Overcoming Sin through Christ: Hopelessness and Despair

  Overcoming Sin through Christ

A Comprehensive List of Sins

(Alphabetically Arranged)

Richard Hollerman

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Hopelessness and Despair

Sometimes the trials of life become so pressing, the circumstances become so disappointing, and the pain becomes so unbearable, that we are tempted to arrive at a point of hopelessness. We despair of finding a solution to our dilemma and we don’t know where to turn. If this is true of followers of Jesus, how much more would it be true of people who don’t know God!

This sin is one often overlooked in our day.  People may tend to consider hopelessness as an emotional problem that needs therapy, and indeed there may be an aspect of this that is true.  Indeed, life can be extremely stressful and one’s emotions and physical condition can be so debilitated that one needs a rest or recuperation.  But the problem goes further than this. 

Hopelessness suggests that a person feels that there is no hope to his situation.  He feels that God has deserted him and he must face life alone.  The word despair means “complete loss of hope,” or “to be overcome by a sense of futility or defeat.”[1]  Despair, desperation and despondency “refer to a state of mind caused by circumstances that seem too much to cope with.”  “Despair suggests total loss of hope, usually accompanied by apathy and low spirits. . . . Desperation is a state in which loss of hope drives a person to struggle against circumstances, with utter disregard of consequences. . . . Despondency is a state of deep gloom due to loss of hope and a sense of futility and resignation.”[2]

If we read through the Psalms, we can often see how the psalmist experienced a heaviness of heart and distress of spirit, and sought for help from the only source of help—God.  Notice Psalm 41:5: “Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence” (cf. Psalm 42:6, 9-11; 43:5).  When one is in despair, he is to hope in God who can bless, help, and deliver. 

Jesus Himself experienced a deep heaviness at times, such as in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He took Peter, James, and John further into the Garden, then “began to be grieved and distressed” (Matthew 26:37).  Jesus said, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me” (v. 38).  Isaiah even refers to Jesus as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).  Yet, we know that through all of His grief, Jesus had a depth of joy that we know nothing about.  “He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21) and could tell His apostles, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11).

Paul also knew deep sorrow.  He said, “We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).  Yes, he knew grief and pain (cf. 12:7-10), and he could write, “I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart” for the lostness of Israel (Romans 9:2).  But in the grief or sorrow, there was also true joy.  He wrote that he was “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (6:10).  How did he do this?  Notice Paul’s testimony: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).  Even though there were things he couldn’t understand and he was “perplexed,” Paul said that he was “not despairing.” 

Utter hopelessness is a symptom of unbelief and a leading trait of the unsaved person.  Paul sais that the Gentiles had “no hope” and were “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).  When one doesn’t know God, we can see why he would be hopeless.  The apostle also writes of the coming of Christ, saying that the lost Gentiles have “no hope” in death, thus they grieve at death, believing that this is the end of everything and only darkness awaits them.

Today, atheists may think that death is the end and one is no different than an animal that dies.  Some Eastern-oriented people entertain the vain “hope” of a reincarnation, others hope that they will be lost in the vastness of Nirvana, and still others think that they will go to purgatory to have their sins burned away.  These false views offer no substantial hope. 

In contrast, the believer has a substance to his hope.  Hope is a real and objective truth about the future.  And hope can also be a verb, expressing an active hope in God’s promises for the future.  Paul says that “hope does not disappoint”—for it is true (Romans 5:4-5).  He says that “in hope we have been saved” (8:24), and even in the deepest trial, the Christian knows that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (8:28).  The apostle says that we have a hope in Christ’s return in which we “shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), and we are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).

How can we be in despair when God “has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises” and we can look forward to our “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:4, 11)?  Even when weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties overtake us as they did Paul (2 Corinthians 12:10), we know that God is working in all of this for our good and His ultimate glory.  Even when tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword overtake us (Romans 8:35), we can say, “In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (v. 37), and nothing in all creation can separate us from “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 38-39).  Let us recognize that although we do experience grave and serious trials in life,  even in this, we can and must have a deep faith and expectant hope of the coming resurrection, Christ’s glorious return, and our part in the eternal kingdom of God!

Shall we allow despondency, despair, and hopelessness to overcome us and defeat us?  If we do, this reveals a lack of faith in God and His good purposes!  Paul’s encouragement should touch us deeply: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13; cf. v. 4).  Do we have such an abounding hope?

(See also “Discouragement”)

 



[1] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[2] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

 

 

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