Not only did Christ give His followers reason to rejoice, He also continually gave them cause for despair. Walking with Him must have been the most exciting and horrifying thing ever—like a rollercoaster for the soul. Whenever those with Him thought they “had it,” He would purposely douse their confidence. He made sure that they knew their salvation wasn’t an acquisition; it was a Person. It is in Jesus, and by no other means, that men are saved.
Despair in the Christian Life
Walking out our Christian lives, there’s a stirring up of despair that we can’t do anything without Him. We live in perpetual dependence on Him. It makes most of us quiver to know that we’re just that dependent on the Divine, while the rest just pretend that it’s not true. In looking at those who walked physically with Jesus, we see the evidence of their quandary displayed in their questions and every interaction with Him. Here are a mere two examples in the Gospels.
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Luke 18:26-27 NIV
This made them ask Him, “What must we do to carry out the work of God?” “The work of God for you,” replied Jesus, “is to believe in the One whom He has sent to you.”
John 6:28-29 Phillips
These two scriptures show the disciples’ despair and Jesus’ response to that despair: “It is in Me!” He proclaims, “It’s impossible for you, do you hear Me? It IS impossible. But with God ALL things are possible!” Additionally they questioned, “What must we do?” This question sounds desperate to me. He answers, “You must believe that I can and will do it!”
Jesus regularly baked His disciples’ noodles (Casserole, anyone?). Our despair is real and it has a specific purpose. Our independence of God runs deep, and that rift is only solved in the Life of His Son. Our Father is looking for Garden intimacy with His children. He longs for unbroken fellowship. Yet we’ve chosen separation through independence—independence of thinking, independence of action and independence of will. To this He says, “Nothing will be accomplished but by Me.” Can I get an “AMEN?” Or perhaps, “Oh my!”
Our despair is the continual reminder that we must have His life. We must have Another’s Life to perform our life. “WHO CAN BE SAVED?” and “WHAT MUST I DO?” are the desperate cries of people in need of His Life, His salvation and Him as the Answer.
Hope in Despair
The truest way of looking at what I’m trying to say is that our deep despair over not being able to perform is both an invitation to lean into His life as well as a check that I’m probably kicking against the goads. If I’m the only one out there finding it difficult to get my tasks done, then I speak this to myself. But if you, like me, struggle in the despair that no matter how hard you try, you can’t get things done, then you’re in luck. The despair is evidence of His invitation to relinquish our efforts, because it truly is impossible. It’s also a reminder to believe that He makes all things possible.
His Life is the only life. We’re actually supposed to rub against the despair of life. This is the only way we learn of our inability and utter dependence on Him. When the enemy tempts us towards discouragement, anger with God and unbelief, Jesus says, “I am your way, I am your life, I make all things possible. Just believe.”
Jesus looked steadily at them and replied, “Humanly speaking it is impossible; but with God anything is possible!”
Matthew 19:26 PHILLIPS
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 HCSB