What is Discouragement? 5 Helpful Tips on How to Overcome Discouragement

What is discouragement? It is a curtain of doubt that falls on you when optimism over a certain outcome is ripped away.  

I can vividly remember situations where I felt discouragement. A season of hope that was replaced by uncertainty and confusion.

The moment my husband walked into the room after Hurricane Katrina and said, “the city is flooded and our house may be under water.”

The moment the doctor walked in and said, “there is something on the ultrasound that I don’t like.”

The moment my brother said, “Dad fell and is not doing well.”

You have probably experienced and can recollect moments of discouragement too.

We all feel discouraged sometimes. But we can turn our disheartened spirit towards hope and encouragement despite our circumstances.

You can learn how to overcome discouragement with the help of God!

 “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”

Hebrews 6:19 NLT

Flower-what is discouragement

What is Discouragement?

What is discouragement? It is a loss of confidence and enthusiasm.

The origin of the word discouraged is courage that is taken away.

What is discouragement? When our courage is taken away and replaced with an unknown and less desired feeling. Discouragement can cause fear, anxiety, confusion and sadness. It is the opposite of feeling inspired and encouraged.

Discouragement hits when we feel pretty good about a situation and something or someone rips our enthusiasm away.

We lose control. At times we are immediately discouraged and other times it creeps up on us unexpectedly.

Before my husband delivered the news that we may have lost our home after a hurricane flooded our city, I was hopeful that our home and life were untouched.

My hope was taken away and replaced with sadness, confusion and doubt. I became discouraged over our future; I lost my courage and despair threatened to replace it.

Discouragement is not one of my favorite topics to discuss or write about. I try to be optimistic; just thinking about discouragement can discourage me!

However, examining the triggers of discouragement can lead to tools that help you recover from feelings of hopelessness and learn how to overcome discouragement.

Although not all depression is linked to discouragement, repeated, unchecked discouragement can cause you to become depressed and ineffective in God’s work.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33 NLT

Understanding the condition of being discouraged, and how discouragement manifests in your spirit, helps you learn to alleviate its effects and avoid it becoming a permanent state.

You can learn how to nurture and uplift your soul.

“It is getting into the habit of nurturing those emotions and connections that give us strength and hope: two emotions overwhelmed when the tide of discouragement comes over us. Is it possible to get into a place of positivity when discouragement already sets in?

I think it may be, if you know there is a path to get onto. Some encouragement from others may help, but on one’s own, just knowing it could get better may be the first bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”  

Margaret Wehrenberg, Psy.D

flower-what is discouragementWhat Causes Discouragement

Discouragement is fed by disappointment. Disappointment is a feeling of sadness when our hopes and dreams are delayed, changed, or crushed.

In life, disappointments come often. Our expectations are not met and we are struggling with the reality of a different outcome.

We usually can juggle disappointments and move on, but sometimes what we face is too much and we slide into discouragement.

I was excited about my baby girl growing inside of me. When the doctor told me about the abnormal ultrasound, disappointment engulfed me. I was discouraged and lost belief in a positive outcome.

This is one story of what causes discouragement, but there are so many other ways we become uninspired and our courage is taken, including:

Fear, loss, lack of direction or purpose, chronic issues, lack of control, unhealthy relationships, loneliness, ingratitude, and an undefined identity.  

This is quite a heavy list that affects most people at one time or another. When a situation or person causes discouragement, it can leave us feeling lost and overwhelmed.

But discouragement does not have to define us; recognizing what causes discouragement helps us process and grow through our feelings and at times make necessary changes. We are defined by God’s love for us not our feelings.

If in the natural, things are out of our control, (which they often are) remember, things are never out of God’s control. We can’t control many situations, but we can control how we process disappointment.

 “Jesus looked at them intently and said,  “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

Mark 10:27 NLT

lady smiling-what is discouragementWhat does God say about Discouragement

When I wonder what does God say about discouragement, I am led to the Bible. The Bible is our source to gain courage when it has been depleted. It guides us to truth and helps us see that God wants us to be encouraged.

But moments of doubt and discouragement help us grow closer to God and fully appreciate and embrace the life He offers.

“Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”

Romans 15:4 NLT

When my home was destroyed, I turned to scripture. When my baby’s future was in doubt I turned to scripture. In the first instance, the outcome was disappointing, we lost our home, but God’s words were still a comfort.

In the second instance, my baby was perfect and God’s words sustained me in the waiting.

The word of God gives life and is the perfect landing space for whatever you are facing today.

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:31 NLT

How to Overcome Discouragement

Here are a couple of stories of Biblical characters that may encourage you. Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Caleb, a young man sent by Moses, both learned how to overcome discouragement through their trust in God.

What is Discouragement? 2 Examples in the Bible

How to Overcome Discouragement: Joseph

In Matthew 1, Joseph the son of Jacob from the lineage of Abraham is introduced. You can imagine his disappointment when he learned that his fiance, Mary, was pregnant.

What is discouragement? Disappointment in an expected outcome.

But instead of being overcome by rejection, betrayal, and total despair, he turned to God and received a message.   God provided clear directions to help him move forward, out of discouragement, and into a divine purpose for his life.

“Joseph’s presence at Christ’s birth witnesses to a severe test that had emerged triumphant. Mary was the pure young woman he had fallen in love with, and was about to make his wife. Yet the Child she was about to bear would not be his.

Seeing her “great with child,” without fanfare Joseph was minded to put her away. He never acted rashly with his espoused, although he was baffled by her condition. This serves for all time as an example of godly wisdom and tender consideration for others.

Bitterly disappointed that Mary had apparently betrayed him, yet believing, he made no haste. As a praying man he waited upon God, and his love for and patience with Mary were rewarded. God understood his mental difficulties and rewarded Joseph’s conscientious attitude toward Mary by revealing His redemptive plan.

God never fails those who carry their anxieties to Him. Joseph received a direct and distinct revelation from God, and at once his fears were banished, and his line of duty made clear.”

BibleGateway All the Men of the Bible

How to Overcome Discouragement: Caleb

In Numbers 13, we can learn from Caleb, the son of Jephunneh of the tribe of Judah. Caleb and 11 other men were commissioned by Moses to inspect the Promised Land of Canaan.

When they returned after scouting out the land, they were discouraged and told Moses that the people were too strong and the Israelites should not proceed into Canaan.

What is discouragement? Feeling afraid or ill-equipped to handle a situation.

Caleb was the only voice to say they could move into the land flowing with milk and honey because of his trust in God.

“Although Caleb was not an Israelite by birth, he was “an Israelite indeed.” He was one of the chief spies sent out by Moses. He was courageous and persevered when the other spies became discouraged.

He was invincible in driving out giants, completely devoted to God and vigorous in old age. Six times it is recorded of Caleb, “he hath fully followed the Lord.”

His consecration was thorough. What magnificent adverbs are used to describe Caleb. He followed faithfully, wholly, fully. He never lowered his standards, but was perpetually wholehearted. His courage was unfaltering.”

BibleGateway/ All the Men of the Bible

May these stories of encouragement inspire your spirit and serve as reminders that God is with you in the mountains and valleys of life.

It is in the valleys that you can call out to Him for comfort and be shaped to fully appreciate your mountain-top experiences.

“You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills”

Psalm 104:10 ESV

Words-what is discouragement

How Do You Overcome Discouragement

Since we are all unique as are our challenges, our answers are different to the question of how do you overcome discouragement.

After my dad fell and broke his neck, he did not recover. I thought he was going to get better. When my dad died from his injuries, the discouragement threatened to swallow me.

What is discouragement? A loss of hope that threatens to isolate and disconnect you from God and others.

But God is always faithful to hear our prayers, and I was able to recover, knowing that my dad was with Jesus. I am now able to share this story with others about how to overcome discouragement.

5 Tips to Overcome Discouragement

When we understand what is discouragement, it helps us to begin to move on and practice overcoming it.

Here are five tips I have personally used to overcome discouragement in my life, and I hope they will help you be encouraged:

  1. Acknowledge that you are discouraged. Often, we can move on from feeling disappointed, but sometimes, when our struggle is particularly tough, we get stuck. That is when discouragement sets in and we need to admit that we are having feelings of doubt. We need to admit our hurts, mistakes, or setbacks and acknowledge self-doubt. It is not a failure to examine the truth about how we are feeling.
  2. Talk about your discouragement with a trusted friend, pastor, counselor, and God, in prayer. It’s ok to cry out about how sad you are with an outcome. It is ok to process feelings of guilt. It helps us move on instead of languishing in sadness for too long.
  3. Read, watch, and listen to encouraging stories. It is powerful, spiritual medicine to read about others’ hardships and how they overcame discouragement. Studying others’ triumphs lifts you up, keeps things in perspective, and helps you persevere instead of giving up. Some of my favorite inspiring stories are from the lives of Corrie Ten Boom, Anne Frank, and C.S. Lewis.
  4. Encourage someone else. I know this is a hard one when you feel sad. But when we look at others’ needs and see that we can help, it brings a source of encouragement to us and to them. Sometimes buying someone coffee, listening to their story or a kind word can make a huge difference. Encouragement is powerful!
  5. Accept that we cannot control everything. This is hard to do, but essential to move on from situations that are not going our way. If we try to maintain control when it is not possible, we can quickly become discouraged and move toward despair. When you surrender and let go of control, it strengthens your trust in God and frees you to reclaim your courage.

I hope you are feeling encouraged today, have a better understanding of, what is discouragement, and that these tools help you find a path toward overcoming discouragement and resting in God’s hope.

I would love to hear how you have faced and overcome discouragement and any inspiring stories you would like to share!


Mary Rooney Armand

Mary is the creator and writer for the faith-based blog ButterflyLiving.org. Her writing is featured on multiple websites. She is the author of, “Identity, Understanding, and Accepting Who I Am in Christ”  and “Life Changing Stories“—a collaboration with 34 authors available on Amazon.

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Mary Rooney Armand

Mary Rooney Armand is an Author, Speaker, and Creator of the faith-based blog ButterflyLiving.org. She helps others grow in their intimacy with Christ and thrive in their relationships. Her work is featured on multiple websites including Women of Noble Character, Pray with Confidence, and The Brave Women Series. Mary is the author of, “Identity, Understanding, and Accepting Who I Am in Christ” and, “Life Changing Stories” a collaboration with 34 authors sharing stories of God’s faithfulness. Besides writing, Mary leads small groups and speaks at retreats. She directed Kids Hope USA, a mentoring program for children, worked in marketing and sales, and has led mission trips to Honduras. Mary is a life coach with a Bachelor's degree in Marketing and an MBA. She and her wonderful husband Cory live in New Orleans and are the parents of four children, a new daughter-in-law, and two dogs! Connect with Mary on Instagram or Facebook.


  1. arricahess on November 10, 2020 at 7:11 am

    Beautiful encouragement from God’s word. I feel like my discouragement usually comes from unmet expectations. I am learning just to rest in His promises and sovereignty!

  2. Julie on November 10, 2020 at 7:44 am

    So good to read this today. Feeling discouraged about a health issue. I’m just weary.

    • Mary Rooney Armand on November 17, 2020 at 5:08 pm

      Julie, thanks for reading. I pray your health issue is better and that you are feeling encouraged today.

  3. Lisa notes... on November 19, 2020 at 9:40 am

    I appreciate your tips about helping us deal with discouragement. It’s safe to assume that most of us have felt discouragement at some if not many points along the way this year! But we don’t have to stay there. Thanks for your help!

  4. Sacha on November 23, 2020 at 8:49 pm

    There will be many times when we feel discouraged, but we need to turn to God during these times! Thank you for these words!

  5. Carla on November 24, 2020 at 8:07 am

    Such an encouraging word that is so needed after a year filled with disappointment and discouragement. I love the scripture verses and Bible stories you share about encouragement. One of my other favorites is the story of Joseph in the OT. He faced so much discouragement but was able to look back on it all and say that God was always working for his good even in the midst of all of it.

  6. Rose on November 24, 2020 at 9:42 am

    “…we can turn our disheartened spirit towards hope and encouragement despite our circumstances.” Beautiful post and great tools to help with discouragement. I like that you said to acknowledge it … looking at it is an essential first step.

  7. Collene on November 24, 2020 at 11:40 am

    Love this because we do often get discouraged in this life. But by recognizing that we feel this way and talking to others about it we keep it from bringing us down. We can lean on God in those moments as He encourages us!

  8. Pam Morrison on November 24, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Such a helpful post. Discouragement is real and we should acknowledge and feel our real feelings, but then let God help us to rise above and move forward.

  9. Yvonne Morgan on November 24, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    I love how you shared the encouragement you found during such difficult times in your life. Discouragement can get us off track from our faith. We find disappointment in the world but in God we find eternal hope.

    • Mary Rooney Armand on November 25, 2020 at 11:09 am

      Yvonne, thank you and I am so thankful for that eternal hope as well!

  10. Married to a Pastor.Com and GodsyGirl.Com on November 25, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    This is terrific encouragement and references to ACTUAL people in the Bible who had rough times. I appreciate that. Very thought-out. I’m sharing on my Facebook timeline. I know this time of year a lot of people are struggling with disappointment and discouragement.

  11. Kristie on November 25, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    Nice one. May God give us the grace to recognize discouragement quickly and overcome it.

    • Teresa on November 26, 2020 at 11:06 pm

      Beautiful post on overcoming discouragement! Loved the 5 tips on how to win that battle! Very timely post during this time of year. Thank you for sharing! Blessings! 💗

  12. ChristineWood on November 25, 2020 at 6:57 pm

    This is such an important word for us in the current difficult times in our world. God is sovereign and in control, and we can trust Him with whatever circumstances we face. Thank you for your biblical insight and wisdom.

  13. Ester/Onething.blog on November 28, 2020 at 1:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing this great insight into what discouragement actually is and how we can deal with it. For me, the greatest challenge is to admit, when I am discouraged. But once done, then turning to others to talk through it and also remember those times that God came through for me do help a lot! Great post!

  14. kariminter on November 29, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    I have definitely found myself discouraged more this year than normal! I recently made a plan to start volunteering at a shelter once a week to help me keep my eyes off my discouragement and see instead God’s provision. Such an encouraging post. Thank you!

  15. Rachel Mayew on November 29, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    All such good encouragement! Your tip to acknowledge our discouragement really resonates with me. Acknowledging how we feel first in our own heart, and then in prayer to God are necessary but often overlooked steps in healing and overcoming. I really believe that we cannot release what we haven’t held, meaning we have to do a little examining of our heart before we can really begin to heal. Thanks for this reminder to keep taking everything to God. It’s our best line of defense against discouragement!

  16. Summer on November 29, 2020 at 9:18 pm

    “…unchecked discouragement can cause us to become depressed and ineffective for God’s work.” I’ve had this happen before! Allowing discouragement to take over really hal!ts our ministry. Thanks for this thoroughly encouraging post!

  17. Evangeline Samuel on November 30, 2020 at 4:04 am

    I loved the quote from Oswald Chambers. It is so beautiful how God brings beauty from ashes and restores what was previously broken.

  18. Sandra on November 30, 2020 at 10:03 am

    Discouragement can be so draining and unfortunately the effects can stay with us forever. We do need to actively overcome it.

  19. Heather Gillis on November 30, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    So many good tips on how not to let discourage overwhelm you. Love what you said about discouragement is fed by disappointment so true. And all of your definitions and examples of Scripture how to use it to seek hope instead of focusing on our circumstances.

  20. Donna Miller on December 3, 2020 at 3:19 am

    Mary what incredibly beautiful encouragement sweet friend. I have felt the spiraling pain of discouragement and depression. There is something Jesus wants us to really hear when He said “Take Heart”. I want to pursue that more after reading this. Your writing is always encouraging and inspiring to me my friend! Blessings …

    • Mary Rooney Armand on December 5, 2020 at 9:16 am

      Donna, so thankful this inspired you. It is so easy to fall under the fog of discouragement but God always can bring hope! Thanks for reading and your encouragement!

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  37. Mary Jones on October 20, 2022 at 3:07 pm

    Mary Jones.
    October 20 2023
    Thank you for your points on moving from discourage to encourage. I experience a couple of disappointing events this year and I did not realize the feeling I was having was discouragements. Your article help me to trust God totally.

    • Mary Rooney Armand on October 25, 2022 at 1:35 pm

      I am happy to hear God used my words to increase your trust in Him! Blessings for continued strength and encouragement!

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