“Don’t let the despair win” is a valid encouragement – for those who are still in the fight.
II Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Paul praised God that in spite of the circumstances, God protected him so he could continue to spread the gospel.
But what if despair has already won? What if I’ve already been crushed?
God is right there with me.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Some of us have been hanging by a thread for so long that we eventually lose all strength and can’t hold on anymore. But that’s still not the end of the story.
The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
Even when I let go, God is holding onto me. When all my strength is gone, I can rest in His hands and trust that He will take care of me.
Despair tells me there’s no hope because there’s nothing I can do about my situation. But God’s Word tells me there is hope because I’m not alone.
David often wrote about his despair in the Psalms.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
He repeated this thought in 42:11 & 43:5
David knew he had no reason to despair. He knew how good God was and that he was always protected. But he despaired anyway.
That’s the way mental illness is sometimes. My brain is a physical organ that can get sick. And when my brain is sick, it affects my thoughts and emotions.
But my soul being sick is not the death of hope. Because I also have a spirit.
My spirit was completely renewed at salvation, and it can’t be touched by mental illness. Plus, I was given the Holy Spirit to live inside me.
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
When my soul – my mind, will, and emotions – is overwhelmed by despair, there is still hope because my spirit can call for help.
And my spirit can talk to my soul. My spirit can join forces with the Holy Spirit and speak truth to my soul, with transformational power.
David again brings his despair to God, and is then able to speak the truth in spite of it.
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
He doesn’t say that he felt any better or that the sorrow had magically disappeared. He simply stated the truth that he knew was beyond his thoughts.
That’s how I can find hope in spite of my own sorrow and despair. I take my mind to God’s Word and let it rest in His hands.
Faith is not denial. Denying the symptoms of mental illness doesn’t make them go away.
But trusting in God’s compassion to hold me through the symptoms gives me hope. And when I have hope, I can rest and trust that this is not the end.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
So, when I have fallen, when I am crushed, my soul may not be able to do anything about it. But my spirit can call for help.
Then I can rest knowing that God will hold me as long as I need Him to. And when I’m ready, He will lift me up and help me start walking again.
Psalm 40:1-2 NLT
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
How has God held you when you cried out to Him for help?
Photo credit: JaguarE