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.
Teta peered at us from behind the counter of the small store nested next to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Softly, we asked her if she had experienced the awful slaughtering that began on April 6, 1994 in Rwanda and she nodded her head yes. At the age of six her entire family was massacred. Crazed Hutus began ridding the earth of their Tutsi countrymen. Pastor David asked her if she was able to forgive the perpetrators who made her an orphan. She somberly replied, “Forgiveness is a big word.” Then she explained that 24 years later, she could not forget what was done to her family and to herself and, in that remembering, there was an unwillingness to forgive.
Since 2014, what consistently is the third most terrorized country in the world? To find your answer you would want to look up the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). This is produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). This data is collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) led by the University of Maryland. As late as 2017, because of persistent Boko Haram and Fulani militant attacks, Nigeria ranks as the third-most terrorized nation. Only Iraq and Afghanistan rank higher in carnage.
Jess and Jen moved into Rarebucks, a town of 79,000, so Jen could pursue schooling and Jess could work for United Parcel Service (UPS). They didn’t have a lot of money but they did have the faith that God had called them to live there and that He would provide. Sure enough, a favorite uncle gifted Jen with $50,000 and they were able to afford a 20% down payment on a home. Though they were seven hours from both sets of parents, they were happy to put down roots and start a family.
Ezra 1:5—So the family leaders of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites—everyone God had motivated—prepared to go up and rebuild the LORD’s house in Jerusalem.
For seventy years the Jews lived in exile in Babylon and surrounding nations. Their severe unfaithfulness to God resulted in His fierce punishment which meant they were forcefully removed from their homes. But, in keeping with His promise communicated through multiple prophets, God opened a way through the Persian King Cyrus for the exiles to go home. As we read in the book of Ezra, those who were motivated by Godpacked up their belongings and moved back to their homeland to rebuild the Lord’s temple and settle.
Jackie called her friend Sandy and informed her that she was going to quit her job. When asked why, she said that her company changed management and the new boss was unfriendly towards her and very critical of her work. Rather than try and figure out the profile of her new boss and how she might modify her behavior, it was easier for Jackie to leave. Jackie does not like conflict. Not many people do.
Isaiah 58:6,7—Isn’t this the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?
1 Peter 4:1,2—Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve—because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin—in order to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will.
Will Rogers humorously noted, “Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it’s called golf.”
Have you ever gone golfing with someone and watched them completely lose their composure when their swing was errant? I’ve seen players wrap a club around a tree in anger, hurl clubs in frustration, beat the ground with putters, irons or drivers, and, turn completely red in the face—totally frustrated by the uncooperative antics of a small white ball.
Deuteronomy 1:30,31—The Lord your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as you saw Him do for you in Egypt. And you saw in the wilderness how the Lord your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place.
Six year-old Jaden lost his dad when he was four. Two years later his mom died in her sleep. While heartbroken at the loss of his parents, at one point he approached his caretaker Aunt and told her he was “sick and tired of seeing people sad all the time.” Jaden came up with a plan. He had his aunt buy little toys and then began targeting people who were not smiling to give each a toy. The impact this young orphan is making is beautiful. He’s made over 500 people smile so far with a goal of touching 33,000. To see his inspiring story go to http://omeleto.com/215068/.
2 Chronicles 32:1—After these faithful deeds, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities and intended to break into them.
While I was a cadet at West Point, my two friends Dave and Brian and I had a saying we frequently recited to remind us that we needed to focus on what was eternal. “It’s all going to burn.” Little did we realize how significant that phrase would become. Dave and his wife Melody lost their home in the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs. It was a traumatic event for the Meads—they lost almost everything they owned. Now as they look back, they would say that they are better for their loss.
I recently had the opportunity to respond to the blog of a friend, Dillon,* who suffers from a life-threatening disease. In his blog Dillon related the difference between “fading away” and “going out with a bang.” Immediately after reading his heart-felt thoughts, I was inclined to respond with the hope of the gospel. Below is my letter to which Dillon thoughtfully replied and which has opened up a channel for further sharing.
If Chandra’s* street address reflected what most of her life is like it would be called Despair Circle. Her father died when she was young and he was the one person who truly understood and loved her. Before entering college she was brutally raped on her way home from work—an assault that left her scarred and devalued. She married a man who promised to take care of her but it was never a union of love. He would become an alcoholic, cheat on her and verbally abuse her and the three children she would conceive. Eventually, battling horrific pain, he would succumb to brain and liver cancer leaving her with thousands of dollars of credit card debt and zero income.
Teesha* was my waitress as I ate at Barrio Cafe in the Phoenix Airport while waiting for my flight to El Paso. As she refilled my lemonade I noticed a tattoo on her neck, “this too shall pass.” When she brought me my bill I asked her if she would tell me the story behind those four words. She immediately shared that she had a rare blood disorder and had almost died on numerous occasions. While wiping her forehead in the hospital, her mother would often say to her, “This too shall pass.”
Skye Jethani wrote a book I highly commend to your reading. It is simply titled with. The premise of the author is that we typically find four types of Christians. The first group is comprised of those who live life under God. Their emphasis is on God’s divine will and appeasing Him through behaviors—“either in the form of rituals or morality.” The second group includes those who live life over God. Their emphasis is on applying Scripture and godly principles, which are useful for controlling the world and life. Those who live life from God characterize the third group. They are highly self-preoccupied. Under the banner of “the health and wealth gospel” these adherents see God as a divine genie that is eager to grant their desires. The fourth group is made up of those who live life for God. Life is all about staying on mission: sacrificing, achieving, serving, working to accomplish tasks (evangelism, discipleship, etc).
At Jerry Delmark’s memorial service during the time of sharing multiple people got up and testified that he was an authentic Christian. He walked his talk. He loved God. He was a hard worker. He made a difference in the lives of those around him. I know this to be true because Jerry had a tremendous impact on our oldest son Bryan. Yet while the tributes were fittingly positive, it was Jerry’s daughter, Jackie, who subtly took us to a harder place. Yes, she cherished his humor and loving parenting but quietly she wondered why he had to suffer so painfully in the final leg of his journey. Her question was not addressed to us but to God.