How Christians Typically Face Despair
Life can be difficult. Let’s face it: there are bad things that happen everyday. Murders, divorce, fights, cutting, slander, manipulation, etc.
As Christians we generally don’t like looking at what is not working. We have Jesus – what else do we need? If things are not going well, we just need more of Him.
In fact, it is this way of looking at things that tends to force us to ignore our pain. We somehow feel that if we have something that is not going well, then we are failing as a Christian. We are the ones with hope, with all the answers. The world is going to hell. That is where all the trouble lies.
We may not communicate it as bluntly as that, but many Christians are embarrassed by their doubts and by they failures. And so, we avoid talking about them or dealing with them.
What is Despair?
Depair stems from a lack of hope and leads to depression. It is not something to be taken lightly, and the Christian response of ignoring the emotion or of feeling that person just needs more Jesus doesn’t help. It is not even Biblical.
Jesus didn’t ignore His feelings before going to the cross. He sweat blood over the agony He was about to go through. On the cross He lifted up His voice asking God why He was being abandoned. God didn’t take away the pain that Jesus was going through, but in the midst of the process, Jesus found the strength to move forward.
David gave us a similar example in Psalm 86. We don’t particularly know the event that spurred on this psalm, but in verse 14 we are told that foes are attacking him and trying to kill him. In the midst of these dangers, David shows us three steps out of despair.
1. David Didn’t Ignore His Pain
The first verse sets the tone of the Psalm. David declares his need of God. As you read the Psalm, it is not some ritual debasing of himself for God’s approval. David is in trouble, and he longs for God to come rescue him.
You can hear his fear and desperation. His expression of need is because he feels it. There is no ignoring of pain. God may be real to David but so is the circumstances surrounding him.
2. David Reminds Himself of Who God is and How Great He Is
While one danger of despair is to completely ignore the pain, the other danger is to completely forget who God is. When we feel the despair, we can easily forget God’s goodness and become overwhelmed by the evil. David’s way around this danger was to speak out the goodness of God.
Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God. – Psalm 86: 8-10
This statement is not an effort to make God move on his behalf. David needed to remind himself of the greatness of the God he serves. He didn’t want to let himself forget God in the midst of his difficult times.
3. God Asks For God’s Help In His Situation
It is easy to know God’s power but think it is isn’t available to you. David leans into his relationship with God and asks for a sign of His goodness.
God is not sitting alone in the cosmos being amazing in a vacuum. He loves to interact with His people. He doesn’t leave us alone, but He is always with us. And so, we always have hope.
One Final Word
As I list out these three steps David took to get our of despair, I realize it is not easy when we are in that place of hurt. One other piece of advice I will give to this, is to seek out others to help you through these steps. God has given us the body of Christ to help bear one another’s burdens.
If you find yourself reading this for yourself or a friend in need, may you be encouraged that God has given us a way through the pain. God says he may lead us through the valley of the shadow of death, but the encouragement is that He will be with us and that place will only be a place we journey through. Keep walking and find yourself stronger and God closer than you have ever known.
For more on this check out the Academy of Powerful Caregivers, especially the part on the Goodness of God.