What Does the Bible Really Say About Despair?

Do Christians despair? The Bible, especially the life and letters of the Apostle Paul, offers some insight into this often misunderstood topic. 

Despair, Bible, Apostle Paul, HopeSometimes people say the dumbest things. They mean well, but their claims are unintentionally hurtful.

Have you ever heard this one? “God never gives us more than we can handle.”

Just off the top of my head, I can think of several circumstances that are way more than I could bear.

  • The death of a parent, spouse, or child
  • Getting a divorce
  • Living through a natural disaster that ruins the whole town
  • Being betrayed by a close friend
  • Bankruptcy/losing your home or business
  • Being assaulted/molested as a child

Thankfully, not all of these have happened to me. But some have. I’m proof positive that my circumstances were far more than I could bear. I even despaired of life.

Here’s another thing I’ve heard well-meaning Christians say: “If we put our hope in Jesus Christ, then we’ll never be discouraged or depressed.”

Again, they’re trying to help. (Of course we should put our trust in Jesus). But that statement just isn’t true.

Maybe you’ve been in other circumstances, friend, where you wanted to give up, or you thought you’d never find the way out of the pit and someone came along and said something like this to you.

It’s not helpful. In fact, it’s like throwing dirt clods at someone stuck in quicksand.

If you’re discouraged, then take heart. You’re in good company. Lots of people who were faithfully following God’s call despaired of their lives. Today, I’m going to highlight one from the book of Acts.

The Apostle Paul wrote to his fellow sufferers in Corinth about his time in Asia (now called Turkey), “We were under a burden far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” (Berean Study Bible 2 Cor. 1:8)

Having been beaten, stoned, and even left for dead, he had every reason to despair of his life. But God had plans for Paul, and now he’s responsible for planting many churches in the Mediterranean area and writing most of the letters in the New Testament.

God has plans for us too. We’ll be glorified with Him in heaven, but until then, the Bible says we’ll share in His sufferings. (Romans 8:17).

Thankfully, Paul went on in his letter to the Corinthians to give us three ways we can persevere, even in circumstances we can no longer bear.

1) Remind yourself why you’re trusting God. It’s easy to trust in ourselves as long as we can do it on our own. We learn to trust God when we find ourselves in situations that seem beyond hope.

Despair, Bible, Apostle Paul
II Corinthians 1:9

Is your marriage dead? Career dreams? Hope for a lost loved one? God’s been raising the dead for a long time. He has the power to deliver you from your circumstances too.

2) Ask people you trust for prayer. It’s so important to cultivate relationships with those who can encourage us (and those who can empathize with our suffering). It’s our human nature to strive and struggle to make it look like we have it all together. But if you stretch a rubber band far enough, it will break. And so will we, if we’re stretched too much. Let the trustworthy people around you give you some slack before you’re close to the breaking point.

Despair, Bible, Apostle Paul
II Corinthians 1:10b-11

3) Remember your holiness comes from the Grace of God. Listen. You’re doing a good job. You don’t have to do it all in your own strength. When He calls us, he doesn’t do it because we’re perfect or the most gifted and talented. He calls us because He knows our desire to use our gifts and talents to point people to His grace.

despair, Bible, St. Paul, Apostle Paul
II Corinthians 1:12

Have you heard this lie? “Who do you think you are? You can’t do_________.” (Fill in the blank with your calling—parent, career move, ministry opportunity.)

Next time you hear the lies in your head, you can respond with Ephesians 2:10 and put your name in it:

“For [Your Name Here] is God’s masterpiece. He created [me] anew in Christ Jesus, so [I] can do the things He planned for [me] long ago.” (My paraphrase based on the NLT version.)

Friend, if you’re walking through a dark time in your life, remember the hope that Paul gives us. Our deliverer God hears our prayers and pours out grace that covers even the most unbearable situation.

You won’t be there forever. I’ve been there, and I’d love to pray for you if that’s okay.

Dear Lord, 

You know my friend’s heart. She feels guilty for doubting and despairing when she so wants to trust You.

Please show her of the Hope of the resurrection and that You’re working even now to deliver her. Send people to encourage her and remind her that she’s here on earth for a unique purpose that only she can fill.

Give her a sure sign that You’re pleased with her and that You love her more than she can imagine.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Please feel free to share in the comments if you have a specific prayer request or share how God walked with you through a dark time.

 

 

 

 

 

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