Escape from Despair
We don’t necessarily enjoy seeing scenes where the subject of the image is in obvious desperation. Some might feel this is because we sympathize with the person. But I have to think that it goes deeper than that.
Note from Kip…
I know. How could it be possible to go deeper? Here is the logic that I use to come to that conclusion. If this were the only sympathy, why is it that when we see this we are not moved to action?
I believe that we see ourselves in the misery we encounter. It often frightens us to the point of being frozen in our response to the obvious need of another. Paralyzed because, in the suffering of the one we see our own peril, we see that but for only a slight alteration of circumstance, it could be us lost in that state of confusion and doubt.
I believe it is the terror that grips us with inaction and rather than seek to assist, we are consumed with withdrawal.
Despair should be approached in the same manner for ourselves and others we encounter. As a believer in the Grace of Jesus, we really do not have a choice between ‘Fight or Flee’. We should combat it in every case.
Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalms 42:5 (CSB)
Head on, that is the ‘Christ-like’ approach to despair. Placing our hope in God, praising Him, because He is our savior and our God.
But what about when we find others in despair? Are we to approach their plight as we would when despair threatens our hope?
I am reminded of the story of the good Samaritan.
What predicates this parable is an expert in the law asking Jesus, just what it might require to attain eternal life. Jesus quickly turned the question back to the expert, who responded in accordance with the law he quoted:
He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;” and “your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10:27 (CSB)
The expert in the law now felt the rope he’d put out to snare Jesus with now resting around his own neck and so he asked Jesus a follow-up question.
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor? ”
Luke 10:29 (CSB)
It was here that Jesus injected the parable of ‘the Good Samaritan’. We all likely know the parable. A man was attacked by thieves along a road. They beat him up robbed him of all he had and left him there half dead.
Separately a priest and a Levite passed by the victim. Each avoided the scene doing all they could to maintain as much distance from this poor fellow as they possibly could.
After that, a Samaritan came along. There was antagonism between the Jews and the Samaritans, they didn’t socialize or mix with each other, they were social enemies of each other.
The Samaritan knowing that this was a Jew lying in the ditch, disregarded social norms and fended for the injured person. Even to the extent that he paid an innkeeper to put him up. Providing the injured Jew a place of safety, where he could recover. The Samaritan also assured the innkeeper that should the expense of taking care of the victim, be greater than what he’d paid, he would compensate him on his return.
After telling this parable, Jesus asked the expert in the law, who was this man’s neighbor?
Loving someone, our neighbor, is a call to action and the one in despair is no different than the one who has been robbed and beaten and left by the side of the road for us.
They have been robbed of their joy and they have been beaten into the oblivion that is despair. If we are going to love our neighbor as ourselves we are going to have to step forward in love.
Where is Our Hope
We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed in our body. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’s sake, so that Jesus’s life may also be displayed in our mortal flesh.
2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (CSB)
We are not immune to attacks of despair. As I was musing earlier, each and every one of us is only a few alterations in our circumstances before the teeth of despair close in and begin to gnaw on us.
Paul here says we are afflicted in every way. Still, we shouldn’t find ourselves crushed. It may perplex us, but not to despair.
As a matter of fact, we should consider it to be something that causes us to be joyful.
Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2-4 (CSB)
It simply is the process by which we grow, becoming mature, complete followers of Jesus who lack nothing.
We may not have money, we may not have mobility, we may not have health, we may not have any number of things which without the Spirit of the Living God, living in us, would plunge us deep into a pit of despair, but we lack nothing.
In both the plight of our neighbor and ourselves the approach is to counterattack the enemy with veracity that overwhelming.
See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 (CSB)
“See to it than no one repays evil with evil” – Counter with the grace imparted to us.
“pursue what is good for one another and for all” – Passing by isn’t an option.
“Rejoice always, pray constantly give thanks in everything” – Because this is what Jesus wants us to do.
Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy — dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:8 (CSB)
Face despair in our own lives head-on. Realize that our physical state doesn’t have a say in our spiritual and emotional wellbeing. When we encounter this in our neighbors, again be direct in dealing with it as best we can be dressing the wounds of those who are suffering in the throes of despair. For who is our neighbor?