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Despairing Over Yourself

By David A. DePra

For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raises the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us. (2 Cor. 1:8-10)

Have you come to despair over yourself? Even as a Christian? Have you thought that such a condition was perhaps evidence that God was not with you?

Many Christians have. I certainly have. We read in the Bible all of the joy and peace that a Christian is supposed to have. And then we observe some other Christians, especially those on television, who seem to be so happy. Yet we look at ourselves and have to admit that we just donít feel that way. Not only do we seem to lack joy, but we are actually at the end of our rope. How can this be if we are really in Christ?

Well, it CAN be if we are IN CHRIST. In fact, such a condition, while we donít want to remain in it forever, might actually be evidence that God is doing a vital work in us.

Godís Goal

Despair over myself is a sure sign that my faith has been in myself. I wanted to be a certain way and I have failed. Thus, I am in despair. What is liable to make matters worse is if I think I ought to have turned into someone I could admire Ė if I were truly in Christ. But since I havenít, then it must mean that this whole business of Christ in me is surely a lie.

Despair over myself, as mentioned, is the result of faith in myself Ė a faith that has been disappointed. But there is another condition just as bad, and it is likewise the result of faith in myself. This is the condition of self-fulfillment. In this case, Iím not disappointed with myself. Iím happy with myself. But I am happy with myself only because Iíve had faith in myself and think I have met the standard.

I suspect there are many Christians who are happy, content, and seem to have it all together, not because of Jesus Christ, but because they are happy with themselves Ė with how they have lived before the Lord. Their faith is in themselves just as much as those who despair. Itís just that they think they have met their self-imposed standards. And really, all that it would take to topple their house is a strong enough storm. The foundation of their faith would then be exposed as being, not The Rock, but sand.

But back to the possibility of despair over myself as a Christian. This, as stated, is a sure sign of faith in myself. I have expected that I would be happy, and I am not. I have expected that turning to Christ would result in this or that, and it has not. And I am tired of myself, and even tired of seeking God. Will this ever end?

Well, we need to come to realize that Godís goal never is to make us happy with ourselves. His goal is actually to make us despair over ourselves. But not as an end. God wants us to despair over ourselves so that we might stop putting our faith in ourselves, and begin putting it in Christ.

So the good news is this: If you are in despair over yourself, God IS answering your prayers. He is trying to set you free. You may actually be further along that a person who is totally happy with themselves, because they are self-righteous.

Despair in ourselves, as mentioned, is not to be the end. It is UNTO an end Ė that we might trust Christ. But because of our nature, this is not going to be accomplished simply by us knowing it as a teaching. We must go through it. God will likely have to bring us to a place of total exhaustion before we get the picture.

We have to get it settled: Once the Holy Spirit begins to gain ground in us, we are never again going to be able to live on the same basis. Everything will need to change. And at first, and for a long time, we will be caught in a transition period. We cannot go back to a place where, "ignorance is bliss," yet we cannot go forward to true rest in Christ. We will be caught in the middle. And during that phase, we will NOT understand, and will not be able to function very well. This is the critical time.

They key is to surrender to God Ė despite not understanding, and despite perhaps not even knowing that God is there to accept our surrender. You have to commit yourself unconditionally to God, despite the fact that you havenít a clue. And once you do, things will not necessarily get better. There will not necessarily be a big deliverance. No. In fact, things may get worse. You have surrendered yourself to death on a cross. That will have to come first. But take heart, for there will come a resurrection.

And what will this resurrection be like? Well, donít think of it as God removing all the despair, or making you be what you want to be. That isnít the goal. Your resurrection will be a revelation of Jesus Christ in you. It starts them. When God crucifies a part of you through an experience, it is so that Christ may be revealed TO YOU, and IN YOU. Then, it is because you see HIM that there comes the joy, peace, etc., over the course of time.

Joy, peace, and love are not THINGS. They are of Christ. You cannot have them apart from Him. And this is what God is working on. Bringing you to despair over yourself is a big part of the process.

When will we finally get it settled that there is NOTHING about us that is compatible with Christ in us? And that there is nothing about us that is going to go quietly? If you want to come into true freedom, all the error that binds you might fall. If you want to experience the reality of Christ in you, then expect everything in you that is contrary to Christ to first rear itís ugly head, and then be brought to death.

Christ in us will produce war, conflict, and despair over ourselves. But this is great news. If we hang in, the end result will be that we will have our rest in Him alone.

Paulís Words

In our passage above, Paul said that he despaired of life itself Ė he did not despair of God Ė but of life itself. He felt as if he was, "pressed beyond measure." Can we see that Paul could find nothing at all IN HIMSELF to meet the situation? There was no measure of anything in him Ė no assets or resources Ė he was pressed BEYOND HIMSELF.

Paul was no novice. I donít think that, at this point, he had much faith in himself. He knew his faith had to be in Christ. Therefore, when he speaks of being pressed beyond measure, I think he must mean it in a spiritual context Ė he was pressed beyond what measure he thought he had in Christ. So Paul is really describing how God brings us into a greater revelation of Jesus. In order to REALLY see there is nothing in you, you have to be pressed beyond measure Ė pressed to where you call upon your resources and find none. Then, you find greater resources in Christ.

Paul says this. He gives the reason WHY God let him be pressed beyond measure: That we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raises the dead. Thus, if you are to the place where you realize that there is nothing you can do about yourself Ė nothing you can call upon to save yourself Ė God is really calling you to a higher level in Christ. He is calling you to realize a greater depth of weakness in yourself, so that a greater height of power in Christ may rest upon you.

Now, I do realize how this stuff works in the Christian life. Everyone easily proclaims his or her own weakness. It is religious to do so, and makes us seem spiritual. But when we are in the middle of these things, it is not so much that we despair over our ability to win the victory. What we usually do is despair over the fact that GOD HIMSELF doesnít seem to be coming through for us. That is often the greatest source of despair Ė that God isnít saving us, and we donít know why. But even THIS is part of the process God is using to work in our lives.

Do we recognize that our complete inability to get God moving is NOT a sign that something is wrong? If we feel completely unable to get God moving, it is a sign that we are beginning to see the Truth! The Truth is, we never WERE able to move God! And the Truth is, God never wanted us to try! The fact that we are now beginning to see it is a testimony to the faithfulness of God in bringing us into a situation where this is being revealed to us.

God is trying to show us that He is faithful to get moving on His own initiative. All of the promises of God find their YES and AMEN in HIM Ė not in us. Thus, part of what is going on is that God is bringing us to the place where we will STOP trying to find a, "yes and amen," in ourselves, so that we will then STOP despairing over the fact that we have found none. He wants to put an end to this deception. Thus, He lets us exhaust ourselves and we come up empty, over and over again. Finally, we see the Truth: God always WAS faithful. We just didnít believe it. We were looking for proof of that in ourselves. We needed to look for proof in HIM.

If you are in despair over yourself, realize that you are right where God wants you. He does not want you to stay there forever, and He certainly doesnít want you to give up on Him. But you MUST despair over yourself in order that you might learn to stop trusting in yourself, but in God, who raises the dead.

Christ in us will never result in trust in ourselves. It will result in despair over ourselves, but likewise, it will result in faith in Him. And this despair in ourselves will eventually turn to joy over the fact that we are nothing. Realizing that you are nothing, but are nevertheless wholly complete in Christ, is the place to which God is bringing us in all of this conflict and despair.

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