Whether discouragement and depression are the very essence of the battle, or whether they are a by-product of losses in some other battle, these struggles are real. They are not imagined or made up. It would not take long to come up with a lengthy list of Bible characters who fought with discouragement. This is one of the strategies - powerful and potentially crippling - that the devil uses to derail believers in their Christian walk.
"Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (I Peter 5:8). The battle is real, because the adversary is real. Satan is actively on the alert, looking for those whom he can trip up. In fact, his intent is much more malicious than that. His goal is to devour - to completely destroy.
"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus told Peter of a specific battle that Satan was waging against him. The intent was not for Peter merely to make a mistake or a poor decision. Satan's goal was much more sadistic. The content of Jesus' prayer reveals Satan's motive, which was that Peter's faith would fail. Satan wanted Peter to lose it all.
This is how God describes "the schemes of the devil." He says that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:11-12). This description is not of some puny, weak attack that has no backbone. Instead, it describes something powerful, controlling, heavy, and oppressive. Anyone who has struggled with intense discouragement would give assent to those descriptions. The battle is real, and it is intense.
It is not, however, impossible. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Ephesians 6:10-11). With his own strength, a believer could never win this battle, but with God's help, victory is possible. With God's help, a believer can stand firm under the attack, not wavering, not falling, and not surrendering. Victory is possible because the strength and the armor are God's.
The weapons are also God's. "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:4-5). There is no doubt that the enemy is formidable, but God is more than equal to the task. He provides supernatural weapons that are capable of defeating the supernatural enemy. God can destroy fortresses that seem insurmountable.
Consider a real soldier on a real battlefield. He knows he is at war, and his knowledge helps him to be properly focused. He knows that he is fighting enemy soldiers, not trees. He knows he must be alert and free from distractions so he can focus on what is most crucial. He wisely evaluates the enemy's strength and tactics; instead of ignoring the weapons, he takes steps to face them effectively. He knows that Spartan conditions are part of the package, and he accepts them. He knows the cause or the people he is fighting for, and is motivated to fight on. If he has confidence in his leaders, weapons, and strategies, he anticipates the victory that he knows is only a matter of time.
It should be the same for a Christian soldier. He must be aware that he is at war; he must be on the alert. He must know that his enemy is comprised of Satan and spiritual forces. Lack of sleep, social isolation, a medication, an illness, a life disappointment, or a past experience may be factors in the struggle, but they are not the real enemy. The Christian soldier must eliminate earthly allurements that would distract him in the battle. He must realize that the enemy's weapons are too mighty for him alone, and that he must utilize God's armor and God's weapons. He must absorb the inconveniences of his particular situation, realizing that they are an inevitable part of this greater battle. The Christian soldier must know what he is fighting for - to maintain the faith that Satan wants to destroy. With confidence in his Leader, he must comfort himself with the knowledge that daily victory is possible and ultimate victory is coming.
There is much help in recognizing the battle not as a minor, meaningless skirmish, but as a major battle designed to destroy. Satan knows that discouragement is a powerful tactic, and he will attempt to use it often and effectively. A believer who is aware of the nature of the battle is no longer confused about why his struggle is so difficult, nor is he overly hard on himself for having struggles. At the same time, he is better prepared for knowing how to fight the battle and more positive about its outcome. Satan is determined to destroy faith, but with dependence on God's strength, God's armor, and God's weapons, a believer can maintain faith; like Peter he can go on to be used as a positive force in God's army.
"Just as it is written, 'For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." Romans 8:36-37 (NASB)