“When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, Then You knew my path. In the way in which I walk They have secretly set a snare for me.” Psalm 142:3 (NKJV)
“The Hebrew word rendered “overwhelmed” means…to cover as with a garment; then, to be covered as with darkness, trouble, sorrow; and then, to languish, to faint, to be feeble…The idea here is, that, in his troubles, he had no vigor, no life, no spirit. He did not see how he could escape from his troubles, and he had no heart to make an effort.”
The Baptist Pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “The bravest spirit is sometimes sorely put to it. A heavy fog settles down upon the mind, and the man seems drowned and smothered in it; covered with a cloud, crushed with a load, confused with difficulties, conquered by impossibilities. David was a hero, and yet his spirit sank: he could smite a giant down, but he could not keep himself up. He did not know his own path, nor feel able to bear his own burden.”
David was sinking in despair and didn’t know how in the world he was going to survive. No matter what he did, no matter where he went, his enemies seemed to know and be there waiting on him. To me it almost appears that David feels that nothing he does matters and that he might as well give up on the whole process of survival. Can you relate to this feeling of hopelessness and despair? I know I can.
Most of us have probably been trained to believe that if we have enough faith, or we are spiritual enough we will never have these sorts of feelings. One of the classic lines about how unspiritual it is to have feelings of despair is from the movie Anne of Green Gables. Anne, who to be quite honest is a bit of a drama queen, confesses that she is despairing. She then asks Matilda if she has ever despaired. Matilda replies, “No. To despair is to turn your back on God.”
To be perfectly honest, this sums up most of what I’ve heard about having feelings of despair. Because of this, we seek to hide these feelings from everyone, even God. God wants us to pour out our feelings of despair to Him.
Having feelings of despair isn’t sinful.
Having feelings of despair doesn’t mean you’re not a good Christian.
Having feelings of despair doesn’t mean you have enough faith or that you aren’t spiritual enough.
So what does it mean to have feelings of despair? It means you’re a person who is having trouble and recognize that the trouble is bigger than you can handle on your own. Do you know what we are supposed to do when we have troubles that are bigger than we can handle? We are supposed to tell God all about it and then wait for Him to work in our situation.
This is the example of David in this passage but also of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.” 2 Corinthians 1:8 (NKJV)
He went on to say.
Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,” 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 (NKJV).
Paul’s feelings of despair were real, and by telling God about it and then waiting on Him to do something, Paul learned that God heard his prayers and did something.
I’m pretty convinced that one of the reasons we have feelings of despair is because we’ve lost hope. We’ve ceased expecting our situation to change. The way things are now, is the best they will ever be. If we are in a funk and we lose hope that the situation will ever change, that is a very definite place of despair. At this point, it is critical for us to remember that our hope is based on God and His Word. We must let this drive us to God where we pour out our hearts and our feelings of despair to Him. The Bible tells us that many times we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). Many times our feelings of despair persist because we have not poured out our despair to God. Pouring out our despair to God gives God the opportunity to work in our lives and we are then encouraged.
For further study read Psalm 143. What does David say in verses 4 and 7? How did he feel?
What do verses 8-12 tell us David did with these feelings?
Have you ever felt like David did in these verses? Do you feel this way now?
What do you need to do with these feelings?