The dictionary definition of despair is “.”
“The sense of having done something irreversible tends to make us despair.”
I would add that something done to us that is irreversible can also lead to despair. Despair is that feeling that every option is depleted and there’s no use trying anything else because nothing will yield positive results.
Haven’t we all been there at one point or another?
Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest had some great insights about despair and how to handle it. He explains how the disciples must have felt despair when they were asked by Jesus to keep watch and pray with him, but they fell asleep instead.
That night was a pretty big deal.
When soldiers came to take Jesus, the disciples realized they had lost their opportunity to participate in a special time with Jesus. And the worst was that they may never see him again. Since he was crucified soon after that, it ended up being the last moments they spent with him alive. At least until he rose again. But they didn’t know that then.
Whether a tragic event has occurred in our life, we’ve done something regrettable, or we’ve missed a great opportunity, with God there is always a future. Even if we can’t change what’s happened, we can act for what is to come.
Chambers reminds us that Jesus encouraged the disciples to “Get up and do the next thing.”
When faced with despair, I’ve learned to:
- Grieve over the situation. Acknowledge the reality of what’s happened. Neither denying nor wallowing is helpful.
- Leave what’s happened in God’s hands. He sees all and has a plan for everything. What’s been done to us, or what we’ve done is no surprise to him. Our plan B has always been his plan A because he knew what would happen. He’s granted forgiveness. He’ll bring comfort. He’s the God of justice and mercy.
- Remember that God has a future hope for me that can’t be cut off. (Prov. 23:18; Prov. 24:14 & Jer. 29:11)
- Look to that future. What is the next step I can take? Take it.
- And as Oswald Chambers says…
“Never let the sense of past failure defeat your next step.”
Despair is real, human and expected from time to time. We may even feel we can’t pull out of it. But by taking these steps, and being patient with myself, I’ve learned to move ahead with my life–even when life seemed like it must be over.
It’s not over until God says it’s over.
What are some steps you’ve found to be helpful in dealing with despair?