Do you like me sometimes reach a moment of desperation? Have you ever looked at life’s circumstances as they pertain to you and think, “I do NOT understand what’s happening. I do NOT know why this is happening to me. I do NOT know what to do about all this.”
If you have ever felt this way (or feel that way right now) you are certainly not alone. In fact, if you NEVER felt that way, you certainly ARE alone! Let’s face facts: life circumstances that sometimes overwhelm not only are normal, for most it is usual. Experiences beyond our control that surface in our lives fairly often is a normal occurrence.
When do these uncontrollable circumstances morph into Desperation? Webster defines desperation as “loss of hope and surrender to despair.” OK, so what is “despair?” Webster defines “despair” as: “the utter loss of hope.”
This is getting a bit confusing! “Loss of hope” is the common denominator of these definitions. I’ll bite: What is “hope?”
Hope is (according to Webster) “to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.” Now we’re getting somewhere.
“Hope” is the first of these feelings — “desperation,” “despair,” “the utter loss of hope” — that WE control!
We’ve all heard the word “faith” used in multiple frames of reference in our lives: maybe in your wedding vows used this way — “faithful.” It may have been about your favorite NFL team’s pending ballgame outcome: “I have faith the Saints will beat the Rams!”
We’ve all heard the word, we’ve all said the word. But what does the word “faith” mean? Let’s not go to Webster for the definition. Let’s go to the Bible.
(Wait a minute! We can’t talk religion in this story. How do you get away with that? BECAUSE IT’S MY BLOG!)
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, New International Version) The same verse from the King James version says this: “Faith is the SUBSTANCE of things HOPED for and the EVIDENCE of things not seen.”
Now we’re getting somewhere.
In most instances, when we get desperate, we’ve lost faith in a situation getting better — we’ve given up. It may be a problem with a child that just seems to achieve no resolution no matter how hard we try. Maybe it’s in a relationship with a spouse, a friend or fellow worker. Sometimes desperation sets in when a close friend or family member with whom we have a close bond find themselves in circumstances that are too intense for them. And we are so close to them, we feel their desperation and make that feeling our own.
By way of clarity: I am not a medical mental health expert. But at my age, my life is full of experiences with many people from many places who have diverse life circumstances. Throughout my 6+ decades, I’ve seen much desperation surface with many different faces in some of those. One does not need to be a professional to see the differences of reactions by people to determine which “escapes” from desperation are successful and which fail. I’ve seen miraculous escapes from desperation from a multitude of common and strange circumstances, to examples of total failure and even suicide. But in certainty, we can say the results of actions taken by anyone to end desperation that result in DEEPER desperation are NEVER the correct ones.
It has been my almost universal experience with desperation that there is one way out and one way only: Faith — faith in an answer, faith in some source of that answer, and ultimately faith in God.
If you routinely attend church you certainly have heard messages about faith. But hearing messages about faith that one can turn into faith are two different things. To use faith to dump desperation, getting a grasp of what faith is and how to obtain it to use in those desperate circumstances, often create a conundrum.
So how do we get our arms around Faith?
There’s no magic in that process. There’s no secret formula for faith — seldom are there lightning flashes or thunder when faith shows up.
I don’t want to trivialize its importance. The Bible even makes it clear how critical faith is to our well being in Romans 14: “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
Don’t get confused: put the two verses together and you’ll be able to better understand what faith is and its importance. By its definition, it is just a little piece of what we hope for — whether literally if we’re looking for tangible and material results, or even if our desired results are intangible. What we are hoping for is NOT visible to us at that time. But we CAN get results when we trust that that “little piece” we see is, in fact, proof that we WILL see the final results.
Does that make sense?
Let’s try this example:
Bubba finds beautiful young Judy at high school and falls in love with her. She is gorgeous! And because of her beauty, every boy in school wants to date her. Bubba one day sheepishly runs into Judy in the hallway and he says “Hello.” To Bubba’s surprise, she smiles back. So, Bubba introduces himself. Judy immediately quips, “I know who you are. I’ve been watching you!”
Things begin to gel between the pair and they start dating. They become inseparable, together all the time each has from other responsibilities. It doesn’t take long for Bubba to determine that Judy’s the one for him for life.
After graduation, he decides to pop the big question. And to his surprise, Judy agrees to marry him! They are officially engaged. They set a wedding date 10 months down the road.
Judy is STILL beautiful, still desirous to other guys who want to date her, but she’s now engaged to Bubba. Judy “promised” to marry him. But Bubba must make a decision about their relationship: should he trust Judy’s commitment to spend the rest of her life with him, or should Bubba worry about “outside” influences? He wants her by his side for life. And he’s committed for life to her and only her. Though she made the same commitment to him, what should he do to make sure she fulfills her commitment?
The answer is simple: Bubba can go down that road of care and concern about Judy and her commitment. That ultimately leads to worry and concern, and sometimes that results in desperation. So that is obviously not the REAL answer Bubba needs.
There is an alternative: FAITH. You cannot see faith, you cannot touch faith. But it is necessary for us to make it through life’s circumstances of which we HAVE NO CONTROL. We MUST have faith to get to that wedding date in one piece.
How did Bubba do that? How do WE do that? FAITH.
Bubba’s faith came from the fact he nurtured a personal relationship with Judy during the one year. By knowing her, he received through that the “substance” of her commitment to a lifetime with him. The evidence of what Bubba was hoping for — marriage — the trust he garnered during that year from the relationship that developed during that year. That is an example of faith that we all should be able to grasp.
There’s actually a funny faith example that may seem ridiculous, but it also illustrates faith:
A couple had two sons, Billy and Tommy. Tommy was the eternal optimist. He seldom cried or even frowned. He stayed happy all the time. Billy seemed to be like all other children. One would think parents would be thrilled with a childlike Tommy, but both worried that he would not grow up knowing the harsh realities that life can bring. Billy seemed to be a realist, so their parents were not concerned about him.
One Christmas, the father had an idea: “We need to shock Tommy into reality. All we will give Tommy for Christmas is a bag of animal poop. That will teach him what reality is.” That’s what they did.
Christmas morning both boys joined their parents to open presents. Billy had 3 or 4 neat gifts that he unwrapped. Tommy waited until Billy was through and then opened his only gift: the bag of poop. The moment he saw the present’s contents, he jumped up and started running around the house from room to room, slamming doors, squealing all the while.
His Dad followed him, stopped him from running, and said this to son: “Tommy, you just got a bag of poop for Christmas and nothing else. Why would you possibly be so excited?” Tommy pushed past his Dad headed out to the garage and shouted to his Dad as he opened the garage door: “I got a bag of poop. I’m going to find my pony!”
You get it, don’t you? When Tommy saw the poop, he knew he held the evidence of what he hoped for. He wanted a pony and had dreamed of getting one for Christmas. That poop was the substance of the hoped-for pony and the evidence there was one, he just had to find it.
Every time we face a crisis in our lives, we have just two choices to make: do we take it head on, knowing that no matter how bad those circumstances are, sometimes bad things happen to good people? Do we in desperation fall to pieces crying “Woe is me,” or do we make the other choice, to believe that whatever the situation is, there is or are solutions to this crisis that will be available to me that I don’t know right now, but I WILL find them and get this taken care of.
Faith is critical for those circumstances in which we know we have no solution: serious illness, financial crisis, etc. We have those two choices and two only.
So when they show up at your house, I encourage you to turn away from the temptation to embrace desperation and opt for grabbing and holding on to faith to get through those happenings. It’s always a choice: our choice.
By the way: Bubba and Judy remain happily married 43 years later. Actually, on Valentines Day it will be 44 years. That’s a true story.