In college, I remember hearing our campus pastor’s frequent refrain: “A diamond shines brightest against a black backdrop.” His point was that, as the world grows darker, and our sin paints an increasingly gloomy picture of this temporal existence, the Gospel is illuminated all the more.
In the dark shadows these days cast, there is a canvas on which we can paint the Good News, a holy dominion that deals in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23).
But in seasons of such great despair, how do we get ourselves to that place? Dealing in the fruit of the Spirit seems such a distant goal when our cynicism looms like a heavy cloud in our collective cultural psyche.
Less than two weeks ago, Americans were still, after months, hunkered down in their homes, watching endless news broadcasts about a generation-defining health crisis of unparalleled proportions. Now, the coronavirus is a faint memory, drowned out by riots and protests around the country following the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, a white man. The world is moving at breakneck speed and the violence and hate is only escalating.
Hopelessness is waiting at every turn. And we have to make the conscious decision not to embrace it, even when our minds tell us it’s the only option.
The feelings we are faced with in this trying hour, though, are not new. Fear often gives birth to despair. The 13th century philosopher Thomas Aquinas is credited with saying, “Fear itself carries with it its own danger; because when fear is excessive, it can make many a man despair.”
It is critical now for Christians to cling to the faith we champion when the days are good and the trouble far away.
“The greatest faith is born in the hour of despair,” said the late evangelist Lee Roberson. “When we can see no hope and no way out, then faith rises and brings the victory.”
There’s a reason that, when Jesus taught us to pray, he said this: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, just as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-13).
The church has a role to play in defeating the despair crippling our society.
So how do we get ourselves out of this deep ditch of despair so we can get about the business of living out the fruit of the Spirit? We cling to Jesus. It might sound like a spiritual platitude, but its rich in truth.
We petition God for eyes to see the world as He does, to understand the seriousness of our brokenness and the free gift of restoration through Jesus.
The following is a prayer rooted in Scripture for this season:
Lord, please give me eyes to see the truth and to love others as you love them (Mark 12:29-30). Root out the sin in my heart so, rather than dwelling in the anger and sadness of this fallen world, I can rejoice in ultimate redemption (Psalm 51:10). Help me to trust that the righteous prayers of your church don’t go unheard or unanswered. Give me strength to know that, even in our struggles, you are near to my broken heart (Psalm 34:17-18). Please ease my fears, because I know you care for me and love me (1 Peter 5:7). Remind me of the hope we have in Jesus and give me strength and compassion, through the Holy Spirit, to live as you want me to live in these confusing days (Romans 15:13). Please heal us, Lord (Psalm 6:2). In Jesus’ name, Amen.
As we walk together through this difficult season in our country’s history, know that we belong to an eternal kingdom that is not of this world (John 18:36). We are, though, called to do all we can, through Christ, to live His kingdom ways here on earth.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” — Matthew 11:28-30