Can believers be over whelmed with despair?

Followers of Jesus Christ often assume that faith, if genuine, will allow them to live above despair. But Jesus never promised His followers a life of ease. He tells them that if they want to follow Him they must take up their cross,[1] and in this life they will endure many trials and sorrows.[2]

There will be times in everyone’s life when darkness and hopelessness seem ready to smother us. It is often in these times that we truly become acquainted with the Source of healing and light and experience the greatest amount of spiritual growth. Scripture offers some striking examples.

Following his supernatural triumph over the wicked king of Israel and the prophets of Baal, Elijah fell into deep despair. Only then came awakening.[3]

Soon after Peter emotionally declared his dedication to Jesus,[4] he denied Him with curses.[5] Being painfully aware of his weakness prepared him for the central leadership role he would play.

The apostle Paul gave up his status in the Jewish community to follow Jesus Christ. He came to see how evil his former life and world view had been. Even so, this missionary apostle to the Gentiles “despaired even of life”[6] and agonized over his helplessness against the “flesh.”[7] The position of service to which he had been called required even further self-awareness and surrender.

Even Jesus in His human nature had to come to terms with his utter dependence on God.[8]

These examples make it clear that believers often face unexpected trials that, in the moment, have no discernable purpose. Trials like these can overwhelm us. But biblical examples of great people of faith also illustrate that experiences of stress, fear, and despair can spur our greatest spiritual growth.[9]

[1] Luke 9:23; Luke 14:27

[2] John 16:33

[3] 1 Kings 19:4

[4] Matthew 26:33-35

[5] Mark 14:66-72

[6] 2 Corinthians 1:8

[7] Romans 7:18-24

[8] Mark 14:32-36; Luke 22:41-44; Mark 15:34

[9] Job’s story provides a good framework to help us understand our inevitable times of depression and feelings of abandonment. God allowed Satan to test Job (Job 1), just as the accuser (Revelation 12:10) will test each one of us. But just as God set limits to what Satan could do to Job (Job 1:12), He sets limits to what Satan can do to us (1 Corinthians 10:13; Luke 22:31-32). In fact, our Creator can even transform Satan’s attacks into a means of strengthening our faith and refining our love for others.  (1 Peter 1:6-7).

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