Dealing with doubt, depression and discouragement?
By Larry Kreider
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
Why do some Christians fall into deception and choose destructive paths?
Deception, according to God’s Word, does not happen unexpectedly but is related to twelve subtle steps the devil tries to trick believers into taking in order to destroy us. I call these the “twelve Ds of the devil.” This teaching is based on the scripture found in Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Bitterness is resentment or anger that lingers from injustices that happen to us. According to the Bible, if we do not eradicate a small root of bitterness, it will develop strength and tenacity that grows into a large root that not only destroys us but also entangles those around us.
Whenever someone angers or disappoints us, we should immediately forgive and receive the grace of God for the situation so that we do not allow a small root of bitterness to spring up in our lives. In our own strength, we may feel helpless to forgive, but remember the grace of God—His free, unmerited favor—is active in our lives, and this grace empowers us to forgive quickly. If we do not forgive, the 12 Ds begin a progressive infiltration into our lives. Disappointment is the first “D of the devil.”
Disappointments come from unmet expectations. These could be expectations of what we believe God should do for us, or expectations we have of our spouse, our church, our children, friends, Christian leaders, or even of ourselves. The list goes on and on, but it all starts with the disappointment of unmet expectations.
Proverbs 13:12 describes the pain of unfulfilled expectations: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Like the writer of this proverb, many believers experience the pain of longing for something that seems unattainable. One of the main hindrances to living a victorious Christian life happens when our wants and needs—our expectations—are threatened.
When we experience the disappointment of unmet expectations from a person, we are tempted to get revenge or at least expect an apology. Unmet expectations initially cause disappointment but can quickly expand into anger, hurt, helplessness, and even low self-esteem.
At some time in our lives, we all experience unmet expectations that seem to choke the life from us—a wife who expects a loving husband but gets an inconsiderate spouse, the hard-working employee who is overlooked for a promotion, a spiritual leader who doesn’t see God working the way he believes God promised, the death of a loved one… It’s what we do with our hurt that makes all the difference in our future.
We should forgive those who have hurt us because the Lord has forgiven us (Matthew 6:14-15). Forgiving does not mean that what the person did was right—it may have been absolutely sinful. We must make a decision to forgive even when we do not feel like doing it. Forgiveness is a choice we make, not an emotion we feel. Healthy emotions will follow when we make right decisions. Forgiveness releases both parties to experience the Lord’s intervention.
If we forgive and apply the grace of God to our lives, we will receive grace from the Lord and find our steps (or stages) to freedom. If we do not forgive, we will experience a progression to the second D of the devil: discontentment.
When we enter this stage, the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence. We stop seeing the positive in our lives and envy the lives of others. Our confidence in God wavers. When we enter into negativity, we find it much harder to trust God and even others.
I Timothy 6:6 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” If we apply the Word of God to our lives, receive God’s grace and walk in freedom in Christ, and forgive, we get a fresh start. If not, we will experience stage three of the progressive 12 D steps: discouragement.
We wake up dreading the day ahead. Our view of life goes from full color to black and white. We feel like staying in bed with the covers pulled over our heads. We feel the first stages of depression coming on.
Our motivation for life seems to be draining away. Things we enjoyed in the past lose their zeal and passion. If we deal with the root of our problem, we will discover the truth of Isaiah 40:31. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”
If we do not face the truth of our bitterness, we will soon enter into stage four of the 12 Ds of the devil: doubt.
This is the danger zone spiritually. It is in this stage that we become cynical and question biblical teachings that had been completely settled in our hearts in the past. Sometimes we are shocked by our doubts but feel helpless to stop them. Our spiraling circumstances seem to enforce our doubts.
James 1:6 explains our emotional state at this stage: “He who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.”
Again, things that were completely settled in our hearts are now being questioned. The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Doubt begins to open the door to the next step: disbelief, which is the exact opposite of faith. If we do not forgive and receive the grace of God, we will soon experience stage five of the 12 Ds of the devil: disbelief.
Disbelief, or unbelief, is the final form of doubt. We have trouble believing those who represent God and the scriptures. Hebrews 3:12 tells us, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”
Some modern-day cults have been started by former Bible-believing Christians who have fallen into the trap of these five steps and ended up in disbelief. These cults deceive millions because it started with a leader who experienced some type of disappointment that grew through these stages until the person or persons who were disappointed initially became deceived and went on to deceive many others. Even theological seminaries are infiltrated with unbelief stemming from professors who are bitter from former unresolved issues. These same seminaries that were founded on the truth of the Scriptures are now producing church leaders who no longer believe in the authority of the Scriptures, the virgin birth, or even the deity of Christ. Unbelief strips the church of its power.
Again, if we apply the word of God to our lives, walk in freedom in Christ, and forgive, we get a fresh start. If not, we will soon experience stage six of the 12 Ds: disillusionment.
During this stage we want to quit. It may be a marriage, or a ministry we had believed the Lord had called us to do. Or it may have to do with church, occupation, or family involvement.
Psalm 31:12 tells us how we may feel when we experience this stage: “I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel.”
We have lost our God-given vision. We feel like we are in a dark hole. And unless we take steps to find freedom, we will be set up for stage number seven of the 12 Ds: deception.
When we enter the stage of deception, we believe lies about ourselves and about others. Those who are deceived often do not realize they are deceived. Deception almost always has roots from an unmet expectation, perhaps from years earlier.
The seed of deception sprouts, roots, and grows until it becomes a large plant and sets us up for the next stage. Galatians 6:7 tells us clearly, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. Whatever a man sows he will also reap.”
This is not the end. There are still five more stages to go. Unless we get ahold of the root of our problem, which in most cases takes us back to stage one, we will soon enter stage eight of the 12 Ds: disobedience.
When we live with bitterness (Hebrews 12:15), we are in disobedience to the Scriptures. That is sin. Disobedience and bitterness open the door for the devil to eventually destroy us.
Ephesians 2:2 speaks of “the spirit (the prince and power of the air) who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Many who live in disobedience think they are living an accomplished upright life, because they are following human reasoning and teachings that affirm people’s rights to be angry when mistreated. But these teachings contradict the Word of the living God.
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and destruction, which is the final stage of the devil’s plan for our lives. Again, unless we take steps to find freedom, we will be set up to experience the next stage of the 12 Ds: discord.
When we are no longer living by the Word of God or being directed by the Holy Spirit, we will have major areas of discord in our lives. Again and again, the plots of Hollywood movies center on discord between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters.
In this stage, there will be major people issues, broken relationships, and more. Often our bitterness at unmet expectations and disappointment are so buried within our emotions that we no longer connect our initial bitterness with our current issues. Romans 16:17 says, ”watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”
But there is good news: As long as there is life, there is hope. We can always go back to stage one: forgive and receive a fresh start. If we do not, we are headed for stage number ten of the 12 Ds: dysfunction.
Dysfunction takes on many forms. Ironically, we can be entirely functional in one area of life but completely dysfunctional in another. Those who get to this stage may find dysfunction in their personal lives, their marriages, their places of employment, or in areas of ministry. Most dysfunction in the workplace comes from individuals who are dysfunctional. When we are dysfunctional, confusion abounds and causes miscommunication.
The scripture says in Romans 3:12, “They have all turned away and are worthless. There isn’t one person who does right.” Complete dysfunction. We can find ourselves going through the motions while looking for a way out, but if left unchecked, this will usher us into the eleventh stage of the 12 Ds: despair.
When we enter into the stage of despair, we lose all hope and often experience deep depression. Some people at this stage have thoughts of suicide. Psalm 69:20 explains what despair feels like; “Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me.”
The call and destiny of God that is on our life is completely detoured. We are desperately off track and will continue to be so unless we make a decision to forgive and receive grace to deal with our unmet expectations and disappointments.
Again, as long as there is life, there is hope. Within each of our lives, God often places detour signs that point us back to his path. But for those who do not follow these detour signs to freedom, our lot will be the final stage of the devil’s plan for our lives: destruction.
A story in the Old Testament (2 Kings 6) gives us some insight. A man was cutting down a tree by the river when his iron ax-head fell into the water. An ax-head was a very expensive tool, and the man desperately wanted to retrieve it because it was borrowed. He went to Elisha, a man of God, for help. Elisha asked where he had last seen it fall, threw a stick in the water, and it miraculously floated to the surface (2 Kings 6:1-6)! At the same place that it was lost, the ax-head reappeared! We can learn an important lesson from this. We can go back to the initial disappointment and receive grace to forgive and start again. This is the place where the ax-head has fallen. There is still hope. You can receive grace to deal with the unmet expectations and disappointment. God’s grace is amazing! As long as there is life there is hope–again, there are detour signs all over the place pointing you back to the main road.
The call and destiny of God on our lives may be completely detoured. But there is much hope! Go back to where the ax-head fell and receive grace and offer forgiveness. Those who do not receive God’s grace to deal with unmet expectations and disappointments will enter the final stage of the devil’s plan: destruction.
This is the place where our God-given vision and our destiny are completely destroyed. This is the devil’s ultimate plan—destruction by physical, emotional, and spiritual death. In most cases, those whose lives, dreams, and ministries have been destroyed by the devil have walked through these twelve stages that were strategically laid out for them by the enemy. The sad truth is, they could have gotten off the path of the enemy’s plan at any time and received grace and freedom to go on and fulfill their God-given destiny.
Recognizing, renouncing, and resisting the “twelve Ds of the devil” is critical in the life of every believer. The devil comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but Jesus came to give us life abundantly (John 10:10)
Always remember the promise of Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” We serve a God who loves to redeem, restore, renew, and reclaim. He will take everything we have been through and use it for good to fulfill His purposes. Remember, He is God. He can do that!
James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” Sometimes the person who disappoints us the most is ourselves. We must forgive ourselves and receive grace from God to move ahead.
Again, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Let’s live life to the fullest today, and refuse to fall for the 12 Ds of the devil.
About Larry Kreider
Larry has spent the past four decades training leaders to make disciples with the small group concept. He serves as the international director of DOVE International, a worldwide network of over 1,000 churches in twenty-six nations. Larry has written more than forty books and travels extensively, teaching and imparting practical discipleship to leaders globally. Read about Larry or catch up on Larry’s blog.