Triage for Despair
I’ve had some pretty dark moments in my life because of personal failure. Really dark. And I’ve been around others who were also facing extremely dark moments. You’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve been there. It’s as if your soul is on one side of a plank that’s balancing on a rock, like a teeter totter, and just the slightest twitch will send you into a godless abyss. I’ve had to talk guys out of the abyss. I’ve had to talk myself out of it. Psalm 118 became my citadel, as I battled against despair. So, here are three simple things to say to yourself, over and over again, when you find yourself in this place.
“I am forgiven.”
If you have put your faith in Christ and are trusting Him, then don’t let go of Him now. Psalm 118:14 says, “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” You are not your salvation, nor is another person your salvation. Christ alone is your salvation. Sing of His salvation, or whisper of His salvation if you can’t sing, or groan if you can’t whisper. You are forgiven. Your sins cannot separate you from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39).
“Get my eyes off myself.”
The more you focus on your failure, the worse you’ll get. Focus on it enough to figure out what went wrong, but then drop it. You can’t change anything. You have to accept that you’re human and have made a mistake. Then move on. Get your eyes off yourself. Stop trying to justify yourself or condemn yourself. Because, guess what? You’ll end up doing something worse. Psalm 118:17 says, “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.” This is a most powerful verse to me. You need to make the decision not to die, but to live. Then forget everything else and focus on God. “Recount the deeds of the Lord.” Stop recounting your deeds. Stop recounting the deeds you wish you would have done. Rather, look away from yourself and see what He has done. Serve Him and focus on others. Other people still need you.
“Every day is a blank slate.”
You get to start over today. And you get to start over tomorrow, too. You haven’t become too hopeless. You aren’t in a position from which you cannot start to make things right. You get to start over each day and try again. That’s what life is all about: waking up and trying again. Tell the truth today, and everything will be alright. Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” THIS is the day, and there is no other. Your summons is to rejoice and be glad in this day. You may not know how. Or why. Or what. But God gave you this day for you to find out. He wants you to find Him this day. And when you do that, then He’ll give you another day. This is how He leads you out of despair. One day at a time. Each day, God looks on you with fresh eyes, fresh promises, and fresh love.
If you’re in despair, then say these three things to yourself over and over again: I am forgiven, get my eyes off myself, every day is a blank slate.