Most of us would say, in response to those questions that we would feel discouraged, depressed and despairing. I am describing the condition and circumstances in Jacob’s life in Genesis 28, and he probably had similar feelings in that situation, just as you and I would have.
Question – “What causes us to be discouraged and despairing in life?” Sometimes we are discouraged because of friction with others. That was one reason for Jacob’s discouragement. In Genesis 27, we read how he manipulated circumstances so that he, rather than his older brother Esau, could receive his father’s blessing. This, of course, created conflict with Esau. Genesis 27:41 tells us that as a result of Jacob’s deception, Esau hated Jacob and plotted to kill him. If we have discord with a sibling or family member, that certainly causes discouragement in our lives. Another cause of discouragement is separation from others. We read in Genesis 28:10-11 of the isolation and loneliness Jacob experienced that contributed to the discouragement in his life. A third cause of discouragement is affliction in our lives. When we read Job’s response to the affliction he endured (Job 19:13-19), we can understand the discouragement that he felt. One other cause of discouragement is degradation which happens when we sin and fall, feeling like a failure in our lives. David’s words in Psalm 51 remind us of the degradation and discouragement of living with guilt and shame, leading to feelings of isolation and separation from the Lord.
Everyone occasionally experiences discouragement in their lives for various reasons, but the Bible teaches the Lord wants to drive discouragement from our lives. Psalm 16:11 records, “in the presence of the Lord there is fullness of joy.” Jesus said He came to fill our lives with joy (John 15:11), and Paul writes, “the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). The Lord wants to drive discouragement from our lives and replace it with joy and peace.
Second Question – “How can we overcome discouragement in our lives?” Jacob’s story in Genesis 28 reminds us of several truths the Lord uses to drive discouragement from our lives.
We are able to overcome discouragement when we have supernatural experiences with the Lord. Jacob’s dream, vision of angels, and hearing from the Lord, helped him overcome his discouragement (Genesis 28:12-13). His experience with the Lord reminds us that the Lord wants us to experience His presence in our lives on a daily basis. We are also able to overcome discouragement when we believe the promises of the Lord. The Lord made Jacob some promises (Genesis 28:13-14), just like He makes promises to us. What are your favorite promises from the Lord? The Bible records over 7,400 promises for God’s people; believing and receiving those promises drives discouragement from our lives.
Third Question – “What can we learn from discouraging situations in our lives?” We learn about the Lord’s provision, about how He is always available to meet our needs just as He met Jacob’s needs (Genesis 28:14, Philippians 4:19). We learn to appreciate the Lord’s presence in our lives. We learn that He is always there for us and will never leave us nor forsake us (Genesis 28:15, Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5). We also learn about the Lord’s promises for our lives (Genesis 28:15). The Lord has good and great plans for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11). He will bring those plans to pass, just as He did in Jacob’s life and help us overcome discouragement in our lives, as we believe and live by His promises!
As you pray today: 1) Pray for the Lord to reveal His presence to you in a fresh new way; 2) Pray for the Lord to remind you of some of the special promises He has for you; and 3) Pray for the Lord to refresh you, provide for you, and carry out His purposes and plans for your life.