Despairing of Life Itself

The inimitable Apostle Paul is arguably the most fruitful minister of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to have ever lived. He was the greatest missionary the world has known. The most accomplished church planter in Christendom. He, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, penned two-thirds of the New Testament. This man, previously one of the greatest persecutors of the early church, became its greatest champion. It’s impossible to plumb the depths of Paul’s influence for the cause of Christ.

Many would be surprised to discover that this great man of faith battled depression…

In Second Corinthians 1:8 Paul says, “For we would not, brothers, have you ignorant of our troubles which came to us in Asia. We were pressured beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.” The Apostle wants to make sure that he sets the record straight, just in case anyone happens to think that he is super-spiritual and never has a bad day; he says that there have been times when he has been so low he has despaired of life itself.

Other great men of God in the Bible identify with the Apostle Paul.  Job, a righteous man who“feared God and shunned evil” , exclaimed, one day, while in an indescribable season of pain, “cursed is the day I was born” (Job 3:1). The prophet Jeremiah said the same thing (Jer. 20:14).  The great prophet Elijah, who called fire down from heaven and performed all kinds of miracles, said to God one day,  “take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died” (1 Kings 19:4).  Some of these comments, from such spiritual giants, seem almost sound suicidal!

It’s noteworthy to see in Scripture that great, faith-filled people can still go through very dark, depressing times. And it doesn’t make them unspiritual.

I’ve walked through dark times and I’ve been through some valleys that seemed would go on forever. When I think about the valleys of life, the times when I’ve “despaired of life itself”, I’ve sometimes wondered why my loving Heavenly Father—who could stop the pain in a moment—allows it to go on. The Apostle Paul answers that question in the very next verse, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”

God knows that in order for us to experience the resurrection power of Jesus in our lives, we have to first identify in His death. In the same way that we die to ourselves and are raised to life in Christ when we experience salvation, He also allows us to experience this feeling of “despairing of life” so that we can fully identify with His suffering and also fully experience His resurrection power!

If you’re discouraged today, remember the words of Jesus, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Your comfort is proportional to your mourning!  If you’ve mourned a lot, your comfort—that beautiful, heavenly, supernatural comfort—will be that much greater than if you would have never been through those difficult times.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).