Here Are Some Great Scripture Verses To Help You Fight Despair
We live in a culture rife with despair. It’s easy to see this manifested in the gargantuan number of suicides and other acts of violence, division, and rage. It seems that despair is fueled by the creeping isolation and loneliness of our technologically-driven society, which leads many to abandon hope in the midst of life’s immense crosses.
Despair, however, isn’t always a sin. There are times in everyone’s life in which s/he will feel hopeless. As a grief writer and speaker, I see this often, usually in the form of such thoughts as, “Will my life ever get any better?” or “I just want to give up.” This sense of hopelessness does not, in fact, imply that the person has actually given up on life or faith. It simply means that the dark emotion related to despair is one of many complex aspects of how many of us internalize suffering.
Whether or not despair is an emotion to move through or an actual sin, we can turn to Scripture for a renewal of hope and strength during life’s hardships. Here are five that have been very powerful for me.
“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6
Life circumstances sometimes stall. Even the best of plans fail, and we feel stuck, maybe indefinitely. Because we are not conditioned to use the seasons of waiting fruitfully, we may allow those doubts to settle in our minds and find a comfortable home there. This is where we begin to lose hope. “What’s the point?” we ask ourselves. “It seems useless.”
St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians that any good work you are doing in life will not remain undone forever. He’s encouraging us to persevere in our confidence that God’s providence will prevail.
“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
St. Paul wrote that all things work for good if we love God. We are striving to do better, to be better Christians, but we know we fall short. There are moments in my own life when my thoughts get entangled and jumbled, especially if I focus too much on my sins and weaknesses. Sadness sets in, and I become easily discouraged.
When I look at this verse, I am reminded that even the worst of my days – even when I yell at my kids or ignore my husband – can be used for good if I hand them over to God. He has called me, as he has called you, to some greater good. And it is when we accept and even love our weaknesses, according to St. Therese of Lisieux, that God can work most powerfully in and through us.
“Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5
One of the biggest challenges I see in our modern world is that few people understand the merit of their suffering. It is viewed, even among the faithful, as a punishment and thus leads many to deep sorrow and resistance. While it’s true that there are particular periods of a person’s spiritual journey that can be so dark it’s impossible to see any semblance of light, generally we can remind ourselves that perseverance and patience – two sub-virtues of fortitude – are what lead us through the pain we so desperately want to rid ourselves of.
Despair begins as an emotion. Many saints experienced intense spiritual darkness, even believing they were eternally lost because of questioning God’s existence and other doubts. Still, they remained faithful through these trials. Hope as a virtue must be refined in our struggles, perfected when we love God for his own sake.
“I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!” – Psalm 27:13-14
Many Psalms are lamentations through which our Jewish ancestors found consolation. It’s refreshing to be reminded that, even thousands of years ago, God’s faithful people questioned him, even challenged him, during many long years of desolation without reprieve. I think particularly of Psalm 13, in which the Psalmist writes, “How long, O Lord? How long will you forget me?” Some described their tears being their daily bread, their bones wracked with pain.
We read these rich images in the poetry of the Psalms, and we can relate to them. It’s a gift to connect ourselves to the history of Christianity and then look to the Psalms for clues as to how the authors, and their readers, were able to navigate their feelings of despair. Most Psalms, even the darkest ones, end in praising God and with the affirmation that they believe in God’s goodness, faithfulness, and providence.
When we learn to wait for God to deliver us from our suffering on his own time, the heavy burdens that never seem to lift at least become meaningful as an indelible aspect of our journey toward heaven.
“The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.” – 1 Peter 5:10
In Western culture, success is validated by how much a person contributes to society through his or her achievements and productivity. According to God, however, as fulfilled through Jesus, our lives do not bear the full extent of their purpose until we move from doing to being, from activity to receptivity. Passion, or suffering, is God’s way to eternal life with him.
This being true, we can keep in mind that God restores what has been lost when we follow him. It might be an ethical dilemma at work, in which we lose a promotion. It might be losing family and friends who do not agree with or support the work God is calling us to do – to the priesthood or religious life, as a missionary, as a volunteer for a particular ministry, etc.
But before the restoration, we will suffer our own passion. It’s God’s promise that suffering for his sake does, indeed, end in glory. That alone is cause for our hope and to keep moving forward.