Suffering with hope

Is It Wrong For a Christian to Despair?


Do you ever feel weary of waiting, weary of fighting for joy, and weary of hoping for better days? Do you push down feelings of despair and hopelessness because you don’t think a Christian is allowed to struggle with such “faithless” feelings?

Well, let me assure you – you aren’t alone. If I’m honest, a sense of despair has increasingly clouded my view of life and left me wondering if the darkness will ever lift.

God’s Word says that we are ‘perplexed, but not led to despair’. Why, then, do I feel such a sense of despair?”

It’s been over a decade of navigating our child’s neurological disorder along with the wearing effects of my own chronic illness, the pain of watching all of my children suffer from circumstances that very few people see and understand, and the stress of going from a state of financial comfort to not being able to pay for the help that our family desperately needs. However, as much as the major losses in life have caused a deep wrestling in my faith, the “little” disappointments and struggles often seem to be the final blow to my weary heart.

Sometimes, no matter how hard I fight for truth and push back the lies that constantly bombard my thoughts, despair begins to seep in, distorting the truth and clouding my perspective.

Can you relate?

There may be seasons of suffering when we keenly sense the presence of the Christ infusing us with strength, joy, and peace as we cling to him in the storms that rage around us. However, there are also seasons where it feels as if darkness is closing in around us, creating confusion, doubts, and despondency. We cry out to the Lord – but he seems silent. We plead for relief, but the pain only intensifies. Suddenly, the God we thought we knew is at odds with circumstances that seem to say otherwise.

How do we fight for hope when we begin to despair of life itself?

Recognize earthly despair for what it is – and what it isn’t.

The loss of earthly hopes and desires, brokenness that will never be restored on this earth, death to the life we’ve always known, perplexing and disorienting circumstances, and the weariness of long-suffering can all contribute to feeling burdened beyond what we can bare.

Even Paul lamented in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”

How can Paul say that he despaired of life when three chapters later he says that “we are perplexed, but not driven to despair?” Because even though he despaired of life – even to the point of death (and the threat to end his ministry) – it brought about a greater purpose of relying solely upon Christ and, ultimately, his earthly despair could never destroy his promised eternity.

Brother or sister in Christ, we do not despair in the deepest and truest sense of the word. We can acknowledge our earthly sense of despair – giving ourselves the time to grieve and lament the loss and pain we’ve experienced, but then we must choose to press on in the confident hope that we will ultimately be delivered – if not on in this life, then in the one to come. We fight for hope today because no earthly despair will ever be greater than the hope and promise of the deliverance, wholeness, healing, and redemption that is coming.

Fight for truth

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Death to our outer selves is excruciating at times. Fighting through pain each day is exhausting; watching our children battle sickness and struggle to make sense of this broken world can be heart wrenching to say the least; and seeing excess wealth all around while we can’t afford the treatment that our child and family desperately needs is perplexing and a constant temptation to give way to discouragement.

And yet, despite how much pain they’ve caused, these losses have ushered in a deeper understanding of the gospel, a growing eternal perspective, and a greater willingness to live radically for the sake of following Christ. We have one race to run and in the Lord’s kindness, he can use the very circumstances that tempt us to despair to ultimately give us greater life in him. In his severe mercy, he brings us to the end of ourselves and teaches us to count these losses as eternal gain as he fills those empty and hurting places with more of himself. In his strength and with his promises as our hope, we can run with endurance as we fix our eyes on the prize of our glorious eternity.

Christian, when suffering leaves you battling despair and hopeless, convinced that you will never know anything but the pain that aches within you, fix your eyes on the promises of God and trust that he is faithfully working in and through you for his good purposes. For the believer, God may very well be working through our feelings of despair to unify us Christ’s sufferings, as well as the sweetness of his presence and depth of his comfort. As he does, our outer selves (physical body, and earthly hopes and desires) waste away and our inner selves (soul, character, future hope, and reflection of Christ) are renewed day by day, giving us a greater love for Christ and “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.’ The pain you experience now has an end. And the joy that is coming will swallow up the sorrows of this world.

Though you may come to the point of despairing of life itself, let it drive you toward a greater dependence on Christ and a fight for faith in future grace. Allow yourself to grieve the disappointments, inequalities, losses, and pain of this world, be honest with the Lord as you wrestle with what he says is true versus what appears to be true, ask him to give you his strength to endure when you’re strength has dried up, and remember that what appears hopeless to us is never beyond the redeeming power of our Savior. One day, he will turn your mourning into dancing, the darkness will be no more, and your faith will become sight. Hold firm to the hope you have in Christ, strengthen your weary heart with the promises of God and trust that the light will dawn again.

Home is Around the Corner,


3 thoughts on “Is It Wrong For a Christian to Despair?”

  1. The words that I want to say is “I don’t know how you do it.” because I know that I’m not even in the same ball field as you folks are. And then to add insult to injury, you are able to write this beautiful encouragement, for others, which to me is pretty amazing. I can only think that you have been chosen to walk a walk that most of us can’t even envision, let alone walk it with you. I continue to lift you and yours up in prayer, trusting in God’s wisdom and purposes. God’s grace, peace and blessings to you and yours Sarah.

    1. Bruce, I don’t feel deserving of this, because I certainly wrestle with a lot and don’t always respond very graciously, but if anything you said is true, it’s really a miraculous provision of God because I would have given up a long time ago if he hadn’t continued to help me endure. I guess it comes back to the truth that he gives us the grace for what he calls us to. But thank you so much for your encouragement, brother.

  2. Hello, dear Sarah:
    I cannot tell you how your writings minister to my heart. I have been widowed for seven years, struggle with chronic pain, and have two precious adult sons who are not living for God. Yes, my heart hurts, but as the late Elisabeth Elliot would say, “Suffering is never for nothing.” We know that suffering gives us a platform for ministering to others, and an opportunity for sharing the comfort that we have received from Christ with others who are suffering. Thank you, dear Sarah, for sharing with us all the treasures and truths you are learning in your own suffering. Your suffering is never for nothing. Please know that I pray for you and your family. I pray for a real breakthrough in help for your precious firstborn, and for yourself and your other children who are struggling with the effects of Lyme’s disease. Praise God, there is an expiration date on our suffering, and in the meantime, we have a God who truly is in the midst of His people, sustaining and encouraging us until our race is over. Blessings upon you and your family.

    Arlene G.
    Ps. 73:25-26

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