The Fight

Despair should be a scary emotion. An intruder: rattling like a cold wind through the mental living room, upsetting the furniture and knocking over the lamps.  But instead of showing it the door, I sometimes invite it in. I create space for it at the table and even seek it out. It’s a shadow – but it’s familiar and reassuring too.

What’s really scary is not despair.  It’s actually Hope.

With despair, you think you know what you’re getting.   It promises you safety – but this is a lie. You’re used to its habits: impossible to imagine life without it.   But instead of protecting you, it closes you down. It isolates you and moves in for the kill.

Hope on the other hand, seems risky and uncertain. Insubstantial, a dandelion ghost that’s just out of reach. But this too is false. Instead hope is as solid as its object.  If I hope for example, in myself or my circumstances, I’m lost – because these things can be shaken. But if my hope is in Christ, then it’s outside of me. ‘It’ is a Person: and He is an anchor, firm and secure.

Despair should be an enemy – but it feels like a friend. A best friend, who won’t share you with anyone else. That hugs you close and whispers  in the darkness:   ‘Life is pointless: but that’s not all bad.  At least you know where you stand – and you know what’s coming too. You’re in charge.  If you don’t put your heart on the line, then it can’t be crushed. You can protect yourself from risk and unpredictability.  From surprises: good or evil’.

Hope however,  is the true friend that can feel like a threat – the friend who won’t give up when you push them away. The friend who loves you and who dares to speak the truth. This friend won’t let you withdraw.  It engages you and brings you into community.  It tells you, ‘Keep going, keep trusting.   You’re not in charge – but you’re not alone.  God can be trusted.You haven’t reached your goal yet, but listen, can you hear it? Can you  feel it? You’re nearly there and the best is yet to come.  ‘

Despair tells you that you can’t change.  It’s too late. Your mistakes can’t be forgiven.  You’re a victim or a perpetrator, but never both.  Despair feels like a duvet, but it smothers you instead. It promises to protect you – from daring to dream, from taking risks, from engagement with the world and from failure and success. What it really does,  is cut you off from life itself.

Gospel hope however, never gives up.  In Christ, there’s forgiveness for every sin.  New mercies, every morning.  Redemption, even in the greatest suffering. A new identity, independent of our people or place.  Gospel hope is risky – but it never disappoints.  It’s  frightening, glorious and beautiful.  It’s life – in all its fullness.


4 thoughts on “The Fight

  1. Another good thing about despair is you get to rest. No hope, no struggle. There’s no fight, you’ve raised the white flag. That to me is what’s most attracting of it.

  2. Hi Leticia – yes, I know what you mean. It’s funny though: the ‘rest’ it offers is like an anaesthetic against all feeling – and there’s nothing as draining as despair.

  3. When written like that, it all seems very clear cut. In experience however, even as a Christian, what about when you are in despair and are hopeless, because despite having put your faith, trust, life in the hands of God and His Rescuer, knowing you have an amazing future in heaven secured, you cannot see any hope for change in this life. The one you hope in seems not to be helping in the despair of living in this world. And you have been hoping/praying/crying out for so many years not to have to experience the despair of this particular life situation and yet nothing has changed. How then can you have hope?

  4. Hi Pippa

    Great question. One thing that gives me hope when I’m despairing and in the pit is that Jesus hopes for me: it’s not my heart for God that counts, but that I’m on his heart. This sounds like just words, but it’s anchoring my identity in Someone outside myself – in a sense, losing myself and my despair in His beauty. Another thing that really helps me is church community – people loving me and gently reminding me that there’s a world beyond myself and that they care about me and also hope for me, when I can’t do it for myself.

    There’s no simple answer to this question – and many times, I’ve felt the way that you describe: sometimes for short periods and sometimes longer. But in my experience, suffering and despair can, by God’s grace be ways of coming into a much deeper relationship with Him, because I’m so unhappy, because everything else fails and because I’m crying out heart and soul for rescue.

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