Ten times the word despair is used in the Holman Bible. Fittingly Job is the source of one third of them. The Psalmist cried out, “Insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. I waited for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, but found no one” (Psa. 69:20). Despair is the stuff of hopelessness. It is a sinking feeling that saps one’s resolve. If not properly addressed it becomes the lingering glue of gloom.
My son Bryan was invited to share his story at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He was one of two featured speakers on a night when almost every participant in the room shared some kind of disability. Disabilities included Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), asthma, depression, cancer, arthritis, etc. Each person was asked to write a poem about their challenges and to highlight what was bad as well as what was good. Then, throughout the evening, volunteers could come to the front of the room and share what they wrote.
What causes people to be downcast? I would surmise in most cases it is because of unfavorable circumstances. We want something that does not materialize. We deal with sickness. An enemy is a relentless grief-flinger. “Sixty students who had attempted suicide were asked why they had wanted to end their lives. The majority, 85 percent, said they had tried to kill themselves because their lives seemed meaningless and without purpose . . . Without purpose we lose motivation and sometimes lose health and even lose life.” Without understanding God’s ever-present love we are destined for despair.
There is a passage in the Talmud that says, “We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” It is easy to be pessimistic if our perspective is rooted in the wrong place.
Psalm 42 and 43 belong together as one work and could aptly be titled “Depressed.” Verses 1-3 in chapter 42 indicate the writer’s distance from God:
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, “Where is your God?”
Isaiah 40:27-31— Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God.”Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
There is weariness in the kingdom of God that should evoke more than yawns. Many of God’s servants have lost their energy. Mornings of zest have become dreary sunrises. Bitterness saps the strength of the bewildered saints who feel God has abandoned them. Depression steals the first love that made spiritual life so potent. The power of God that once flowed so smoothly has been shut off at the plant of fatigue.
We come to the time of year when Christians around the world celebrate the incredible birth of Christ. For many it is a time of giving gifts—a holiday ritual recognizing the second greatest gift of all time. What manner of love for those of His image--yet deeply flawed, possessed God to send His Son to be conceived a baby? What marvelous humility flowed from our omnipotent Lord that His Son should bypass the greatest of human protocols to be born in a smelly stable? Like the wisemen who followed the star, we trace the life and ministry of Jesus, joyful that His holy journey liberated us from the dungeon of sin. But there is so much more to His story, so much more to who He is.