t waste any more time, go and find a trusted mature Christian who will listen to your problems and give you Biblical counsel and encouragement.

8. Review what God has already done.

It may not feel like it now but I’m pretty sure God has done some amazing things in your life and through your life and ministry. When we feel discouraged we need to review those successes, those moments when God used your words to help someone understand His Word better. Those moments testify to God’s faithfulness despite the looks of your current situation.

9. Remember your calling.

God called you for a reason, he gifted you for a purpose and he has you exactly where you are with a goal in mind. The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy of his calling and his gifting at least twice. Why? Because our calling is evidence that God is at work, not just us. Knowing that God has called you provides stability in the strongest storms of life.

10. Pray and give your discouragement to God.

When my kids are going through difficulties I want to know about it, I want them to tell me so I can help them. God wants the same from us. Our immediate reaction to discouragement should be prayer. Admit to God that your discouraged, tell Him exactly why and ask Him for help. He will help.

11. Do the next right thing.

I’ve heard Michael Hyatt talk about this several times. Sometimes we get discouraged because we can’t possible imagine how we can resolve the situation. We pursue different approaches in our mind but to no avail. It’s in those stormy times that we must simply put our eyes down on the path in front of us and take the next step in the direction we need to go. One of the worst things we can do is nothing. Don’t let discouragement make you apathetic about life or ministry.

12. Stop pretending that you’re not discouraged.

Hiding your discouragement can lead to more discouragement. Putting a fake smile on your face and pretending that everything is wonderful when it’s not is a heavy burden for the heart to bear.  Don’t be a whine but do be honest with those around you, let them know you’re struggling.

13. Allow others to minister to you.

Retreating from all human contact is one of the worst things we can do when discouraged. No, you don’t have to go to a party bustling with people, but you do need others around you. You need others who can pray for you, encourage you and possibly even help you with your tasks. This means you need enough humility to allow others to come in close, to know your problems and minister to you.

Question: What can you add to this list, how do you overcome discouragement?

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children! My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • Nancy Suko

    Caleb, I like your points in this podcast. One of the things I try to remember when discouragement hits is that Philippians 4:8 tells us what we are to be thinking about. Usually, things we are thinking about when we are discouraged don’t fit on that list. So, it is time to quit thinking about them–or change our attitude about them.