Hope in Times of Despair

Summer is half-over.  Have you found time to do anything to draw you closer to God?  Prayer and reading are the place to start…
Some of the easiest summer spiritual reading involves the shorter books of the Old Testament of the Bible. They tell incredible stories of the human condition and the God who loves us. One of my favorites is the Book of Tobit.

There is a wonderful section in the third chapter in which Sarah (who has been the bride at seven weddings and been widowed on her wedding night each time) has been tempted to just give up on life. She decides not to commit suicide in the solitude of her upstairs room because it will dishonor her father.  And so…

At that time, then, she spread out her hands,
and facing the window, poured out her prayer:
“Blessed are you, O Lord, merciful God,
and blessed is your holy and honorable name.
Blessed are you in all your works forever!”

She goes on to pray for death, but not before telling God how wonderful he is!  At that very same moment, Tobit – many miles away – is also praying for death because of his blindness and the abuse and criticism he takes from people for having loved God and done good works.

I don’t want to spoil this great story for you: open the Bible and read it!  Whether or not you do, at least spend a few minutes with the two verses quoted above: the prayer of blessing God in the midst of sadness and despair. 

When we’re struggling with darkness, we are tempted to abandon God completely because he let us get into this dungeon in the first place. Or we are tempted to pray intensely, but only about our problem, our burden as if that were the central and only reality in the world. 

We forget that the big picture always includes a God of hope who longs to care for us tenderly (see Psalm 23) or powerfully (Psalm 107) but always with joy and glory (Psalms 145, 148, 150).        
When we are overwhelmed with the darkness, we can reach out to the words of Scripture to carry hope for us, to remind us of God’s glory, to give us words that we can’t bring ourselves to feel in the midst of the doom.

Sarah and Tobit were both so defeated that they asked God to end their lives.  But in the midst of their pain, they never forgot that God was God, that God was bigger, that God was more glorious.

If you are sad, suffering, defeated or without hope, check out the Book of Tobit.  We have a great and wonderful God!