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Talking Back to Despair

In 2001, I was sleeping soundly in my room in Belfast, N. Ireland, when my whole house (and neighborhood) were awakened by two loud "bangs"!  Turns out someone had thrown them toward our house, one going off just feet from my head, which was at the bedroom window.  Quickly, my surprise gave way to real fear that this was a personal attack, which led to discouragement, and eventually to the temptation to give up and go home.  

Evagrius named eight tempting demons, including two that surprised me: Sadness and Listlessness.  I summed these two up in the word, Despair.

If you are struggling with despair and hopelessness, and you don't know where to turn, dial 211 from any phone.  Your call will be confidential and the receptionist will guide you toward help.  

Despair can tempt us to abandon God because it seems that God has abandoned us.  Despair can come in the form of sadness, fear, hopelessness, worthlessness, and much more.  

This week, our BATTLE PLAN is to talk back to Despair using scripture and what Paul called the shield of faith.  Our scripture is Psalm 27:1-3.

Talk back to despair by proclaiming.   Despair can make us feel like we're in the "doldrums."  That word comes from sailing and refers specifically to being stuck in the water because of a lack of wind.  It is literally the experience of POWERLESSNESS.  But we are not powerless.  We have the Word of almighty God at our disposal, and we can always access it.  When we feel powerless, we can proclaim God's word.  But we must remember:
Proclamation precedes feelings.  If we wait to feel like proclaiming, we may never do so.  But the feeling of God's power, protection, and peace usually follows the proclamation we make in faith.

Talk back to despair also by dwelling.  In Psalm 27, David makes the bold proclamation of God's protection, but then doesn't get to work right away.  He basks in the glory of God and dreams of simply dwelling in God's presence.  The Holy Spirit is so powerful that it often does not take very long in his presence to completely shift how we feel and reset our day.  

Talk back to despair by asking.  David does not shy away from asking for what he needs:
- Hear my voice
- Be merciful and answer
- Teach me
- Lead me
Asking God for what we need can be daunting.  Author Chris Tiegreen wrote: “We feel instinctively impoverished when we pray and nothing happens…a downward cycle of unbelief can begin, weakening our expectations and undermining our faith until our prayers become little more than faint hopes...Beware of limiting your prayers to whatever seems realistic.  The size of the mountain is never an issue.”

Let’s pray…
Come, Holy Spirit... (dwell with God for a minute in silence)
Our experience of life can leave us downcast, afraid, listless, sad.  We are tempted to despair.
So we make time to proclaim the truth of your goodness, using your word in Psalm 27…
We make time to dwell with you in this moment, without hurry or agenda…
And though it can feel risky to ask for things that seem as unlikely as mountains moving, we strive to have the faith of Jesus.  So in this moment, we take that risk in faith, betting not on our own wisdom but on your power and grace.  In this quiet moment, hear our prayers as expressions of our faith in You...
In your almighty name, Amen.

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