The Background

So back in the late summer of 2016 I was coming out of a rather heavy bought of depression. Some deeply personal things had gone on in our family. These things had managed to sink me down into a place of despair. I felt like David in many ways. I wish that I could say I responded as well as David. Moreover, I wish that I wept before the Lord so bitterly that my bed was soaked with tears. Instead I was bitter and angry; nearly suicidal. This is where discouraging encouragement comes in to play.

I realized that I had to find a way to be lifted out of the depths of shadows that had surrounded me. As I looked around me I could see the detrimental effects of my spiritual bleakness impacting my family. I repeatedly asked myself what I needed. Most often I would not answer my own inquiries. Yet, in a desire to remain in my bleakness I began discouraging encouragement from those who tried.

I grew even more burdened. There were several days where I was quite sure that I would not see the next day. The darkness had become my friend and discouraging encouragement had become my constant response. I was slowly cutting all the people who tried to lift me up, out of my life.

Furthermore, I was running away from the Gospel. Despite being a believer, I was resisting the Good News because I wanted to stay in the darkness. I had come to embrace the darkness of my depression because it felt better than living in the light. Additionally, the more people tried to reach me the more I tried discouraging encouragement.

However, the discouraging encouragement I am talking about now isn’t the topic I want to address.

The Gospel Solution

As much as I embraced the darkness of my depression I hated it as well. It left me feeling incredibly soiled. The worst of it was the reality that as it got to its darkest point I was not sure I was a Christian.

I struggled with wanting to die and having a terrifying sense that if I did I would face God’s wrath. I was left in a constant state of internal turmoil. Something needed to change and change quickly.

About this time several friends on Facebook began to talk about their struggles. Many of them were battling the same depression I was in. I was reminded of Spurgeon’s struggle with that dark beast. People were talking about Martin Lloyd Jones and his writings on spiritual depression.

Then the conversation shifted. Soon talk about the Gospel being brought to bear on depression sprang up. In addition, people stopped talking about depression as if it were sin.

For years I had been told that depression was a sin. Not just a product of sin, but a deeply rooted sin. Furthermore, any person caught in the throes of such a deeply rooted sin could have no confidence in their salvation.

“…Preach the Gospel to yourself, even if no one else is…” This wasn’t coming from some cliched Neo-Reformed upstarts. I was hearing it from solid Christians all over the country. “Preach the Gospel…!”

I was finding myself surrounded by people who understood what the darkness felt like. Moreover, I was hearing elders and pastors around the country confess that they were woefully ill-equipped to help. Up to this point all I knew was I could take medications or be in sin. That was changing before my eyes.

Then I heard something that I had never considered when facing my depression. “Preach the Gospel to yourself, even if no one else is…” This wasn’t coming from some cliched Neo-Reformed upstarts. I was hearing it from solid Christians all over the country. “Preach the Gospel…!”

Discouraging Encouragement: Can We Get To The Point?

My biggest issue was that I had no idea what it meant to preach the Gospel to myself. I was caught in this quandary where I wanted to be better but wasn’t sure how to go about it. God moved again and put videos, (many of them on Facebook Live), of street evangelist in front of me. I didn’t search them out, not by a long shot.

I had been absent from street ministry for years. Some of it for good reasons, some of it out of laziness. Yet, I noticed something as I watched these videos, the preaching of the Gospel in hard places encouraged my soul.

I determined to head out and hit the streets again. I knew I was going to be out alone. This was daunting to me. I had spent so much time discouraging encouragement from others I was certain that no one would want to go along.

I was a nervous wreck. Furthermore, I felt sinfully disqualified. The longer I descended into the darkness the worse my sin took hold.

I didn’t want to stand on the street in front of a bar or anywhere else and call people to repentance. I felt like a hypocrite. Yet I knew I needed to go.

Therefore, I set a date in my mind and resolutely determined to go. I reached out to a few of my like-minded Facebook friends and asked for prayer. I announced my plans, and off I went. Terrified in ways I had never felt before…

So Where Does Discouraging Encouragement Come In?

On that first foray out into the world I headed for the small city of Albert Lea Minnesota. Albert Lea was the home of the church I was in at the time. The drive would last about an hour for me, so I filled the time with two things.

The first was a phone call and prayer with my dear brother George Alvarado. George and I met through Facebook and have a shared passion for the public advancement of the Gospel. Furthermore, George and I share many of the same views on what passes for evangelism today.

Please look for and read George’s book! It is challenging and convicting…

That call was magnificent. It was the most soul stirring and encouraging conversation I had had in months. When George and I ended the call, I decided to go live on Facebook and talk about my first evangelistic endeavor in Albert Lea. I believed it best for me to confess that I was a trembling mess of a man.

I began to explain my reasons for my trepidation. There was much doubt in my mind about my ability to start a spiritual conversation. I doubted my ability to reason or give a defense for the hope that was within me. I doubted anyone would listen.

Over and over as I spoke in this video my fears assailed me. Worse yet I began to feel guilty for those fears. I came very close to turning around and heading home, ready to resign myself to ineffectiveness. The glorious conversation with George began to slip from my view. Now I was discouraging encouragement in myself.

However, it wasn’t long before the comments started to come in on my video. Some said they were praying for me. Others said they were encouraged by my boldness.

But for one. There is always one isn’t there…?

The Destructive Power Of Words

A dear brother in Christ that I have long respected popped up in the comment section of the video. I know that his intent was to provoke my obedience to the Great Commission. Nevertheless, the comments were not encouraging in the least.

Soon I was confronted with my fear. I was told that my feelings and doubts were the result of pride. Furthermore, as the encouragement went on I learned about my fear of man. This attempt to inspire me became the most discouraging encouragement I had ever experienced.

Moreover, I was shattered, guilt stricken I had overlooked the sinful pride that was making me react that way. I wasn’t inspired, I was wrecked. Weighed down by a burden, needing to kill my sinful fear of man, I set out for my first location. My feet, instead of being light, felt nailed to the ground in guilt.

There is no way that this brother could know what it was he had accomplished that night. In my perspective, he sat in his ivory tower hundreds and hundreds of miles away, laying down rebukes that sapped my energy. Still I went on, out of fear that failing to do so would prove my wretchedness.

I had just suffered the most discouraging encouragement I could think of…

How Not To Communicate

My simple counsel to you as you read this? Be quite careful with the way you choose to encourage people. Is there never a good time to rebuke or reprove a brother or sister in Christ? Of course, there is. Moreover, we often need those rebukes when we least want to hear them.

Yet, sometimes we rebuke too readily, and the rebuke is misdirected. Furthermore, instead of hitting sin it puts out a smoldering flax and breaks a bruised reed.  Our Savior wants us molded and shaped into His image. This does not always mean we need a rebuke. Often it means that we are to double our efforts in understanding what our fellow believers are going through. Together we can face those trying times and overcome them in Christ.

Don’t let your words of inspiration turn into words discouraging encouragement. Live with one another in understanding and forbearance.

For those of you who face the dark beast of depression, you aren’t alone. There are many of us out there. Sadly, many elders/pastors and street evangelists struggle against the beast. Some even lose that fight. If you believe you have nowhere to turn, turn to me, I will understand. I will not accept discouraging encouragement because I know how destructive it can be. Don’t drive people away.

If you need help and don’t know where to look, reach out to me. If you have ever been hurting and I made your pain worse, reach out to me. Furthermore, if nothing else listen to my words in this article, they are meant to encourage.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd