Click below for audio version read by yours truly
Despair is a tricky little devil, lurking undetected in the crevices of your soul during times of distraction and activity, and then attacking like a tentacled monster when you are most vulnerable – alone and hurt by some inevitable slight. Dark thoughts, technically accurate, pound on the intentionality of a positive outlook like a tsunami wave, and as the assault recedes back into the fissures of your mind, you are left on the shore like a pummeled seashell – crusty and emptied. And as far as the eye can see there is negative thought-litter all over the beach. Few would deny that suffering and tragedy seem to be the universal underpinnings of existence on this fragile little mud ball.There is really no reason to resist a cancerous cynical attitude if all we have to sustain us is natural life. And yet I am dumbstruck by the myriad accounts of people facing inconceivable tragedy and loss, and the way they rise to meet it with strength, courage, and determination. They are far better people than I, but that response is suggestive that there is something inside us besides mere biological activity. Something that defies despair. Such unselfish illogical valor springs from love rather than logic – sacrificial care of people inextricably intertwined in relationship- transcending a mere connection to animal existence. Indicating our connection to the spiritual.
Even if you live a life relatively free from profound tragedy, the unassailable march of aging brings inescapable alterations to your abilities and ideals. You can count on failure both of health (to varying degrees) and expectations (unless you have set them pretty low). Add to that the inevitable dilemmas of relationship, some of which are irretrievable, life’s increasing seclusion, rejection, and change. Voila! A recipe for despondency. Thanks to covid isolation, social media incivility, economic uncertainty, and polarization adding to the normal stresses of life, depression, addiction and suicide are on the rise even amongst the younger demographic. So glad you tuned in for all of this sunshine, aren’t you?
There is no better time than this to step back and remind ourselves that if we are willing to entertain the possibilities of intangible reality there is abundant reason to be hopeful. Designed as we are for relationship, the eyes of our heart are able to see Him who is invisible, and we discover that we have a ‘friend who sticks closer than a brother’. He is described in scripture as a man of sorrows, familiar with grief, so He knows exactly how we feel. He experienced not only depression but despair in the throes of death, wondering how He could be forsaken by a Father He had never once disappointed. This is after he had been betrayed (with a kiss no less) by one of His closest companions. The crowds He fed and healed turned on Him to demand His crucifixion – a most horrible tortuous death. Rejected, emotionally crushed, victimized, helpless (by choice), but absolutely convinced of His destiny, He embraced death because he saw beyond its cold heartless grip. He knew without a doubt what He has been trying to tell us from His very first message – there is way more than this visible life. This present darkness, controlled by the treachery of lies, energized by the each man’s willfulness, pitiless in its violence, is just a blip on the radar. He knew that the mortal powers who destroyed His body were passing whisps of smoke that could not touch His essence. He knew that He came to destroy the works of evil, to identify and rescue the lost, to serve rather than be served, to give His life in payment for our sins, to reveal the Father, to proclaim truth, to offer rich abundant life, to unleash eternity, to God-love His creatures. He healed the blind, the lame, the leprous, calmed storms with a word, miraculously fed multitudes, dispatched evil invasive spirits, and walked on water as easily as on land. The records are flooded with proof of His ability and integrity. His words brought not just hope and moral direction, they brought life – literally and spiritually. And He’s not finished!
Our focus determines our outlook. We have to decide what will determine our attitudes. If we don’t, our circumstances and feelings will kick us around like a soccer ball.
World events vividly remind us of our confinement in the prison of time. On our relentless march to the inevitable He asks us to take a detour – come to Him and escape our mortality. He asks us to trust Him – not a small ask in these cynical times. He understands our hesitation, still extends the invitation. The way is narrow, steep, and rocky – and less travelled. Yet it’s like finding a secret pathway through the mountains – a bit tricky, sometimes rough, but oh the scenery along the way! He walks beside us through every twist and turn, helps us up when we stumble. And the ultimate destination defies imagination or description. The deep joy of being truly known and yet totally accepted brings sweet peace – priceless!! Though unavoidably dotted with grief and pain, the journey need not be taken alone.
Perhaps you have already chosen a refuge from the storms that batter the soul. Distraction? Addiction? Denial? Seclusion? Activity? Relationship? It is hard to admit that you have preferred your flimsy nest over His promised mansion. That you trade His expert care for self-help. That you have judged His character by the actions of a disobedient church. He knows and doesn’t care. Do you see yourself as a failure, unworthy of attention from a holy God? He knows what you have done, what you will do, and what you don’t even realize is problematic and still says “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. He invites you to ‘cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you”. If your little boat is being tossed on the waves of life’s turbulent sea and you are in danger of capsizing, check where your anchor is cast. Consider getting in the lifeboat and hearing Him say to the waves “Peace – be still!”