Despair can overwhelm you in the most unlikely moments. Usually, despair comes when we really need something and can’t obtain it. It creeps in during a waiting period. Despair means to lose hope or give up. It is driven by fear, worry, and uncertainty. It may take some time to realize it is even there. The longer one waits, the more rooted it becomes.
My husband and I have been praying over a situation for months now without an answer or even a glimmer of hope. It’s like we have been on a roller coaster of highs and lows in our faith. One moment we are filled completely with peace and in an instant filled with despair. It has affected me, not only spiritually but physically & mentally.
Despair for me has meant coming to terms with what I believe and whom I believe. It questions my faith, and asks does God even love me? It bases all reality on what I’ve done or not done. It occurs in those moments when I am alone and my thoughts overcome me. The emotions and feelings of despair are intense. “I can’t do this any longer.” “I give up.” ‘Why Bother?” Physically, I am exhausted and may have actual symptoms (a headache, tiredness, mental fog, depression, anxiety)
People deal with it in many ways. Some people keep themselves distracted or busy which works until there is nothing to do or distract you. Some just succumb to it, lying down and refusing to do life. People seek professional help through counseling and may use medications to alleviate symptoms.
I would love to tell you it only happens in moments of weakness, but actually, it happens when I think I’m the strongest when I begin to think I got this. It can come at any moment. It begins with a thought. A what-if.
You see, I want to write daily and share with you God’s goodness and how easy and delightful it is to walk with Him. But the truth is…it’s not that simple. At times, it’s dark and lonely.
I am doing everything to overcome this disparity: I’ve asked for forgiveness and asked God to reveal any sin within me. I have prayed daily and read my Bible. I have worshiped and praised Him for His faithfulness and goodness thus far. I have cried, pleaded and bargained. I have gotten angry and made demands. I have sought counsel from dear friends who say all the right things but it doesn’t soothe my soul. I know the Scripture, like, Romans 5:3; rejoice in our sufferings…or Romans 8:28, “and we know all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
I honestly feel like if one more person tells me, “to trust God or that He has a purpose or to just give it to Him,” I may thump them in the forehead. I have even used these same words with people because you just don’t know what else to say when someone is suffering. I understand that family and friends love me and are just trying to encourage me. But let’s be honest, it doesn’t help in those moments, does it? How do we keep our eyes on Jesus when circumstances consume us? How do you give it to Him when it seems God is not doing one thing to fix it?
There’s no comfort in these words; it only brings more frustration and failure because I can’t get it together. I am not a very good Christian. I cycle in and out of sin and being good. I am not just talking about outward sins; there are no addictions or misbehaviors. I’m talking about an everyday, uneventful, stay at home mom who struggles. Frankly, I’m tired of pretending that life is all rainbows and Ferrari®.
I want to believe there’s more to this walk with Jesus. There’s more than walking in failure and defeat. I believe we are called for more. I don’t think Jesus died so that we would live in despair, fear, and defeat. But sadly, I don’t think I am the only one who struggles or who is ashamed because everyone else seems to get it and they don’t. There are more people out there who believe in their salvation and who practice the Spiritual disciplines (church, bible time, prayer, and serving) but live in despair and shame. If you’re like me, you’ve tried everything to rid yourself of it.
In Ruth Graham’s book, Fear Not Tomorrow, God Is Already There, she says, “Either we can be victimized and become victims, or we can be victimized and rise above it.”Often it is easier to play the victim than take off our masks and ask for help. We get comfortable with our victim status. It becomes our identity and it is hard to give up. The Israelites often played the victim card, and I love what God finally tells them, you have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north. (Deut. 2:23 [NASB])This is where I am at, circling this mountain. God is saying to you and me, “Turn North!” This despair has consumed you. It has filled you with self-pity, fear, pride, and negativity. Taking off our masks takes courage, but if we don’t do it, we will remain in our victim status and end up just circling.
I have accepted this disparity as part of who I am, these thoughts, feeling, and behaviors have become my way of life. Jesus is teaching me, in regard to my former life, to put off my old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of my mind and to put on my new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24) I am very slowly grasping that I can live in victory by just allowing God into my life and by agreeing with Him on the condition of myself. I have found I need, to be honest with God and myself.
Like Job, I finally came to a place where I am ready to listen and not question Him any longer. Job lost everything, his family, his servants, and his income. He questioned God about it. I think God wants us to question him but not to the point of getting hung up on it. When He answers, I must accept the answer.
Then Job replied to the Lord:
“I know that you can do all things;
No purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, “who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me to know.
You said, “Listen, now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
And you shall answer Me.”
My ears had heard of you
But now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
And repent in dirt and ashes.”
Job’s circumstances were due to evil, not sin. Job did not repent because he had sin but because he had questioned God’s sovereignty and justice.
This is the moment I realized that I have questioned God too long. My fear has always been, what if God answers me in ways I do not like or understand. What if His plan for me is that I will always struggle financially or be overweight or whatever else comes my way?
I need to know that my thoughts are not His thoughts, neither are my ways His ways. (Isaiah 55:8) I don’t have to understand everything; I don’t even have to like it. But I must trust God. I must trust that He’s a loving God who wants what’s best for me and only knows what’s best for me.
Jeremiah 29:11 says,
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
My fears have stalled me for so long but God is loving and patient. God knew that it would take several laps around this mountain before I would be ok with whatever His plans are for my life. Not that I have to be ok with it, His plans will be, but God waits until we are in agreement to move forward. So I turn north.This ground is unfamiliar and at times I want to go back. Jesus calls, “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Doesn’t resting sound nice? To rest is to be in a state of motionlessness or inactivity, or to have a peace of mind and spirit. When I am in a desperate state I long to rest, for my mind to just shut off.
I thought about where I would like to be resting and it would be basking in the sun somewhere. As I thought of basking; it occurred to me that to bask means to lie or to do nothing and to bask in the sun is to soak up the warmth and light. Over the past few days, God has called me to rest, to bask in Him. To do this I must know He loves me. I want to rest in Him. Everything about God is founded in this one truth…He loves me.
He says in 1 John 4:19,
“We love because He first loved us.”
For me to rest, I have to know there is nothing I can do or not do to earn or lose His love. To bask in His love is to do nothing but take delight in it. I have lived in despair and it has caused me to doubt His love. Remember despair comes from fear and there is no fear in love.
In1 John 4:18, we see:
“There is no fear in love but perfect love cast out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
Despair and love cannot both occupy my heart. One cast out the other. Today as I basked in His love, I felt the warmth of His presence and the light dispelling the darkness within me. I still am sad about the situation not being fixed but the peace that came from His Love is slowly penetrating my heart and soul. I want to believe there is no hope, but my soul cries out there is hope because God is in me and He loves me. Come what may…rest in it.
Psalm 130:5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word, I hope…Vs 7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord, there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption.