Feeling Hopeless? Desperate? Here’s How You Can Still Make a Difference
I don’t need to tell you how bad things look right now. I need only mention Afghanistan, Haiti, the border, inflation, last summer’s riots, COVID, vaccine mandates, last November’s election, and you’ll take it from there.
If you’re like a lot of people I know, your thoughts will land on the big stopper, the point of fear, despair, and hopelessness, wondering, “What can we do about this?” and not having any idea.
There are plenty of answers, but most of them are second answers. You could protest the election, write to Congress, fight against critical race theory in your local schools. I say, borrowing from Ecclesiastes. 9:10a, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” These are battles worth fighting, and your hands are needed in this.
But they are second answers. They might not even work, for all we know. Even in the best case, I see no scenario that relieves us of significant conflict, loss, and pain. My one great hope is for spiritual revival, but even with that, God’s people will still have enemies, potentially powerful ones, who might just be more unhappy with us than ever.
That’s all based on what I can see. Joshua didn’t see hailstones or an extra long day helping him in battle in Joshua 9, either, which reminds me God may yet surprise us with something great. I’m certainly asking him to do that.
No More Hiding From Hard Reality
Meanwhile I must speak what I know for sure. Unless and until He intervenes, either by His return or by causing a miraculous change in society, things are going to get hard here, harder than our nation has gone through since at least World War II, or maybe the Civil War.
Families routinely go through hard times, groups go through hard times (I’m not forgetting Jim Crow), but we’re about to see hard times for all of us, such as our generation has never experienced.
I see it being hard especially for God’s people. We’ve never seen real anti-Christian hostility in this part of the world, but it’s here now, and it’s growing.
Desperate? Good. You’re On the Right Track
Many writers, thinkers, and leaders have been warning of this for years, and the church has been slow to listen. If there’s one good thing about life in the U.S. since last January, it’s that the message is finally becoming hard to ignore. We must not ignore it. That’s why I’m dwelling on it here: I want us all feeling our condition to the core. If you’re feeling a sense of desperation, then I’m succeeding, and you’re on the right track.
But what will you and be desperate for? If it’s a return to some old version of America, forget about it. That’s not happening. If it’s a peaceful, quiet existence, prepare to be disappointed even worse. High-integrity politics? I laugh. Prosperity? For some, yes, it may last through these hard times. If I may paraphrase Jesus, the rich we will always have with us. Many (not all) of them will have earned it. The rest of us, though, may have trouble even going to the grocery store, especially if we’re not happy with being fully vaccinated.
So yes, it’s time to be desperate, but for what? Or better yet, for Whom? Only the foolish would say, “I’ll just try not to feel that way.” Strong emotions don’t just go away. The best, and usually the only thing we can do, is focus those emotions in better, more truthful directions.
Happily there’s a way to do it, even in these hard times, and that’s by settling the question in our hearts, “Am I ready and willing to follow Jesus Christ, no matter what? Will I seek him wholeheartedly, earnestly, even desperately?”
The World’s Only Truly Hopeful Way to Feel Desperate
This is indeed a form of desperation, but a different form. It’s not the desperation of hopelessness, but more like that of Matthew 5:6, which says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Have you ever stopped to think what a remarkable promise Jesus gives us there? Is there anything else in all reality, such that the more we crave it, the more satisfied we’ll be? Certainly not food, not sex, not love, not money, not personal comfort, and absolutely not honest politics, either. There’s only one exception, and it’s this one: the hunger for righteousness. This is a very, very hopeful sort of desperation!
If it’s never been clear before, it should be now: It’s time to give up hoping for satisfaction anywhere but in Christ, our only path to righteousness.
That’s the first answer, then. Whatever your second answer may be to, “What can I do about the state of the world?” your first answer must center on the state of your heart and mind: You must settle it within yourself that you will follow Jesus no matter what.
Start there, please. Enter into soberly, knowing that those who make that commitment will likely be tested in it. Start knowledgeably: Feel free to test Jesus’ claims, and be convinced in your mind that He’s worth following no matter what.
Go There in Community, and Go With Joy
Go there in community, and bring others along with you. It would be foolish not to unite with others at this time. Especially if you are a pastor, this is the time to take the day’s desperation seriously, and call your people to commit to following Jesus no matter what.
And go there with joy. Are things really as bad as they appear? Yes, but only if you miss the far greater part of reality. Reality in its totality is still very, very, good, and very, very hopeful!
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account [says Jesus]. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:11-12).
Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present age are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be reveal to us (Rom. 8:18), and, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17). He did not say it lightly; read 2 Cor. 11:23-29 to see all he’d been through by then.
Are You Desperate Enough for This?
If you’re not ready for this commitment — if you have doubts or questions — take those hesitations seriously, don’t bypass them, but work through them. Find someone who can help walk through them with you. Do some good reading, like my own book recommended in the sidebar here. I’m confident that on the other side of your questions, you’ll find Jesus Christ being all He’s claimed to be.
If you want to make that commitment but you’re unsure of yourself, welcome to the club. God doesn’t expect us to be sure on our own that we’ll stand up successfully to every pressure. I doubt I have the strength for it today. I don’t doubt that God is able to give me the strength when I need it. Until then, I can at least practice up for it by staying faithful in the small things.
This isn’t just for your own emotional or spiritual stability. It’s for eternal life. It’s also what will hold you strong as you move forward into whatever “second answer” you pursue. Without this commitment to Christ, you’re vulnerable to all kinds of fear, hopelessness, flailing, even error.
Following Christ, no matter what, isn’t the only step we can take, but it is absolutely the first step we make take. You’ll be glad you’ve done it. He guarantees you’ll be glad, and it’s one guarantee you can count on forever.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.