My friend, do you feel yourself going down into the pit of despair today? If so, I want to encourage you.
Here's the backstory–one of many:
I was crying so hard I could barely breathe. I had been thinking about a hurtful family situation, and my thoughts had taken a fast downward dive. Suddenly, it seemed, I had tapped into a well of agony in my heart that I didn't even know was there. The tears had begun flowing, and I had not been able to get them to stop.
I had entered into the pit of despair. And that day, it took a lot of calling out to Jesus, a lot of commanding my soul to come into line, repentance on my part for my own doubt, unbelief, and self-pity, as well as the precious and faithful prayers of a friend to get me out of that pit.
Unfortunately, I'm no stranger to the pit of despair.
I wish I could say otherwise, but I'm a “feeler”–the old term for my personality type used to be “melancholy choleric.” That means I know the One Best Way (choleric) (just KIDDING!!!) but I have BIG emotions.
Anybody with me on that?
Before I got saved, I struggled with chronic depression.
You know, the kind of depression that goes on for years, and you can't pin it on any one situation. I struggled with depression of that kind because I had no hope in Jesus. I didn't have a relationship with Jesus at all, and my mind wasn't renewed in God's Word. The only kind of thinking I did was stinking thinking.
Just being frank with you.
But after I got saved, that chronic depression went away. The Lord healed me as I began to wash and renew my mind in God's Word–learning to think God's thoughts and leave the enemy's stinking thinking at the curb. I had to renew my mind, but the Lord used His Word to get rid of that chronic depression.
Since that time, however, I have still struggled sometimes with situational depression or even momentary bouts of discouragement or even despair.
Again, I wish I could say I haven't, but that would not be true. We are all progressively learning to walk in the Spirit, and my journey has been one fraught with pits and trials.
- There was that time when we had to pay for three mortgages for years on end. I struggled with depression for awhile over that.
- Then there was that time when I had a baby with health problems, and my own health problems, and I didn't recover from my c-section the way I should have (I still have major c-section pain to this day), and I had practically zero support from friends or family–all while trying to work full-time and continue to lead this ministry. It was a really tough time for me.
- There was also a long period of years where I worked in a job I hated, in a hostile work environment, and I cried every day and stared into space for hours on end, unable to do anything, I was so depressed.
I could go on and on, but I won't. I don't want to drag YOU down into the pit of despair just reading this. 😉
Point being: I'm not unfamiliar with the pit of despair. I know what it's like; and if you're there today, I empathize.
But I also know how to get OUT of the pit of despair. I've had to learn because, in ALL the occasions listed above and in so many, many other times when I've been in the pit, I had no help most of the time. Very little support and no one to rescue me.
So I had to learn directly from Holy Spirit how to get OUT of the pit of despair. Here is what He taught me:
We are in control of our thoughts. And we are in control of where our eyes land.
We can either choose to look at Jesus, or we can choose to look at the negative in our circumstances.
And I say “the negative in our circumstances” because there is ALWAYS positive; there is always something good that we could look at if we wanted to. For example:
- You're alive, aren't you? That's positive.
- You have Jesus, don't you? Amazing news.
- Are you not in a soup line somewhere? Wow, what a blessing. There are lots of people who would give anything to be you.
So Holy Spirit has taught me, through pit after pit after pit, that in fact I am the one who controls my emotions–for good or for evil.
This is why the Word of God admonishes us:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,
casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV).
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV).
God never tells us to do something we can't do. And we can choose to either ENTER the pit of despair or to stay out of it.
We have to have His help to do everything, yes; but He is always with you and will never leave you without the support and help you need. If you've given your life to Jesus, making Jesus Christ the Boss, Lord, and Master of your life, then the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in YOU. His power is constantly at work in you, both to will and to do His good pleasure.
That's why, for many years, I have asked the Lord to keep me on a short leash–to convict me whenever I wander into sin, whether on purpose or accidentally. I don't want to sin, ever; and I don't want to get away with anything.
And frankly, drifting down into the pit of despair and taking our eyes off Jesus goes against God's commands–therefore it's sin.
Additionally, as you know, going “there” generally comes with a healthy dose of doubt and unbelief–and doubt and unbelief are also sins; they are very offensive to God. That's why I had to do a lot of repenting in the story at the beginning of this article; I had chosen to go down into self-pity, doubt, unbelief, and other things.
But beloved, we don't have to go there. We don't have to enter into the pit of despair.
It really is a choice because, when we enter into the pit of despair:
- We have chosen to take our eyes off how God is working in the situation.
- We have chosen to feel sorry for ourselves. (And self-pity is idolatry because it gives our own feelings more importance than we give to God's Word of hope.)
- We have chosen to act like God is not answering our prayers, when in actuality He is working to answer the cry of your heart right that very moment.
And when we go down into the pit of despair, instead of casting our cares upon the Lord, we choose in that moment to carry them ourselves.
Beloved, we were not made to carry burdens like that. We can only survive when we cast ALL our cares upon the Lord and trust in Him.
I know that's easier said than done on some days (I told you my stories too!), but it's still the truth.
So what should you do if you're tempted to go down into the pit of despair? Five things:
1. Recognize the temptation to yield control of your soul and spirit to appearances–because that's all bad situations are; they are appearances.
God is working even in the worst situations. Think about it:
- If you're dealing with a painful family situation like I was, God is working. If you've prayed, He is working. He may be leading you to confront the situation and maybe you won't have peace about it until you do, but God is working.
- If you're in financial difficulty, God is working. If you prayed, God is working. The appearance may be one of lack, but the truth is that our God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
- If your spouse is cheating on you, God is working. He's either working to change your spouse or to free you from the marriage (I don't know which one), but either way He's working to heal and restore your life–and to make your life BETTER than it ever was before.
2. Realize that faith is a choice.
Every single solitary day, you choose either to walk in faith or to walk in doubt and unbelief. You choose.
Yes; faith is a choice, not a feeling.
On that day when I was sobbing my eyes out, I was walking in that moment in doubt and unbelief. Why? Because I didn't see results right then. But I HAD prayed about it; and if my faith had been strong that day–and if I had kept my eyes on Jesus–then I would have been thanking the Lord and praising Him in advance for answering my prayer. I wouldn't have been crying my eyes out and feeling sorry for myself.
We get this wrong a lot of times. We confuse faith with our feelings, and they are two completely different things:
- FAITH is a decision to believe that God's Word about any situation and every situation is true.
- FEELINGS want to tell you that whatever you SEE is true.
Whoa. BIG difference.
Recognizing that faith is a choice will help you a long way down the road of actually walking in faith. Knowing that you don't have to give in to your feelings, and can instead choose to walk in the way of faith, will do an awful lot to help your emotional state on any given day, too.
3. Cast your cares upon the Lord.
If you're tempted to go down into the pit of despair, stop right where you are and confess your feelings to the Lord. Tell Him all about the situation thoroughly and in detail. Cast your cares completely upon Him and ask for His help!
Remember that there's never any need to be embarrassed when you cast your cares upon the Lord. He already knows what's bothering you. He already feels the pain of your heart. Just the same way you know when your toddler child is hurting, sad, lonely, or upset, He knows you–but He knows you even better than you know your toddling child. So you won't surprise Him; He just wants you to bring it to Him!
4. As you pour out your heart to the Lord, begin confessing God's Word.
Tell the Lord things like:
- “It hurts so badly, but Your Word says that You are near to the brokenhearted. Please hold me right now.”
- “I need comfort, and Your Word says that Holy Spirit is my Comforter. Please comfort me right now.”
- “I don't see any way this could change, but Your Word says nothing is impossible with You. Please make a way in this situation where there seems to be no way.”
- “I don't know how to handle or confront this situation, but Your Word says You'll give me wisdom. Please help me and give me wisdom right now.”
- “Your Word says that I can come unto You when I'm weary and heavy-laden, and You will give me rest. I give You these things right now that are hurting me so badly. Please heal my heart, restore my sense of hope, and give me rest.”
Confessing God's Word over your situation in prayer is vital because your faith and hope are in God and His Word.
God is not a man, that He should lie. He never lies! He will ALWAYS do what He has said, including the fact that He will always work every situation out for your good if you love Him and are called according to His purpose (which you are).
Therefore, when you begin confessing His Word over the situation, you are expressing to God and to yourself that you acknowledge His Word is truth; His Word is real–and the bad situation you see before you is only temporary; a shadow; a passing thing that you need His help with. It is only an appearance; HIS RESTORATION is truth.
5. If you feel led to do so, then call a good, trustworthy, Holy Spirit-filled friend and ask them to pray for you.
The effective, fervent prayers of a righteous person do a WHOLE lot of good! If you're really having a tough day, there's nothing wrong with asking a friend to pray for you.
A word of caution here:
Don't let the prayers of a friend become your crutch. It's fine to ask a friend to pray for you or with you, but it's not fine to expect your friend to lift you up or do all the praying. YOU have to take control of your own prayer life, your own relationship with God, and your own emotions.
Let the prayers of a friend be a help and a comfort, but not your primary method of accessing God, okay? God wants YOU to cast your cares upon Him.
Beloved, here's the point of all this:
Don't go down into the pit of despair. And if you DO make the mistake of going there, don't stay there.
I know it's hard. Emotions are hard. Bad situations are hard. “All the feels” can be really hard. Heartbreak is hard.
I know. I get it. This is the story of my life, and I've succumbed to it way too many times.
However, I want to challenge you and myself together today on this because going down into the pit of despair means taking our eyes off Jesus, trying to carry our burdens ourselves, and trusting in appearances and circumstances instead of trusting in God's Word.
And that, my friend, is wrong.
So let's work on this together, shall we?
Today, let's recognize temptation when it comes. Let's cast down every imagination and every high and lofty thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Let's keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
And let's stay firmly rooted and grounded in faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is not a man that He should lie. Know that He will help you when you fall. He will hold you when you struggle. Holy Spirit will comfort you when you weep. But God will turn it ALL around for your good.
Is this word for you today? If so, write your confession of faith in Jesus over YOUR situation in the comments!