I feel very discouraged at times, and sometimes the spells of discouragement hang on for a long while. I wonder if I am sanctified. From unaccountable sources, bad feelings of every description depress my soul, and along with these bad feelings come doubts that cast gloom over me. I have prayed and prayed that these feelings of discouragement might leave me; but they have not done so. I despair of prayer bringing me the help I need. Really, I know not what to do. I earnestly desire to be all the Lord's and have His will done in my life, and it is painful to believe that these discouragements hinder God's will in my heart. How do sanctified people feel, anyway? I should think they ought to feel ecstatic joy all the time, being so consecrated and near the Lord as they are. I need help on this line, and will appreciate any advice you give me.
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The Wilderness of Canaan is a wild, rough district bordering on the Jordan Valley, through which every pilgrim and home-seeker must pass before he finds his home site and settles down. Some pilgrims are fortunate in passing through it quickly, while others, coming under the spell of two old giants who live there, have a very hard time passing through. These giants are Discourager and Despair, said to be twin brothers, sons of a bad mighty couple, Unbelief and Doubt, who live in the same wilderness and are, they say, the grandfather and grandmother of one of the worst families of giants in all Canaan. It is in this Wilderness that pilgrims encounter Giant Accuser, a cousin of Giants Discourager and Despair.
It is said that Pilgrim Victory had a long and hard battle with these two giants, Discourager and Despair. We shall have time this evening, so why not visit Victory? Probably he will tell us of this battle. We should like to know how he overcame them. We hear these two giants are really afraid of him since he has become so proficient in the use of the sword.
Very well, let us visit Pilgrim Victory.
Where does he live? He lives on Mount Moriah, and we shall find him at home, no doubt.
Oh see, here is a monument by the roadside! Let us stop and read the inscription. Oh! Listen!
"It was on this spot that a desperate battle was fought between Pilgrim Victory and two of the worst giants in Canaan, Giants Discourager and Despair. Victory won after a long fight. The castle of Giant Despair is situated in one of the dark ravines to the right. In clear weather it can be seen from this spot. Pilgrims are warned to be prepared to meet these giants, for they have slain their thousands."
Come! Let us hurry away from this place! But look! See! There is the castle of Giant Despair! It looks more like a jail, or prison, than a castle. Maybe there is some poor pilgrim in there now. O Immanuel, if there is, send an angel to tell him to use the key of Promise so he may get out!
Why, here comes a pilgrim from that direction now. And there comes old Giant Despair after him. O Immanuel, help!
Will the pilgrim escape? The old Giant is coming so fast! But it is clear today. Yes! now the sun bursts full on the old Giant! Ah! he seems to melt in his tracks. Oh, yes! now we know why -- he can not run in clear weather. Here is the pilgrim on the main road again.
"Pilgrim, we are so happy to see you get away. You look so worn, so weary. And there, what can that be, poor fellow? There is blood and wounds all over your back. That is where the old giant beat you, isn't it? How did you escape?"
"Blessed be Immanuel forever! For a long time old Despair has had me in his dungeon. I've been nearly killed. Giant Discourager encountered me first and got me off into that ravine over there toward the castle. Then old Despair caught me and put me in his dungeon. He beat me regularly morning, noon, and night. He has killed a number of pilgrims. He killed one while I was there; and there is a large heap of the bones of other poor pilgrims out of whom he drove the spark of hope. But this morning I thought of a key called Promise [1 Kings 8:56] that Bunyan's pilgrim told of, and to my surprise it fitted every lock I had to open. The old Giant ran after me. I do not know what happened to him; I did not look back to see. But I am safe, anyway."
"Come on with us, we are going to visit Pilgrim Victory. What is your name!"
"My name is Honest."
"Well, here we are on Moriah. And yonder is Pilgrim Victory! He seems to be polishing or sharpening his sword. Why, it shines like silver now!"
"Blessings on you, pilgrims, and what can I do for you?"
"Oh, Pilgrim Victory, tell us of your battle with Giants Discourager and Despair, will you!"
"To the glory of Immanuel, yes. And I shall begin with an early experience, and this is the way it came about: No sooner had I crossed the Jordan than Giant Mistake began to keep me company. Not long after that, Giant Discourager joined us, much to my detriment. I should have fought him then; but he said he had a right to travel with pilgrims, and I did not know any better; so I let him stay in my company. When we got farther into the Wilderness of Canaan, Giant Discourager began to torment me awfully. Every day he beat me, till I had no strength left. I did nothing but sit and nurse my wounds for many days. According to Giant Discourager, I was a failure; and it did appear that way. I was not good for anything, he said, and there was much truth, apparently, in that saying, too. He said Immanuel did not care the least bit for me; and it did look that way. 'You will never get out of this wilderness. You will never be able to do any good. You will always feel miserable,' said Giant Discourager to me. In fact, he saw nothing ahead for me but woe, failure, misery, and despair. And it appeared certain that he was right.
"Just at that place where you saw the monument, I fought the battle through, and won. But I was in Giant Despair's dungeon two weeks at that. It was after I escaped that I fought the fight I won. I had got out of the dungeon by using the key of Promise; but the weather was foul, and the giants caught me at that spot.
"The battle was a long one. With all the subtlety of his lengthy career, Giant Discourager threw out every idea and insinuation to get me to give up. But while these insidious attacks were very hard to ward off, I had definitely promised Immanuel down in the dungeon that if he would get me out I would never be caught in company with Giant Discourager again. I saw while there that it was my keeping company with him that got me into Despair's hands. So I had to keep my promise.
"But Discourager would not leave; so I swung at him with my sword, and said, 'Get thee hence, Discourager, I am Immanuel's. I am a citizen of Canaan, I am across the Jordan, this is my home; here my rest shall be. Get thee hence' [Luke 4:1-13]. His foul breath blew over me, and his awful concoctions of unbelief and despair almost overthrew me. At that, Giant Despair grabbed me, and was in the act of lifting me bodily and carrying me away, when a fierce desire to fight to victory possessed me. I made another stroke at Giant Discourager and then aimed one at Despair. This freed me. Then, gathering myself, I rushed at one, then the other, until I chased them back into their haunts. Oh, victory, how sweet! And how blessed it was after that not to have that old Discourager's heartless and despairing conversation poisoning my thoughts! Oh, what a relief!
"On thinking of it, I then and there purposed to build the monument you saw on your way here. Many a pilgrim has taken warning and escaped an awful death.
"Pilgrim Honest, I know those are tears of gratitude flowing down your poor face; but dry them, and come with me. I will bathe those wounds of yours and give you food that will relieve all your distress [Isaiah 66:10-13; Matthew 12:38-21]. And to you, pilgrims, we say farewell."
"Good-by, Pilgrims Victory and Honest. May it be well with you."
Now let us talk between ourselves.
It is no sin to feel discouraged. The only place where sin can enter in connection with discouragement is in entirely surrendering faith and letting actual transgressions follow. When the soul is tormented to the point where it appears impossible for it to claim the victory any farther, that is no evidence that that soul has sinned and is lost. In this case God sees the soul as it really is; He does not look at the soul's own estimate of itself. Many a sanctified soul has given up faith for sanctification, and even for justification, merely on the strength of some argument the devil has presented. For instance, a person may consecrate all, have perfect faith, and receive the experience of entire sanctification. In a week or two this person may make a mistake, or for some reason or other he may begin to have bad feelings in himself. Satan now sends his tempter to accuse the soul and cause it to doubt its having the experience of entire sanctification. After a painful struggle, the soul feels, that, on the evidence presented, it must give up its profession of a sanctified state, and does so. But God, looking down, sees that that soul is just as consecrated as ever, and loves God as much as ever. He can not hold that soul as it holds itself. So while the soul despairs, God holds it as all right. The only reason the soul does not get God's view is because these doubts and accusations obscure God's will and promise, and the devil's doubts are admitted instead of God's word.
That more souls are done to death by discouragement than by any other one thing is probably a true saying.
You say you are discouraged. Over what? Is it because you do not have the pleasant feelings you would like to have? This is no cause for discouragement. You may be better than you feel, just as many are not so good as they feel they are. Feelings are no standard to go by. Is it because you can not accomplish more? Do the best you can and be satisfied with that. Is it because you make many blunders and mistakes? Care not for it, for all make them. Profit by them and go on.
Discouragement is deadly to the soul. It is a destroyer of hope, faith, confidence, joy, service, and victory. Look at the discouraged man! There he sits. Nothing seems good to him; and he hesitates to do anything. What army ever won a victory if it was discouraged? What merchant ever succeeded in business when discouraged? Who ever accomplished anything when discouraged?
Vow never to give way to discouragement. Sign the pledge against indulgence in it. Why not? Discouragement is the effect of the devil's work. Will you engage in helping the devil at his work?
There is no sound argument in favor of becoming discouraged; there is no reason or logic on its side. If you have obstacles to overcome, discouragement will make them only that much harder to overcome. Do you make mistakes? Discouragement will only make it harder to overcome them. No matter what may be your trouble, or failure, or other problem, discouragement is a positive hindrance. And if it is given way to, it must ultimately be overcome, in addition to overcoming the obstacle which occasions the discouragement, before one has the victory.
There is one thing you will do well always to remember, and that is God's promise in John 3:16. No matter where you are, no matter how hopeless everything seems, no matter how far down you may get, even into sin -- remember that God loves you and has this promise, exactly suited to your need. All you have to do to begin to get out is to step upon that promise.
Yes, sanctified people feel discouraged at times. But since they are all the Lord's they must not give way to it, but must pray and trust Him to carry them through. This sooner or later brings them through the trial (1 Peter 5:10). Jesus Christ never gets discouraged. Let us be like Him in the eternal hope of the triumph of the grace of God (Romans 8:37-39). In which triumph we may have a share both while we live here and again in the heaven of heavens.