“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
DAYS COME NOW AND THEN WHEN WE CAN SEE SO LITTLE HOPE THAT GIVING UP THE STRUGGLE SEEMS TO BE THE ONLY THING WE CAN DO. There are times when the burdens are not just heavy, but they are “beyond measure, above strength,” as Paul said. His ordeal in Asia was so severe, he said that he “despaired even of life.” And while our own troubles may not be so dangerous that our physical lives are threatened, most of us do know what it means to despair. We know what it’s like to be in such darkness that our hearts harbor little hope we’ll ever see the light again.
On such desperate days, we need, first of all, to be honest. If the truth is that we’re struggling to hang on to hope, we need to acknowledge our hopelessness — to ourselves, to God, and perhaps to some trusted friend who can encourage us. There’s no need to pretend we’re stronger or braver than we really are.
But having been honest, we also need to be “stubborn.” We need to have enough holy hardheadedness about us that we simply refuse to let the devil defeat us. There may be many things we can’t do, but we can choose to keep going a little while longer, even though there seems to be little point in doing so. If we’re going to go down, we at least can go down swinging.
We never display a finer faith than when we keep going, against all odds. When the obstacles seem insurmountable but we continue to reach forward — and upward — that’s when we show ourselves most clearly to be creatures made in God’s image. Faith, trust, and hope are qualities that only personal beings can have, and that’s what we are: personal beings. Not helpless victims, but persons with the wondrous and undeniable power of choice.
So on desperate days, let’s do the one thing that frustrates the devil the most: let’s keep going. He would like to see us drown in despair and give up, but we can refuse that option decisively. When we’re hurting and the hurt seems nearly unbearable, we can take at least one more step. Our God is worth that and much more.
“We all need faith for desperate days . . . Desperate days are the stepping-stones on the paths of light” (S. Chadwick).