DISCOURAGEMENT may take many forms. For one person, it could come as a result of not being able to find a job. Perhaps in another case, an intractable family problem troubles us. Whatever the form discouragement takes, it will yield most readily if it is counteracted firmly and consistently through prayer.
In one sense, prayer is our best weapon because it wipes out discouragement's chief argument against happiness, which is the belief that good is absent and specifically that the good we feel we desperately need is unattainable. Since God, good, is ever present, the moment we begin to pray, we are reminding ourselves of this spiritual fact and leaving discouragement without a leg to stand on. Prayer, which brings our thoughts into accord with God, divine Mind, immediately has an effect. Even if we don't at first see a change in our circumstances, turning to God, the source of all power, is never in vain.
Here is an example from the Bible that shows how God's power sustains us and lifts us out of seemingly hopeless situations. As a young man, Joseph was sold into slavery in a foreign country. Although he worked faithfully for his master, he was falsely accused of wrongdoing and was put into prison.
Even in prison, he was not discouraged. Instead of becoming bitter, Joseph continued to trust God and to behave with integrity. His honesty was so evident that the book of Genesis tells us, "The Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper" (39:23).
Joseph's constant reliance on God kept him from becoming discouraged and also enabled him to act wisely. This wisdom was noticed, and Joseph eventually rose to become Pharaoh's chief officer. In addition, he was reunited with his family and was able to bring much good into their lives. So his reliance on God did indeed have a practical result.
The life of Christ Jesus gives us an even more vivid example. Think of how discouraging it must have been to be hated for doing good and eventually to be betrayed and crucified! Yet Jesus' whole life had prepared him for this moment. His understanding of God and of man's spirituality had enabled him to heal people of sin and disease and even to bring them back from the jaws of death. This demonstrated knowledge of man's inseparability from his Maker surely sustained him and led to his resurrection from the tomb.
As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says of Jesus in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "His three days' work in the sepulchre set the seal of eternity on time. He proved Life to be deathless and Love to be the master of hate" (p. 44).
We, too, can follow Jesus' example and expect prayer to help us through whatever trials we may be facing. We can begin by recognizing that each of us is the spiritual idea of God, not a matter-based being weighed down by material circumstances. And we can diligently reject thoughts that would deny our spirituality and accept only those that come from God, divine Love.
For example, hateful, angry, vengeful, jealous thoughts keep us locked up in a "tomb" of discouragement. Clinging to such mortal elements at the same time that we are praying to God for help will blind us to the inspired answers we can expect to receive from Him. Instead, let's embrace our spiritual nature, which includes love, goodness, purity, intelligence, patience, and joy. These define our true nature, and God's power enables us to choose the good He has given us. Gratitude for even the smallest good thing in our lives does much to help us remember God, the source of all good, and to recognize His presence.
Few people would say that overcoming discouragement is always easy. But the more quickly we turn to God in prayer when we feel even slightly disheartened, the more readily we will throw off this burden and perceive the joy of God's love, which is always with us.