Tag Archives: discouragement

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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Should This Cloud of Hopelessness Concern Me?

Hopelessness is a dreadful feeling. The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). Many people go through times when they know something is terribly wrong, but they often can’t put their finger on it. All they can explain is a strong sense that nothing is going to work out.

It’s unwise to ignore chronic feelings of hopelessness. Our souls cannot live for long in a state of perceived hopelessness. Hope is the oxygen of the soul. Without a hopeful outlook, our souls will eventually suffocate.

Our dilemma is that a hopeful perspective is as fragile as it is indispensable. Situations beyond our control can delay the fulfillment of hope and leave us in a fog of uncertainty and despair. As hope seems to be collapsing all around us, the potential exists to lose heart and slip into a state of depression.

Depression is a troubled mood or state of the soul that has a dramatic effect on our bodies. We lose energy. Sleeping and eating patterns become abnormal. And we have difficulty concentrating.

Depression can be mild or major. The more depression interferes with a person’s ability to sleep, to eat, to work, to focus, and to enjoy life, the greater the severity of depression, and the greater need there is to be concerned.

Sometimes a depressive mood lifts for no apparent reason. Usually,however, depression doesn’t work itself out over time. Left to itself, it can linger on like an old injury that slowly wears a person down.Over time, it can grow into a severe debilitating problem. That’s why it’s important for those who are depressed to seek help.

An honest reflection of the following statements can alert a person to a potential problem with depression:

  • I feel sad or shut down nearly every day.
  • I have little or no interest in doing things I used to enjoy.
  • I’m sleeping too little or too much.
  • I’m eating too little or too much.
  • I feel tired most of the time.
  • I find it difficult to stay focused.
  • I’ve lost interest in physical intimacy with my spouse.
  • I feel overwhelmed by the burdens of life.
  • I don’t hold out much hope that my life will improve in the future.
  • I shift between feeling helpless and unworthy to feeling angry and cheated.
  • I think about death or killing myself.

Those who identify with two to four of the above statements should,at the very least, consider seeing a physician for a complete medical checkup. Sometimes these are symptoms of a pure medical condition. Those who identify with five or more of the above statements should consider seeking immediate professional help.

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How Can I Go on Living When I Feel Like I Want to Die?

When the cares of life overwhelm us, it might seem easier to wish for death than to face the struggle. If you are hurting and trying to find a way out, please read on, for there is hope for you!

God knows your pain. He knows your doubts and fears. He knows that you have difficulties and that you even question Him.

A follower of Christ named Paul (who wrote much of the Bible’s New Testament) also struggled with circumstances to the point of losing hope. In 2 Corinthians 1 , he told the church of Corinth that he had suffered greatly while in Asia. He said that he and a friend named Timothy were “under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure,so that we despaired even of life” (v.8). Paul too was in despair!

But the story does not end there. He went on to say that “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (v.9).This emotional struggle, this hopelessness that Paul felt, caused him to rely on God even more. He saw more clearly how much he needed God through this dark hour in his life.

You may not be where Paul was when he wrote those words. You may be in the middle of a storm and you may be wondering if you are going to make it. You may even be questioning God’s presence in your life. Your story, however, like Paul’s, doesn’t have to end in despair. It is in the midst of the most desperate moments of your life that you too can call on the Lord and He will hear you.

Is it possible that instead of reaching out to the Lord, you have been using god-substitutes to avoid taking care of your real needs? Most of us do that from time to time. We find creative ways of drowning our sorrows and dulling our pain. We are often tempted to use sex, food, materialism, drugs, alcohol, shopping — anything to try and make the pain go away. When nothing seems to work, depression can set in. Depression is sometimes an internal decision to shut down and a refusal to deal with the difficult struggles of life. This kind of depression usually results from a series of failed attempts to deal with some painful circumstances or difficult relationships in one’s life. The feeling of a depressed person is often, “No matter how much I try, I am powerless to change the things that mean the most to me. I quit! Nothing works. I give up!” It is at this point that some think about ending their life. You are not alone in feeling as you do.

So how do we work through these deeply painful and frightening times? I believe it is when we admit that we are at the end and can’t make it on our own. God will comfort us in our grief, sorrow, and disappointments. He will reveal Himself to us and show us mercy ( Matthew 5:4,6 ).

Some experiences in your life may make you hesitant to reach out to the Lord for help. But, if you trust God with your pain, He can begin to show you that you have purpose and significance. You were created for a higher purpose, which is to worship your Creator and to find your hope and strength in Him.

If you continue to struggle with thoughts of suicide, seek help from a skilled counselor, your pastor, or a trusted friend. Your feelings may not change overnight, but you can begin to act in faith and take actions that will lead to a healthy perspective on life.

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