Tag Archives: despair

Finding hope in a hopeless world

The world has always been falling apart. Well, at least since Genesis 3. But there are times when we are far more aware of just how busted up we are in this world. This is one of those times. Those of us who work in the social services get a front-row seat at seeing individual, family, community, and society level brokenness.

Frankly, this vantage point tempts me to become cynical, skeptical, and in despair. Listen in on some of the thoughts we Christian counselors might have: people don’t change; leaders serve themselves; God doesn’t care… Out of this experiences, counselors may find themselves becoming complacent, settling for palliative care only (vs. recovery), or worse, using clients to sate their own appetites.

So, where do you find hope in an otherwise hopeless world?

Cynicism and skepticism illustrate conclusions we have made about our world. file-nov-28-5-16-13-pmThey illustrate that we have stopped looking for other data. Consider instead these three activities as a reminder and cultivator of the hope available to us:

  1. Waiting and lamenting. I’ve written on this quite a bit over the years. This post was my most recent, but this one and this one may be of use as well. You might wonder whether lamenting leads to more cynicism. But notice that the goal is to actively wait on God for an answer. When we lament in front of God we talk to him about the state of our soul or the state of the world. Waiting requires that we prepare to listen to God’s heart on these same things.
  2. Waiting and looking. This is the season of Advent, of remembering the birth of Jesus, the messiah. †Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist had stopped looking for God to show up. Who can blame him, God hadn’t seemed to show up for a mere 400 years or so. It took being struck silent by an angelic messenger to wake him from his disbelief. Where are you no longer looking for God’s hand in your life? In the world? Look to your present. Ask your friends to tell you where they notice God’s activity. Look to your future, imagine yourself as a child waiting eagerly for Christmas morning. Be like that child and keep talking to God, “Is it Christmas yet?” Look even to the past. See what God has done in your life in the past and let that remind you that he is at work in your present and future. Read Hebrews 11 as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to his people.
  3. Waiting and loving. While we wait, we are not passive! We move and act in love, even when it seems the good we do will not change the outcome. That loving may be acts of palliative care, or it may be an act of planting a dormant seed that one day springs to life and full bloom. This act of loving others grows out of Jeremiah’s lament (Lam 3:21f): because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed. Therefore we recognize that our minuscule capacity to love, to care, even to call others to repentance are all signposts of God’s ongoing love for his people.

Is it crazy to hope in this world? Absolutely. But the signs of birth are around you if you look. Notice in Luke 1 how Zechariah sings of present-tense salvation and redemption, even though Jesus is merely in utero. How much more ought we to be able to hope as we live in the age of the Resurrection.†

†I got these ideas from a sermon preached by Marc Davis on 11/27/16.



Filed under Advent, Biblical Reflection, Despair, suffering, Uncategorized

Godly depression?

Last night my psychopathology class focused on the topic of depression. We covered the usual stuff: various experiences and features of depression and bi-polar disorder, potential medical causes, common medical and psychological treatments, etc.

Depression, as you most likely know, comes in all sizes and shapes and is multifactorial in etiology. Depression involves the body, the mind and spirit, and the environment. Thus, treatments should also cover the gamut, focusing on thoughts, faith, body, and environment. I ended the class pointing briefly to the fact that the English Puritan treatment of depression covered pretty much the same. They encouraged their parishioners to treat their despair and melancholy with these ideas,

  1. Seek the benefit of “Physick” or medical interventions
  2. Accept the comfort of Scriptures and in community with friends (and they also counseled others to avoid over-use of exhortation)
  3. Be mindful of God’s present and past mercies
  4. Utilize the sacraments and other spiritual disciplines
  5. Avoid too much time in introspection, but
  6. Examine oneself to see if there are also hidden issues to be dealt with

Notice the “heart surgery,” as one of my students put it in her paper, doesn’t happen til much work has been done to stabilize and comfort the despairing individual.

KEY QUESTION: Is there such thing as Godly depression?

If so, what would it look like? This question comes out of the view that depression and accompanying hopelessness reveals, to some degree, that a person is failing to trust the Lord.

Or does it? Is it possible to be depressed and spiritually mature? I believe so. So, what signs might you look for to determine that the person in front of you was experiencing a Godly depression? Was St. Paul despairing to the point of death but wholly trusting the Lord at the same time? (2 Cor 1:8f)


Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, counseling science, Depression, Doctrine/Theology