Many people live on the edge of despair and some beyond it. Despair is caused the absence of hope. And on both a political and cultural level it is sometimes difficult to find hope and very easy to find reasons for despair.
It is sobering to note that, such is their level of despair, almost 6000 people in our nation take their own lives every year.
Even on the religious front despair is evident and hope is in short supply. Indeed it is easy, when surveying the religious landscape, to find reasons for despair and distress. And to contemplate these things purely on a natural level can indeed lead to despondency and demoralisation.
The bible itself speaks of a “despairing spirit” and to the experience of being “clothed in despair”. Those who have experienced despair can relate to just how descriptive these terms are. The wise sage and author of Ecclesiastes even came to the point where he declared – “So I turned my heart over to despair over all the things for which I had toiled under the sun.” And his experience rings true – for despair seems not to be linked to prosperity or the lack of it. Indeed some of the poorest countries in the world have extremely low suicide rates.
One biblical character, who had more than his fair share of problems and could so easily have come to the same conclusion as the Old Testament Sage, could say – “We are hard pressed in every way, yet not crushed; perplexed, yet not in despair; persecuted, yet not forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed” (Paul – 2 Corinthians 4:8&9)
The amazing thing about Paul’s declaration in the face of an adversity, perplexity and persecution that would lead many to despair, was that he believed that through them God could reveal his power – “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, so that the surpassing greatness of the power may be from God and not from ourselves.”
Irishman Thomas Kelly, son of a Judge in the Irish Court planned to follow his father into the law. However after a ‘very marked spiritual change’ he became a minister. But his evangelical zeal saw him banned from preaching in the city of Dublin by his Archbishop. Kelly could well have fallen in to despair but instead went on to become the author of many well known hymns. He penned these words – “The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now”. I think Kelly and Paul discovered the secret of defeating despair. And the secret is found in the promise of Jesus –
“I have told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace. In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order.”
John 16:33 (TV)
His was the head that was crowned with thorns – not only on the cross – but also metaphorically throughout his life. But both then and now he carried and carries the glory of The Father!
Today Jesus invites us to renounce despair! He invites us to rest in him – the one who has overcome the world with its despondency and despair. So John could say –
“Everything that has been fathered by God overcomes the corrupt world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.”
1 John 5:4 (TV)
The head that once was crowned with thorns
is crowned with glory now;
a royal diadem adorns
the mighty Victor’s brow.
The highest place that heav’n affords
is his, is his by right,
the King of kings and Lord of lords,
and heav’n’s eternal Light:
The joy of all who dwell above,
the joy of all below,
to whom he manifests his love,
and grants his name to know.
To them the cross, with all its shame,
with all its grace, is giv’n;
their name an everlasting name,
their joy the joy of heav’n.
They suffer with the Lord below,
they reign with him above;
their profit and their joy to know
the myst’ry of his love.
The cross he bore is life and health,
though shame and death to him;
his people’s hope, his people’s wealth,
their everlasting theme.