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While we are not facing fortified Canaanite cities, or giants with javelins, or councils with crosses, we face a number of things in life that tempt us to lose courage.

One morning recently, discouragement settled over me like a thick, grey fog. I didn’t even recognize what it was at first. I just felt fear creeping over me that all my hope in God would end up disappointed.

Read more: Strengthen your weak knees

A famous biblical example of discouragement is when the twelve spies returned after scoping out the Promised Land. They reported the land indeed “[flowed] with milk and honey,” but the inhabitants were “strong,” some were giants, and the cities “fortified and very large” (Numbers 13:27–28). Ten of the twelve spies said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:31). This so discouraged the people that they refused to trust in God’s promises and power. As a result, they wandered in the wilderness forty more years. Only Joshua and Caleb, the two faithful spies, lived to see those fears defeated.

 

Discouragement often feels circumstantially determined, something we can’t help feeling because powerful forces beyond our control are causing it. That’s why our response to discouragement is often passive — we sit, weighed down with a heavy spiritual listlessness looking at the world through the grey, bleak lenses of fear.

Yes, discouragement is a species of fear. It is a loss of courage. We don’t always recognize discouragement as fear because it can feel like hopelessness with a side of cynicism. We might even call it depression because we have an accumulation of fears that are intermingled and seem somewhat undefined. And, of course, if we’re discouraged, we feel depressed. We feel like giving up.