Gospel Hope for the Discouraged Soul: An Interview with Jason Meyer
In a world surrounded by 24-hour news and reminders on social media of tragedy and heartache, it’s easy to fall into the abyss of discouragement and anxiety. Even Jesus followers struggle to hold on to hope. What is the hopeful guidance from God’s Word for times when you feel overwhelmed, defeated, and worthless? How can the Bible help you conquer despair when the past paralyzes, today disappoints, and the future is frightening?
Bible Gateway interviewed Jason Meyer (@WePreachChrist) about his book, Don’t Lose Heart: Gospel Hope for the Discouraged Soul (Baker Books, 2019).
What do you mean “discouragement is a liar”?
Jason Meyer: Discouragement is a sophisticated lie because it comes clothed in a half-truth. Discouragement gets only half of reality right. It reminds us of all that is against us. And that is true. A fallen world is full of real reasons to lose heart. The Bible recognizes this reality. It was natural for Elisha’s servant to lose heart when he saw that the Syrian army was surrounding them. But Elisha prayed that his servant would see the full truth, not the half-truth. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16). We lose heart when we believe the lie that all that is against us is greater than the one who is for us. We lose heart when we lose sight of all we have in Christ. There are real reasons to lose heart, but the reasons to take heart are always greater.
This is the way the Bible speaks to discouragement again and again and again. It doesn’t pretend that the problems are not there; it simply declares that there’s more to see. We can take heart when we see the bigger picture.
What is the story that helped you visualize Hebrews 12:2?
Jason Meyer: The introduction of the book discusses the story of Ben Comen. He ran cross-country in high school, but he always finished last. Ben had cerebral palsy so he’d trip and fall; he didn’t lift his feet high enough when he ran. And he’d fall hard because his brain did not send signals to his body fast enough to put his arms underneath him to break his fall. He’d finish the race bruised and bloodied, but he always finished. People would be weeping in the stands as they watched him keep getting up after falling.
Other team members and even members of the opposing team would finish the race, but then go back and run with him to make sure he finished. This is a picture of the plural of Hebrews 12:2—“Let us run with endurance the race set before us” (my emphasis). We’re not meant to run the race alone and we’re not meant to fight discouragement alone.
What does visiting an optometrist have to do with the subject of discouragement?
Jason Meyer: This book is like a trip to the optometrist. Discouragement keeps testing our vision. The battle against discouragement is really a fight for sight. The Bible calls us to stop staring at how big our problems are and start gazing at how much greater our God is.
When confronted by the greatness of the Babylonian army, God calls his people to resize the situation in light of his greatness. The nations are like dust on the scales or a drop in the bucket compared to him (Isaiah 40:15). He holds the waters in the hollow of hand (Isaiah 40:12). He can pick up the mountains and weighs them on the scales the way we weigh a bunch of bananas at the grocery store (Isaiah 40:12).
How is discouragement a form of identity theft?
Jason Meyer: Many Christians struggle with an identity deficiency because they lose sight of the cross, with the result that their sin seems bigger than their savior. Therefore, discouragement is a form of identity theft. We don’t achieve our identity in Christ; we receive it because it was purchased for us at the cross. However, when our sin becomes bigger than the cross, our sin becomes our identity.
Let’s get really practical. As a Christian, you’re not living for an identity but from an identity. For example, when you’re fighting the sin of anger, you allow it to become your identity when you say, “I’m an angry person.” In contrast, you testify to your true identity when you say, “I’m a child of God in Christ who sometimes struggles with anger.” Those two statements are similar but stunningly different in their understanding of the cross of Christ.
Identity theft happens when we lose sight of all that we already have in Christ. We must remember that God doesn’t remember our sins anymore (Isaiah 43:25). We must not forget that God doesn’t forget us (Isaiah 49:15).
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Jason Meyer: Isaiah 40 is one of my favorite passages because it constantly forces me to test my vision and make God my vision. God pulls out all the stops to encourage his people by saturating that chapter with many God-sized images to help us in our fight for sight. He helps our unbelief by confronting us with all that he is for us. In the battle against discouragement, we don’t just need a vision from God, but a vision of God.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Jason Meyer: Bible Gateway is one of the best sites on the internet for all things Bible. It’s a mighty weapon in the Lord’s hand because the Word of God does not return empty. The Word of God always accomplishes the purpose of God (Isaiah 55:11). Bible Gateway helps us become what the famous Baptist preacher, C. H. Spurgeon said about the famous Puritan preacher, John Bunyan. Spurgeon said that if you pricked Bunyan anywhere with a pin-prick, he’d bleed Bible. O how I pray the same could be said of every Christian.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Jason Meyer: I can imagine people reading this interview who are overwhelmed. What would I say directly to them if I were sitting across from them? I’d say “don’t lose heart because God is not done.”
If we saw a stadium in the early stages of being built when it’s just a big hole in the ground, we’d doubt the architect’s design if we thought the work was done. In the same way, we have to remember that we can’t judge our Father’s design for your life because it’s not finished yet. He’s not done.
We see this same point time and time again as we read the Bible. God wasn’t done when Joseph was in prison, when Jeremiah was in the pit, or when Jonah was in the fish. He wasn’t done when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were in the fire, and when Daniel was in the lion’s den. He wasn’t done when Pharaoh was oppressing the Israelites, when Haman was plotting against Mordecai, when Herod was killing infants, and when Saul was persecuting Christians. He wasn’t done when Sarah’s womb was barren, when Ruth was a widow, and when the virgin Mary was told she would bear a son. He was not done when Naaman had leprosy, when Bartimaeus was blind, and when Lazarus was dead. He was not done when Noah built an ark, when Aaron made a golden calf, and when David took a census. He was not done when Goliath taunted the armies of Israel, when Jezebel killed the prophets of Israel, and when the Babylonians destroyed the temple of Israel.
And don’t forget that he wasn’t done when Jesus was rejected by his hometown, betrayed by Judas, deserted by his disciples, denied by Peter, tried by the Sanhedrin, condemned by Pilate, mocked by the soldiers, nailed to the cross, and buried in Joseph’s tomb.
The tomb is empty. Our Savior is risen. Our God is working all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). What more evidence do you need? God isn’t done with you. It doesn’t matter where you are or where you’ve been—God is not done so we do not lose heart.
Bio: Jason C. Meyer (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church and associate professor of New Testament at Bethlehem College and Seminary. He is the author of Don’t Lose Heart: Gospel Hope for the Discouraged Soul, Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life, Preaching: A Biblical Theology, and a commentary on Philippians in the ESV Expository Commentary series.
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