Fighting The Giant "Despair"
It’s natural to become discouraged, but it’s unhealthy to stay that way. Satan loves to utilize the giant of discouragement to cast down our faith and progress.
Stephen Phinney | Dr. David Jeremiah | IM Contributing Authors
Phinney: Recently, I was awakened in the middle of the night with a sick heart. An experience myriad of people suffers all over the world - even though it “felt” like I was alone. I know that all the days appointed to me are mere shadows, yet my heart screamed that there was no hope. While I have deep respect and fear of God, as these numbered days rush by me, I fight the possibility of ending my days without hope.
I am a man who carries burdens deeply. When I laugh, I laugh hard. When I preach, I preach with overwhelming passion. When I write, it is with a double-edged sword. When I am hurt, it is deeper still. When I have a pity party, the self-sorrow is like no other. When I am in despair, hope threatens to take its last breath.
The challenge I experience when I suffer is I know the answers to my questions before they are asked. I find no comfort in this. Most of my days are likened to water washing over stones, ultimately wearing them down. My well-trained mind knows that God Himself destroys my self-induced hope. But yet, I fight to maintain my stupidity. Somehow being left with searching for the Person of Hope. Maybe that’s the point.
I have been teaching for many years that God works to break us down on every side and regularly uproots our hope like a tree in a vicious storm. My mind knows the reason. I know He is relentless in chasing away the “me.” However, my soul resists this process almost every time. Leaving me with the question, “Where is my hope now?”
At times I suffer from shame. The shame of being in ministry for 40+ years yet still questioning the true meaning of hope. For my flesh, hope is putting your right foot forward. It works for a while, but in the end, it leaves me in despair – because I get tired. Slowly, but for certain, I am learning a war horse is a false hope for victory, no matter how strong he is in battle. I am that horse. I often forget that it isn’t the horse that conquers but the rider upon the horse. It isn’t the horse that delivers anyone by its great strength. Could this be pride at its best?
I confidently know that the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him. Yet, when I meditate on His eye being on those who hope for His lovingkindness, I often sink into the misery of questioning the true meaning of love. How can I expect a loving God to deliver my soul from living death when I get stuck in the quandary of its meaning? This is where shame shows its ugly face. What do I do with this shame? Many times, I let it beat me down into a pile of ashes.
The Lord asked me this question. “Do you trust in oppression?” At first, I was tempted to say absolutely not. As God would have it, the question reached the core of my belief system. I realized that during times of despair, my trust is indeed in oppression – not in the Lord.
I don’t know about others, but I tend to ask ridiculous questions of myself. Like, Why am I in despair? Why am I disturbed when I know the pathway of deliverance? Instead of waiting for His answer in silence, my flesh takes over, and I work at fixing the fix that God has fixed on me to stop me from fixing myself. Failure always follows this foolishness. Worst yet, I negate putting my trust and hope in the Lord in troubling times – resulting in me returning to my vomit. At sixty-eight years of age, my flesh continues to remain loyal to hope in selfish venues of deliverance vainly.
Oh God, sustain me according to Your Word, that I may live in Christ and not through my vain fleshly endeavors, and do not allow me to be ashamed of authentic HOPE.
Recently I have been able to connect the dots of waiting and hope. I know it sounds like a “duh,” but for this old man, it was a connection of deliverance. Waiting allows the oppression to do a “fly-by.” Quick self-life actions cause us to miss the God-sized opportunity of hope. Furthermore, hope does not arrive until it is needed. In my case, not waiting on the Lord invites oppression to stay for an extended visit, which keeps me clueless to hopes authentic meaning. Hope cannot do its job until oppression is resisted.
Wisdom can be tricky.
In Ecclesiastes 1:18, it says, Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.
Shortly after receiving Jesus Christ, at age sixteen, I asked the Lord for half the amount of wisdom Solomon was given. Mostly because I “felt” stupid. Many times I have said to myself that was a stupid request. However, I believe God answered that prayer. Sadly, I was unprepared for the package that came with it – much grief and increasing pain. My adult life has been filled with both. In this grief and pain is where my bouts with oppression fog my eternal view of hope. What is an old prophet to do? Accept the full package deal.
I have learned that wisdom is for the soul and that there is a future beyond hopelessness when accepted in its full package. In fact, hope will never be cut off. While running into the arms of this Truth is, at times, difficult, it became my passageway to freedom. It remains the only passageway.
Two men I tend to admire are Charles Spurgeon & Martin Luther – both suffered from oppression throughout their adult lives. Luther fought demons in his sleep and times of prayer. Something I am well familiar with. Another man I admire is Watchman Nee. While imprisoned, guards cut off body parts – one each day. My soul finds comfort in their shared demise; however, the most important fact I needed to remember is far more profound. The wiser the man, the more torture he must bear in grief and pain – spiritual or otherwise. While this principle works for all authentic believers, my celebration of these Saints must include the full package of bearing the Gospel in Jesus' name.
The binding element for waiting and hope is faith. Since we believers have obtained the introduction to Christ by faith, the same faith causes us to stand in Grace. Then and only then will our hope remain in the glory of God. Yes, I am still learning the power of this Truth. I don’t believe I can walk out of hopelessness unless I embrace the reality that hopelessness is what drives me to persevere so that I can bloom in proven character, which is released through my warring against oppression. Admitting hope will never arrive without the proven character having completed its mission.
While knowing hopelessness produces shame and disappointment, authentic hope in Jesus does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in me through the obedient actions of the Holy Spirit. I might not be obedient to this Truth in times of darkness, but the Holy Spirit is always willing and ready to rebirth the HOPE of Jesus IF I wait on Him.
My eyes are open. I must stop hoping in the things I see but place my hope in what He sees in me and continue persevering while I wait for the Lord’s perfect timing to manifest it within me. I think then I could rejoice in hope, and persevere in tribulations, while I learn to be devoted to prayer.
I hope that my journey to the deeper truths OF hope blesses you. In God’s reality, we are all on the same page, suffering in our individual ways and certainly being taught the same lessons identified within the indwelling Life of Jesus.
Most readers know that when I am in spiritual, mental, or physical pain, I put my hands on the keyboard and wait for God’s message. I have done this. Now, I think I am ready to get back to what I do best - advancing the indwelling Life of Jesus. Until next time.