Many of us have been there in one way or another. Some cases more extreme than others. The thoughts that move through our heads and hearts may not all sound or feel the same, but we all know what despair feels like.
Sometimes it is the feeling of hopelessness. Sometimes it is the feeling that no one else in the entire world understands what I am feeling or going through. Sometimes is the feeling that there is no way anything could get any worse. Sometimes these painful, overwhelming feelings can be so strong that we long for even death.
The Psalmist put it this way…
My tears have been my food day and night, while they said to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”… Why are you cast down, O my soul, why are you in turmoil within me?… I say to God my Rock: “Why have you forgotten me?”…Why are you cast down, O my soul? (Psalm 42)
These feelings of being alone, abandoned, hopeless, afraid… can run our lives… if we let them. They WILL isolate us. They WILL cut us off from the rest of the world. They WILL cause us to withdraw even from those people who care about us the most. They may cause us to question the intentions of God… “Is He there?” “Does He care?”
There are many things in life that can bring us to this point. Death. Sickness. Busted or fractured relationships. Failure. Disappointing someone. Being laid off from a job. Financial problems. Problems at school. Divorce. The list is long and ever changing!
I have recently been reading through the book of Job. Job, as described in the first two chapters, is “a man that was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” If you know the story of Job, then you know that he was a man of great wealth… as indicated by his enormous herds of animals and many servants (Job 1:3-4). His greatest earthly loves, though, were not his things, but his family. He had 7 sons and 3 daughters, and then of course his wife.
In a matter of moments, Job (and his wife) experienced great loss… all of his herds of animals, almost all of his servants and all of his children (Job 1). On top of that, in chapter 2, Job loses his health.
In Chapter 3, Job begins by saying, “May the day perish on which I was born, and the night in which it was said ‘A male child is conceived.’” Job is wishing he had NEVER been born. Then, he would not have to endure this seemingly endless, hopeless, unrelenting pain… physical, emotional, mental, spiritual pain.
The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 1:8 says, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.”
Even the great Apostle Paul had a time in his life in which it seemed that only death offered relief. His circumstances were beyond his ability to control (he did not have the emotional, physical, spiritual or mental capacity to ‘get through this’)! He was certainly given more than he could handle – and yes… that is 100% Biblical!
These feelings can be caused by a number of reasons – our own poor decisions, sin, life circumstances or suffering for the sake of Christ (as in Paul’s case). Regardless of the reason, however, the pain is no less real or legitimate.
When we have been boxed in by the walls of despair, it is important to remember a few TRUTHS that will guide us through seemingly endless labyrinth.
1. You are NEVER Alone
In these moments, real or perceived, it is imperative that we remember that we are never alone. There are many people around you who want to help you and love you through this. The problem is that feelings of despair, depression and loneliness will lead us to guilt, shame and more loneliness. These can be a vicious cycle! I’ve seen it many times. Someone is living under their circumstances (for whatever reason). As a result, they tend to withdraw from people, which leads to further feelings of despair, which in turn leads to further isolation.
We must understand that the church has a responsibility to be honest with one another. We need not hide behind the façade that everything is ok. Shame on us for pretending. There is hope in being real and honest and open with our brothers and sisters in Christ. I am not suggesting that we talk to everyone about our heart issues. I am suggesting that God has certainly and intentionally placed certain people in your life whom you love dearly and trust. These may include family, friends, church members… those of whom we can receive Godly counsel from.
The worst thing we can do is attempt to ‘handle’ our issues on our own because we think people don’t care, won’t understand, or will condemn us. The truth is, we NEED each other (Acts 2:40-47; James 5:13-20).
2. There is ALWAYS Hope
In Job 13:15, Job says, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust [hope, wait, expect] Him.”
In Psalm 42:11, in the midst of his brokenness, with a broken, crushed soul, he says, Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
In 2 Corinthians 1:9, the Apostle Paul says, “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead…”
Dear Christian, there is ALWAYS hope in God! Not ourselves, our feelings, our abilities or our circumstances… God!
You will change, over time. Most likely your feelings will change. Your circumstances may change. GOD WILL NEVER CHANGE! Why can we trust God today… and everyday? Because He Is always the same (James 1:17). That means His love, forgiveness, justice, goodness, etc. is always the same.
3. Feelings NEVER Determine Truth
Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.”
Our feelings/emotions have a way of clouding us from truth. Feelings, many times, seems to determine the way we respond to much of life. Feelings can certainly determine the way we feel about Christ. For instance, if life seems to be going well for us, we may feel like God is blessing us. On the flip side, if things are hard, we may feel that God is not there or even working against us.
That is the problem with feelings/emotions. If we go through life relying on our feelings and emotions to guide us, we will make many, many poor decisions. We will hurt lots of people. We will destroy relationships. Our feelings and emotions cannot be trusted to lead us in the right direction… our feelings and emotions, without the careful guidance of Truth, will only lead us back to ourselves.
The Truth is that God is always good! The Truth is that God always loves His children, even when they have made foolish choices. The Truth is that God will always forgive, cleanse and restore.
4. God is ALWAYS Working
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Take heart, God is always busy. Not busy like us… productive may be a better word. He is always working for His glory and our good. He loves His children and is good to them (Matthew 7:11). Look at what these two scriptures say. God is continually working on our behalf, to shape us into the image of His Son. As we are shaped into the image of His Son, we are spreading His glory. It is through those difficult times in our lives that God is shaping us!
Let this incredible truth bring you hope today. God loves you! God works to shape you into the image of His Son. God always has His best for you in mind. He will use those desperate times in your life to work His goodness.