Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Those Times of Hopelessness

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If you are human, you will experience times of hopelessness in lifethe dreary feeling that comes every now and then that things have gone terribly wrong and that there is no way to get things straight. Such hopeless times or crises are a permanent part of our existence; to never have felt utterly hopeless once or twice in life is not to be human. And maybe one of the worst aspects of these glum experiences is the feeling that nobody knows exactly how I feel, that my particular situation is hopeless in a way no one around me has experienced before.

Now in a way, this idea is true; and in another way it is completely false. It is true that the troubled times we go through are partially unique to usmy particular age, my particular family situation, my particular college plansmake my problems unique to me. And in that way, no one can truly understand my problems one hundred percent. But this notion can be equally false when it goes so far as making me the sole sufferer in my world. It may give me the impression that no one else around me undergoes the kind of crises I do, or at least not to the same extent. This impression is a great illusion.

The first thing I must do, then, in beginning to tackle my bouts of hopelessness, my crises, is to stop worrying about how much my friends or neighbors have suffered from the same dilemma. For my estimation will always be an underestimation. And besides, the habit of constantly comparing myself to the person next to me will more often bring anguish than consolation.

What I must do next is ask myself, Why has God chosen this particular period of distress for me? Once you have asked yourself this question, you have begun on the road to renewal. For you will have acknowledged several things at once: that God sees all I am going through; that He is the one in complete control; and that He has a specific purpose for me.

Gods purpose might be to train us up in trusting in Him: like Gideon (Judges 6). Gideon went up to war against many thousands of Midianites; and so he took with him many thousands of Israelites. But God reduced his army to three hundred men and told him to go fight anyway. Gideons ordeal was simply hopeless; there was no chance at all for victory, no conceivable way he could win. The one thing he did know, however, was that if it was Gods plan that he should win; then he would win. And he won.

Alternatively, Gods purpose might be to purify us and to pull us out of some sinful habit that is dominating our lives. As the Lord says in the Holy Book of Revelation 3, As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. A church father once put it: To reach maturity in Gods hand, man has to undergo countless stages of purifying and discipline. God puts to death to bring back to life; he breaks to bind up, wounds to heal, smites to embrace, and banishes to restore to his bosom.

But even if we do not see Gods purpose immediately, we should wait patiently for deliverance from our present hopeless state. For God always delivers. And He gives strength to endure day by day even when the solution has not yet arrived. The important thing to remember is that there is no disarray of circumstances, no matter how confused, that is truly hopeless when God Almighty is also our Papa. Will a father not care for his own son or his own daughter? Yes, God does at times allow us to go through apparently hopeless circumstances, but not without reason. We usually emerge stronger in the end.

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