Down, But Not Out
© 10.27.2014 By D. Eric Williams
This article appeared in the October 30 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
Followers of Jesus Christ will not engage in willful habitual sin; each of us has a duty to obey God's law. In light of this we might understand why some Christians feel a sense of despair from time to time. Yet there are those who claim a true believer will - not only refrain from habitual sin - but will also be free from feelings of hopelessness. The Bible tells a different story.
Probably the most famous hero of the faith who despaired over life was Job. Granted, he did not arrive at that point due to a feeling of helplessness in the face of sin but the fact remains he came to the place where he wished he had never been born. Indeed, he longed for death saying, why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, who long for death, but it does not come, and search for it more than hidden treasures; who rejoice exceedingly, and are glad when they can find the grave? (Job 3:20-22). This is despondency of the deepest kind. It is the kind of misery experienced by King David and the prophet Jeremiah as well. Indeed, even the apostle Paul said, for we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life (2 Corinthians 1:8). The Greek word translated as "despair" in this verse means "to be utterly at loss, be utterly destitute of measures or resources, to renounce all hope, be in despair." The trouble Paul encountered was not an attack of temptation and sin but an external threat. Yet the fact remains, Christians are subject to spiritual depression and despair from time to time.
As Job understood, there is always a glimmer of hope even in the depths of depression. Later, he says, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27). Job recognized there is more to reality than this life. Thus, even if no relief is found in this realm, every follower of Jesus Christ must hold to the hope of eternity. This is our ultimate comfort. No matter what hardship we face in this life if we have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, having our sins forgiven, and brought into a living relationship with God in Jesus Christ, we have hope.
Yet how do you overcome despair in the here and now? Well, if your feelings of depression are the product of a (seemingly losing) battle with sin then you need to go back to the things mentioned in the first article of this series: have hope in Jesus, cry out to him in prayer, immerse yourself in the word, continue in fellowship with other believers and recognize that the battle against temptation and sin is a normal part of the Christian life. I have talked to Christians who claim God supernaturally removed all temptation from their life but I have no doubt they were lying or deceived by Satan. The Bible promises just the opposite, telling us that temptation is the common lot of mankind (1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Peter 4:12, etc.).
In the final analysis despair and spiritual depression reveal a lack of faith. I'm not talking about clinical depression, the product of a chemical imbalance, something corrected by proper medication. Instead, I refer to the state of mind some Christians encounter when they plunge into despair. They are unnerved by the instability of the world around them and find themselves feeling depressed. And yes, they lack the faith to live in obedience to God's law. These folks place faith in something other than Jesus Christ. They are let down by other people and it causes them disappointment. They are flummoxed in their pursuit of personal goals. The remedy is to pursue a course of action not unlike the brother or sister who feels overwhelmed by temptation and sin. Once again, press into Jesus Christ, develop regular prayer and Bible reading plans and do not neglect the fellowship of believers.