The Heartbreak of Hopelessness

Many years ago when I was living in Dallas attending seminary, I received a phone call that led me to a tiny, dirty garage apartment. I was met at the screen door by a man with a 12-gauge shotgun. He invited me in. We sat for over an hour at a tiny kitchen table with a naked light bulb hanging above it. He poured out a heartbreaking story. He had just been released from the hospital, recovering from back surgery. He was alone, having lost contact with his wife (and their only son) when his marriage failed many years before. As we talked of the man's intense struggles, I noticed that his small apartment was full of pictures–all of them of his son at various stages of growth.

There were photos taken of the boy when he was still in diapers. Others were with his dad when the lad was graduating from kindergarten. Still others showed him in his Little League uniform with a bat over his shoulder . . . on and on, right up through high school. The man's entire focus centered upon a marriage that had failed and a boy he no longer was able to enjoy. Those nostalgic "misty, water-colored memories of the way we were" held him captive in a prison-house of regret and despondency. Unfortunately, my attempts to help him see beyond the walls of his anguish proved futile. In less than a week, he shot himself to death in his car, which he had driven deep into the woods in East Texas. To him, life was no longer worth the fight.

It's normal to grieve after a significant loss. Grief is the painful process of adjusting to a new set of circumstances. As acceptance takes place, grief subsides, giving way to joy again. Sometimes, however, grief can lead to hopelessness instead of acceptance. That's despondency. Perpetual, downward-spiraling hopelessness.

It is not necessary to read Psalm 13 many times to detect some despondency in David. Like my lonely friend in the apartment, the psalmist feels down. Forgotten. It is that age-old "nobody seems to care" syndrome. Despair may not be too strong a description of his emotional temperature. My grandfather would have said "he's under the pile." We understand! I'm convinced it is these mutual feelings that cause us to be drawn to the psalms on our blue days. David feels miserable. No one knows the reason for certain; the background of many of the psalms remains a mystery. Nevertheless, his words resonate with our own painful feelings when we're "under the pile."

Grief is a painful process. But as acceptance takes place, grief subsides, giving way to joy again.

Charles R. Swindoll Tweet This

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.

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