“God sees more than we can see, and He knows the good end to our story.” (p.19)
Like a man who refuses to take off his sunglasses—even indoors—and chooses to live in a world of darkness, a person can refuse to acknowledge the truths of Scripture and the realities of sin and thereby live in the darkness of discouragement, fear, anger, and even depression. Discouragement is real and it attacks many a Christian, when that Christian takes his eyes off the Lord. K.P. Yohannan’s little book discussing this issue has several good points, but it also seems to lack some key information as well.
While in Discouragement, Yohannan distinguishes several important sources for why a person might be discouraged (i.e. loneliness or inadequacy), he never mentions the one-word source for all discouragement: sin. Sure, he says that “our failures” might remove our motivation to keep on doing what we ought, but to an audience who has no discernment, that’s explanation is a far cry from the cold, hard truth. Sin has separated us from God. In salvation, Christ saved our souls and renewed our relationship with the Father, but sin is still a problem for the believer. Sin left unattended will quickly draw a believer into the dark alleyways of emotional disturbance, and only the acknowledgement of and repentance from that sin will allow that believer to renew his focus on the Lord Jesus and make his way back to light of joyous day. Had Yohannan focused more on the root problem of discouragement instead of its symptoms, I think his little book could have had a much larger impact.
The portion of Discouragement that I found most enlightening was his “Next steps in battling discouragement.” I list these steps here for your reference, with no explanation or comment: 1) see beyond the present problem; 2) remember it’s our privilege to suffer for Christ 3) take the time to rest in silence, waiting upon God and putting our hope in the Lord; 4) remember that one of the most powerful elements in the battle against discouragement is words; 5) pray with someone; 6) realize that God’s love for you has nothing to do with your holiness, your purity, how well you did or how badly you sinned; 7) don’t be a loner; and 8) do it all for Jesus.
The portion of Discouragement that I found most disturbing was his recommendation to a woman to repeat a mantra in Jesus’ name five times a day for 3 weeks as a method of combating discouragement. The mantra was this: “In Jesus’ name, I stand against this demonic attack. I am worth something to God, and I am made in His image. I am not going to let the Devil destroy me. I belong to Jesus. I am His child.” While affirming some of these truths is great, this whole practice and phrase is so wrought with bad theology that it’s actually more dangerous than it is helpful. In response, I call out four dangers to what Yohannan recommends.
- “In Jesus’ name” is not an “abracadabra.” In commenting on the John 14 passage where Jesus teaches His followers that “whatever you ask in My Name, that I will do,” John MacArthur states correctly that to ask in Jesus’ name literally means to pray for God’s purpose and kingdom and not for selfish reasons, to pray on the basis of Christ’s merits and not one’s own merits or worthiness, and to pray in pursuit of God’s glory alone (One Perfect Life, p.413). It’s an attitude not a phrase. To think that magically tossing Jesus’ name at life’s problems is going to have any impact at all is to step onto dangerous, extra-biblical grounds.
- Be wary of mantras. Perhaps it’s Yohannan’s Indian background that has instilled in him the idea that repeating something over and over will have any real, spiritual impact. Whatever the case, nowhere in Scripture are we told to make repetitious statements to God. In fact, Matthew 6:7 clearly teaches the opposite. Even blindly repeating The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) repetitiously is to disobey a direct command of Christ from two verses prior. Prayers are to be from the heart, for that is where the Holy Spirit dwells and that is how He chooses to communicate our needs to the Father.
- Don’t overlook the flesh. I am always wary of people blaming their problems on “the devil” and on “demonic forces.” Do these things exist and are they a danger to believers every day? Absolutely. But the vast majority of life’s troubles—especially the emotional ones—come from within, from our own sinful flesh. To blame my anger on an outside force is to flee personal accountability for the safe shores of “the devil made me do it.” What an irresponsible Church we become when we deny individual responsibility for sin and blame it on the unseen. Critics of this truth will point to Ephesians 6 and say that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against…spiritual wickedness”! But such picky exposition fails to consider the rest of Paul’s writing on the subject—namely that “in my flesh dwells no good thing” (Romans 6-8).
- “I belong to Jesus. I am His child” is just bad theology. This might seem minor, but what a skewing of the offices of the Trinity! Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God the Father. When we are taken into God’s family, we are made “joint heirs with Christ,” “the Bride of Christ,” and “children of God.” Certainly, Jesus is God, but He’s also not the Father. To mess this up is to mess up the Trinity. And again, that’s dangerous grounds.
I close with one final positive consideration that I took from Discouragement, and that is the reminder to “remember.” Throughout the Old Testament, Jews were commanded and prodded to remember the LORD and all that He had done for Israel. This constant theme is so oft repeated, that we Church-Age believers tend to overlook it and skim past the reviews of Israel’s history of being at the center of God’s mercy and grace. But what a shame! Recalling God’s faithfulness and His gifts of victory in the past is one sure way for us to regain our courage! For the believer, the history of Israel can easily be paralleled this way: God has delivered me from my slavery to sin. He has brought me across the dangerous sea of my former self. He is carrying me now across the wilderness of life, and soon He will deliver me into the true Promised Land. By recalling these major historical events in my life and by counting the individual blessings He’s given me throughout life, I can be sure to flee those dark corners of discouragement and anger and bask in the light of Jesus.