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.
Job 7:19,20—Will You ever look away from me, or leave me alone long enough to swallow? If I have sinned, what have I done to You, Watcher of mankind? Why have You made me Your target, so that I have become a burden to You?
One of the things I love about the Bible is the raw honesty that it contains as people interact with God. You undoubtedly heard the story of Job and how God allowed Satan to sorely test him. Job was exasperated. The man who lived in wealth and privilege suddenly felt like a big target was drawn on his back. Nothing he could say or do would eliminate his suffering. Perhaps most discouraging was the fact that even his friends turned against him. Yet there is much we can learn from his questioning God.
Candy and I spent most of the morning writing back and forth about questions regarding the definition of Christians and evangelicals and current events that troubled her. While we may not have the same political leanings that does not prevent us from having honest and prolonged discussion. She ended our time with kind words and greetings to my family. Candy is one of the most warm-hearted persons I know and it is always a privilege to be around her.
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.
1 Samuel 16:1—The LORD said to Samuel, “How long are you going to mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have selected a king from his sons.”
Mike’s wife left him. She was having an affair and had no further desire to remain married. Her bizarre behavior shook the very foundation of Mike’s life and the lives of their three children. Yet, despite the intense pain of betrayal, the long hours of soul-searching and the challenge of holding his family together, now years later, I watch Mike thrive. He leads his company with deeper passion and a higher compassion. His walk with God is on fire—the holy, can’t-get- enough-of-Jesus flame that melts the hardest skeptic.
Mark 16:10-13—She went and reported to those who had been with Him, as they were mourning and weeping. Yet, when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it. Then after this, He appeared in a different form to two of them walking on their way into the country. And they went and reported it to the rest, who did not believe them either.
He stood to my left with the most perplexed look on his face. No matter which sink the teenager chose to extend his hands, water would not come out of the metal pipes. They were invisible under the sensors which should have triggered action. I left that men’s room in Baltimore Washington International airport laughing, thinking of all the times the same thing happened to me.
2 Timothy 1:16,17-- May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he diligently searched for me and found me.
Four of us were enjoying an informal time of fellowship when the topic came up of how we identify with Christ around others. One of the men pulled out his cell phone and showed how it had an icon of Christ as his background photo. Ron said he had also had a picture representing Christ on his phone. He pulled it out to show us, but all we could see was icons of missed calls that blocked the picture underneath.
Watching the news is as about as fun as playing frisbee with a cat. Between the stock market plunging over 500 points in one day, Syrian rioting, Mexican gang violence, Texas drought, and political debt bickering, lamenting seems to be a worldwide sport. Listening to a Christian radio station today in Wisconsin, I heard the DJ ask if it seemed like God was angry. That seemed ironic since I had just read from my quiet time in Psalm 85:5, “Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger for all generations?” Moses observed in Psa. 90:7, “For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed” (ESV). Jeremiah warned, “Come out from among her, My people! Save your lives, each of you, from the LORD's burning anger”(51:45). What people in what century have not experienced pain and attributed it to God’s wrath?
1 Samuel 27:1,2—David said to himself, "One of these days I'll be swept away by Saul. There is nothing better for me than to escape immediately to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will stop searching for me everywhere in Israel, and I'll escape from him." So David set out with his 600 men and went to Achish son of Maoch, the king of Gath.
Kathleen and I are trying to find the right company to help us refinance our home. Each of the four brokers we spoke with gave us compelling reasons to refinance with his or her particular company. We were uncertain as to who was really giving us the best option. Finally, we sat down with a broker in his office and listened as he explained why his option was the best for us. Before he went into his pitch he told us about his family and about a solar energy project he was working to help people bring their energy costs down. At some point in the meeting, I distinctly in my heart “heard” the Lord tell me that this was the man who would help us refinance. It was sort of a surreal moment. Yet, I instantly had peace about our choice and course of action.
Wando* and I drove to Tigard to pick up the parts we needed to fix the broken pipe in my garage. The first two hardware stores we checked did not have the couplings necessary to fix the half-inch pipe so we had plenty of time to chat. Wando shared about his failed marriage. It bothered him that his life bore the stain of an unsuccessful relationship. I took the opportunity to share with him about Jesus and how essential I believe the Son of God is to holding marriages together. He agreed in the importance of “a higher power.” I hope I get to talk to him again—I want to share that his fulfillment is not tied to a woman.
I received an email that tore my gut in two. A friend from seminary wrote to those on his mailing list. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He was back in his home city with his children, no longer in the Asian country where God led him and his wife to minister. Their work was vital in a place restricted and fraught with danger. He knew what it meant to serve God through opposition. But he never expected his wife to fall in love with someone she met on the internet. She left her family—devastated. As if confused and heartbroken was not bad enough, his mission organization requested his resignation. Now what does he do? Who can he trust? His children struggle mightily to adjust to a new culture. They wrestle with the reality their mother is living in immorality. He wonders what more could go wrong.
When cadets return to West Point in January, they enter what is called the gloom period. The buildings are gray, the skies are dreary and a feeling of “I wish I could just take a long, extended nap” settles upon the Corps. I lived through four years of that gloom period. Imagine my surprise when I moved to San Diego and discovered that June was called the same thing! The ever-present sun gave way to incessant fog and a chilly air. What were we thinking when we moved to western Oregon, a place famous for what can often be eight months of drizzle and fog?
Jude 24,25—Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever. Amen.