Robert V. Rakestraw, Copyright 2015
At this very moment there are many millions of people on earth who are desperate, in one way or another. Among the seven billion people on our planet there are numerous individuals struggling mightily with the issues of life. You may be one of them. I have been where you are more than once. If you are desperate, you are not the only one. I know that there really is hope for you, even though things may truly look hopeless No one should attempt to dismiss your problems with a wave of the hand or some hurtful comments, nor should anyone tell your there is no hope.
Here are some of the main ways in which we may struggle, sometimes very seriously, at one time or another or even constantly. These potentially difficult areas often overlap and intertwine with one another. They are not listed in any particular order.
Boredom. Addiction. Work. Singleness. Marriage. Time management. Money (and what it can buy, such as food and housing). Anger. Parent-child relationships. Other relationships. Physical health. Mental health. Spiritual health. Sex. Self-worth. Power. Self-Control. Happiness. Selfishness. Sin. Education. Various personality issues. Other categories may be listed, or placed under one of the above. The important thing now is to try and identify your area or areas of desperation. Name them, focusing on the one (or ones) that lie at the root of the others! The more specific you can be in stating your primary struggle, the more you can zero in on solutions.
In the remainder of this article I will give some options for you to consider as you try to nail down a solution for your struggles. There really is hope for you and/or those you are trying to help. For this reason, and before I list the options, let me urge you not to—definitely not—choose one of these three terrible options: stay the same as you are, end it all by suicide, or escape into some trap such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, illicit sex, overwork, or excessive preoccupation with television, internet, or social media.
I have divided the possible courses of action into two categories: short-term options (these may be wise or unwise for you, depending on your situation) and long-term options. The reason I present so many options—even unwise ones—is that this practice has helped me over the years as I state all the possibilities and then find satisfaction in crossing out the bad ones. I then feel that I have considered the matter thoroughly before I start to narrow down the choices. Here are some short-term options. These are possibilities (one or more) that you can think about before you act. Don’t be hasty in deciding, but don’t drag your feet either.
Quit your job. Borrow more money. Get out of your house. Suspend or end your marriage. End certain relationships. Get away from negative influences and influencers. Contact a good friend—more than one if possible. Seek help: medical, legal, spiritual, psychological, or contact the police. Shut off the television. Shut off the internet. Get your financial matters in some basic order. Go on a retreat or to a safe getaway spot where there will be others. Confront the problem directly. Confront the problem-causers. Confront yourself (be honest)! Call the leaders of your church to assemble and pray for you, with you. (The word “sick” in James 5:14 is literally “without strength.”) Come to God in your desperation and brokenness. Read Psalm 51:17. Admit and confess any sins and pursue reconciliation with God and others involved in your struggles. Be willing to forgive and to be forgiven. Ask God, in faith, to do what he knows is best, and then trust him to do it (James 1:5-8). Be willing to do—without reservation—what you know he wants you to do. Do not put it off, please!
Think carefully about each item in the above list. If you concentrate especially on the latter options I believe you will see that these are not only options, but necessary steps in order to emerge from your desperation.
All of your petitions, however, will be of no effect if you hold back something from God—something that you need to make right with him, or with someone else. Prayer is no substitute for obedience; it never has been nor ever will be. If you are truly desperate, I strongly encourage you to read and pray Psalm 139:23-24. God will lead you and give you genuine hope. Read Psalm 55:22. Our God is a wise, just, powerful, and merciful God to all who sincerely cry out to him in desperation.
Here are some long-term options for the desperate person. Some of these will involve continuing in the short-term choice or choices you have already begun. The direction you choose to go may involve two or more of these possibilities, and can truly be life changing!
Find a different job. Pursue more education. Get personal counseling, marriage counseling, family counseling. Re-think your whole financial situation. Re-think your whole use of time. Focus seriously on your health: physical, mental, spiritual. Focus seriously on your local church attendance and involvement. Focus seriously on your friendships. Focus seriously on your daily relationship with God, moment by moment. If you have children, focus seriously on how you are training them to know, love, and serve God. Ask God to change you (Psalm 139:23-24), focusing on your own heart, without defensiveness, without self-justification, and without anger toward some other person or persons. Read something from the Bible—if only one verse—every day. Finally, every day thank God, confess all sin, and ask for wisdom and a heart to trust and obey.
Many people want things in their lives to change. They want this badly. But they are not yet desperate—at least not enough to take serious action. Some of you may feel trapped, as well as desperate, and it seems that you really cannot do anything major without making things worse or hurting others (perhaps your very vulnerable children).
You can pray, however, in the spirit of humility, trust, and obedience in which God delights. If you are in a troubled marriage, pray out loud with (not at) your spouse. Even if your spouse is unwilling to do this, you do it in the hearing of that person, without preaching, calling out to God for help in the mighty name of Jesus, admitting your helplessness, your brokenness, your sin, and your great need. Believe God that he will work, then do everything you know to do now, without flinching and without blaming.
I do not say these things lightly. I have learned by experience that God’s Word is true. “My grace is sufficient for you,” says the Lord, “for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted (or tested) beyond what you can bear. But when you are temped (or tested) he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Sometimes your “way out,” or “way of escape,” will be (in a spirit of trust and obedience) simply to rest—deep within your soul—even in the midst of your desperation and chaos. “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him” (Psalm 62:5). God loves to give rest of soul to desperate people.