Despair and Hopelessness


Jer. 22:13-23; Rom. 8:12-27; John 6:41-51

Psalm 69 is one of those psalms that is often overlooked.  It is long.  Perhaps a neglected psalm because it is so long.  I also dwells on desolation and some see it as a downer.

The psalmist feels like he is drowning.  Woven in also is having a central trust in God, which is front and center in this psalm.  “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck…I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.

As if things couldn’t be worse, this drowning person also has a parched throat.  Salt water! Voice dried up – unable to cry for help.  As Psalm 69 plays out, it is easy to see the desolation and despair.  The longing for help is profound. The wonder and amazement of this psalm is that never once does the psalmist let go of the hope that God saves.  The abundant love of God is appealed to.

The world has come crashing in.  The world is consuming.  Insults and shame and dishonor from “my foes” also make themselves known.  The psalmist, through a confession of sin, and through the honest purging of his own venting, arrives at his vengeance and anger: “Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them.”

Despite the cries for help, and despite the need for help in the face of overwhelming oppression, the psalmist never forgets that God is there and has the power to make a change.

And this is the beauty of the psalms.  They teach us how to grieve and lament in a way that is not destructive to our relationship with God.  Trust.  Providential care.  Abundant love.  They all play a part, even in the midst of desolation.

I remember a few years ago running into someone at a neighborhood market who was profoundly sad.  My brief encounter with her in the aisle revealed a deep and profound longing.  I approach her and half-full shopping cart and two children, as she experienced an overwhelming bout of crying.  I quietly approached, caught her eye, asking “Ma’am.  What’s going on?”  As the drama of her life began to spill out, I realized I would need a quick get-away.  I listened for a brief while, and said a brief prayer on her request, and we went our separate ways.

I believe strongly in the dignity of each person and fight vehemently for it (those of you that know my political leanings), but I am sure you relate to my struggle: How much can I really do to help in the middle of Wal-Mart?  That sense of fight or flight kicked in as a thought selfishly of my long day ahead.

We ran into each other again at the checkout counter.  Sadness and despair had taken hold.  Everything was wrong with her life and it was everyone’s fault.  It was the ex-husband.  It was the kids.  It was the checker.  It was the car mechanic.  Nothing was right.

I offered her refuge at First Pres and that I would love to talk with her more sometime.  “Nothing can fix all this now.  Not even God can save me now.”  She disappeared before I could respond.

I remained at the checkout, bewildered and befuddled by the hopelessness and the powerlessness I felt.  I did not see her again.

All of us have experienced sadness and despair.  The world is full of it.

Where is God for us at our most vulnerable?  How are we going to respond with disappointment, difficulty, and sometimes desolation.  At rock bottom, do we find a savior, or an empty pit?

If I know anything about God, it is that God never leaves us.  I pray that as you cry out to God (those of you that are crying out) that you will find hope in scripture and as you tell your story to each other.  My door is always open.

Let’s discover God together.


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