What is despair? What does it meant to despair? Dictionary.com defines despair as loss of hope; hopelessness. To despair is to lose, give up, or be without hope.
In first century Syrian Antioch, conditions were desperate. Infectious disease lingered in the city streets with signs of sickness everywhere. A constant influx of foreign newcomers fueled ethnic antagonism filling the city with perpetual hate, fear, and despair. Living conditions for the average family were miserable, and infant mortality was staggering. Crime ran rampant, and the streets were not safe at night. Many residents were homeless. These were desperate times.
In 21st century American Florida, conditions were desperate. A deadly disease attacked a young woman and ravaged her body. She was hospitalized and admitted into intensive care. Her body’s functions started to shut down, and doctors didn’t give much hope. Days turned into weeks, and the prognosis only got worse. The woman’s husband and children were scared, confused, and losing hope. Family and friends wanted to help, but didn’t know what to do. These were desperate times.
Again, in 21st century America, conditions were desperate. Another woman was down, upset, sad. Hope and light were slipping away from her. She had been through so much over the previous months and years, and though there were times of joy and happiness, she still struggled. Life wasn’t fair, and she knew it. She wanted to get away, needed to find a new mindset. She was willing to go into solitude if that’s what it took. These were desperate times.
Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God. ~ Psalm 42:11
What it is hope? What does it mean to hope? Dictionary.com defines hope as the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Hope can also be a person or thing in which expectations are centered. To hope is to look forward to something with desire and reasonable confidence. It is also to believe, desire, or trust.
The Hopeful Measure
In first century Antioch, God saw the depth of despair and answered the only way He knows how: with His Son. But the answer wasn’t in the personal, human form of His Son; it was in the corporate, physical form of His body: the Church. What happened in Antioch didn’t change the external conditions of living in despair, but it brought the hope of a different life from within, regardless of the external circumstances. Jesus Christ ministered joy, love, family, social unity, and hope through His body. He was the Hopeful Measure.
Back in Florida in the 21st century, God saw the depth of despair and answered the only way He knows how: with His Son. The friends and family of the woman, members of the body of Christ, pleaded for her healing with God. Then God did something barely describable: He opened the eyes of His people to see that they are one with their Lord. Instead of healing this dear woman supernaturally and apart from His body, God wanted His body, His physical expression on this earth to do it. The Church acted. Sisters took turns singing over, praying over, speaking to, and just being with the woman. She was never left alone. Brothers took turns ministering to the husband through meals, fellowship, and time. Families took turns taking care of the children to give them something else to think about and to give the husband rest. The Family of God simply loved on this desperate family. And the woman was healed! Bodily functions started to come back online. Doctors were baffled; they couldn’t give any medical reasoning for the woman’s sudden turn around. Jesus Christ ministered healing and hope through His body. He was the Hopeful Measure.
Again, in 21st century America, God saw the depth of despair and answered the only way He knows how: with His Son. The lonely, upset woman went to a restaurant to try to collect her thoughts and see her Lord. Her only prayer was to meet with the Lord. The Lord answered with abundant hope: His Body. When she walked into the restaurant, she was met by seven saints! God wanted to meet with her, too. Throughout the meal, the saints ministered life and peace to the woman. She was overcome with joy and love for her Lord. Jesus Christ ministered hope through His body. He was the Hopeful Measure.
I know of two particular, desperate situations. The first is friends of ours who just lost their 9 year old daughter after a life-long illness. Her story can be found here. The second is a coworker of a saint who just lost her mother and granddaughter in a house fire. The lady is alone – she has no family and very few friends. The story can be found here. These are just two of countless other desperate stories, including what’s going on in Iraq right now. Hope is the answer to despair, and Hope is Jesus Christ.
The enemy has sown as much despair as he could throughout time. God’s only response has always been His Life, His Light, His Son, Jesus Christ. For a world in need, He sent His only begotten Son. Then His Son died, so that He could become a life-giving Spirit. He has now expanded into the Church – the corporate expression of Jesus Christ on the earth today. This Church expresses the life of her Lord. This life ministers hope to desperate people in desperate times. He is the only answer for His hurting, lost, lonely people.
Christ in you, the hope of glory. ~ Colossians 1:27b
Rise up, oh, Church, and manifest the Hope that is within you. Lord, give action to your character here on the earth. Amen.
Be on the lookout for the second blog post from brother Thomas (it’s a doozie) and the third installment in sister Bridget’s Martha and Mary series. Peace, Hope, and Love in Christ.