Dealing with Despair


Debilitating Discouragement

And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

Gal. 6:9 NASB

Despair is an emotional state that convinces our hearts that our circumstances are bigger than God’s all-encompassing power. Despair is used by Satan to cause us to doubt God’s goodness, fear God’s sovereign plan, and reject God’s promises. Despair immobilizes our spirits making us feel drained over past events, pessimistic about future possibilities, and discouraged about our present conditions.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah experienced a similar despondency (1 Kings 19). Elijah fled to Mt. Horeb in fear because of Queen Jezebel’s threats. He sinks into despair over Israel’s apostasy. Israel did not respond to Elijah’s call to revival. Elijah is distraught over their inaction and spiritual declension. Elijah is baffled by Israel’s lack of repentance after God mighty displays of power on Mt. Carmel.

Elijah’s depression is so great that God must speak to him in a “still small voice” in order to awaken his inner man. The Lord commands Elijah to get back to work and do the things that prophets do. The Lord wants him to snap out out of his discouraged funk. Therefore, Elijah begins the raising up and appointing process for new leaders. These leaders will govern over Israel’s spiritual, national, and international obligations.

Like Elijah, the Lord will call on us to step out and over our despair. The Lord’s commands carry within them the grace to obey. He will strengthen us to overcome whether we are “feeling it” or not. Therefore, despair is defeated by making deliberate choices to live the everyday Christian life: obey biblical truth, do God’s revealed will, and trust God’s covenant promises.

Sometimes I feel  . . . that my cross is heavy beyond endurance . . . my heart seems worn out and bruised beyond repair, and in my deep loneliness I often wish to be gone, but God knows best, and I want to do every ounce of work He wants me to do.

C. T. Studd cited in World Shapers: A Treasury of Great Quotes from Great Missionaries, ed., Vinita Hampton and Carol Plueddemann (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1991), 41.

For a long time I felt much depressed after preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to apparently insensible hearts; but now I like to dwell on the love of the great Mediator, for it always warms my own heart, and I know that the gospel is the power of God–the great means which He employs for the regeneration of our ruined world.

David Livingstone cited in World Shapers: A Treasury of Great Quotes from Great Missionaries, ed., Vinita Hampton and Carol Plueddemann (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1991), 42.

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