Leadership Lessons on How to Recognize Discouragement

Encouragement for Pastors
Leadership Development
Spiritual Encouragement

Leadership Lessons: Identifying Discouragement and Solutions to Move Forward

Leadership Lessons on How to Recognize Discouragement

The first step in dealing with difficult situations, relationship troubles, and life challenges, is to recognize discouragement. It is important to recognize when we ourselves are feeling down and when those we lead feel that way. Otherwise, when gone unattended, discouragement festers and leads to much bigger soul problems. Let’s take a look at the forty-second chapter of Psalm to see if we can better identify symptoms of discouragement.

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

Symptoms of Discouragement:

  • Emotional depletion –

Are you drained of energy and nothing seems hopeful or appealing? Verse five of Psalm forty-two describes it as being “cast down.” Can you hear the energy sapping tone to that phrase? Cast down is about melting away and being in turmoil. Notice that we feel this in our “soul.” In the deep inner regions of our life we think and feel that there isn’t any hope and we don’t have any strength. In verse three he says, “My tears have been my food day and night…” He is discouraged to the point of crying easily and frequently.

  • Negative thinking –

Negative thinking is when we find that our thoughts are negative and nothing looks good to us. People tell us to look on the bright side, but we can’t see one and it bugs us that they think there is one. We can only see the down side of everything. There’s a problem in every opportunity. Now some of us are more wired that way, we are “yeah but” analyzers. Some of us say, “here’s why that won’t work, here’s the problems I see, here’s what needs to change, now don’t get your hopes up because it probably isn’t going to work anyway…” Some of you are wondering if you are like that. Well, I know people like that. My wife is reading this thinking, “What do you mean know them? You are people like that.”

It’s possible for any of us to slide into a chronic low-grade discouragement that just doesn’t go away. It sucks life out of us and those around us. We’re downcast and disturbed.

  • Feeling overwhelmed –

Verse seven expresses, “all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.” Trouble had come over him like one wave after another. He had been overwhelmed as if by a flood. He felt like he was drowning in all that was going on.

  • Sadness –

Verse eleven, the last phrase of the Psalm says, “For I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

One translation is, “I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”

God has to help my countenance (the way I look) because discouragement shows on my face. People can read it. They just look at me and they know, “He’s down,” or, “She’s down.” My body language says, “I’m discouraged.” When we’re low, our heads are down, our shoulders droop, and our eyes look at the ground or stare blankly at something. When we’re feeling down, we’re easy to spot and people think, “Here comes discouragement.”

And you don’t want to be around people, especially laughing or happy people, because they bug you. So you withdraw, and when others see “discouragement walking over” they sort of find someone else to talk to or another way to go.

Leadership Lessons Takeaway:

Really, just talking about this is kind of depressing, isn’t it? But life is full of difficult times and none of us are exempt from discouragement. When we can identify the above symptoms of discouragement in ourselves, that means we need to offer our hurts to God, we need to confide in our trusted confidants, and we need to self-talk with positive thoughts. If we see others displaying these symptoms, we need to come alongside them acknowledging their struggles and offering encouragement. Being aware of discouragement in ourselves and others enables healing and growth.

If you’re a church leader, pastor, or the leader of a non-profit organization, are you looking for leadership training or team development help? Thanks to the backing of a generous foundation, LifeEquip is able to offer leadership and organizational training at highly reduced rates to meet the needs of smaller organizations. Some LifeEquip services include pastoral coaching, OLA, Everything DiSC, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, and Lead Like Jesus.


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Glenn C. StewartPastor & Church Coach
Glenn C. Stewart has forty years of experience leading churches, planting a church, and developing leaders. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology and leadership at the Orlando campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University, and as the chairman of the board of a Christian college and seminary. Along with his degrees in Bible and theology he has a master’s degree in organizational leadership. Glenn has a heart for serving pastors and being a spiritual mentor.


Glenn C. Stewart
Glenn C. StewartChurch & Pastor Coach

Authorship Credentials:

  • Adjunct Professor of Theology and Leadership
  • Certified as a Human Behavior Consultant
  • Authorized Wiley Everything DiSC© Partner
  • Organizational Leadership Assessment (OLA) Partner
  • Certified Facilitator of Ken Blanchard’s Lead Like Jesus Encounter Groups
  • Certified Facilitator of CPP Personality, Career, and Organizational Development Assessments
  • International Speaker and Trainer


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Connect, Lead, Equip: Community Outreach Support: How to be Optimistic - In Good to Great, Jim Collins wrote about Vietnam War prisoner, Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was tortured over 20 times during his eight-year captivity in the prisoner-of-war camp and had no guarantee as to whether he would survive.

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