Saturday, December 28, 2013

On despair

Lately I've been thinking on despair. Delightful, I know. But it keeps coming up.

Call it seasonal vitamin-D deficiency. Blame it on other circumstances in my life. Settle it as the result of too much melancholy viewing or reading. But, whatever the case, despair has been knocking on my door. 

I'm becoming convinced that despair is the greatest evil. Not the greatest sin - but the end-result & effect of sin. 

Despair is so much more than sadness. I've been thinking on the pinpoint moments in some of my favorite stories when despair enters the picture. 

It's when Peeta doesn't love Katniss. 
It's when Ron leaves Harry. 
Or John fails to find Sherlock's pulse. 
Rose gets separated from the Doctor. 
Frodo Baggins forgets the taste of strawberries. 

Failure. Rejection. Goodbyes. These are always the stories' worst moments. 

But the road to resurrection runs through the grave. 

The greatest stories - both in life & in fiction - force the protagonist to walk a mile or more with despair. I've run up against it a few times. We all have in different ways. 

But there are two conclusions I've come to regarding Despair. 

The first is my prayer in the midst of my despair or any loved one's is that I'd be faithful. A faithful friend. A faithful person. "Frodo wouldn't have got very far without Sam." In fact, according to Tolkien, Sam was the hero of Lord of the Rings… and I can see why. The greatest courage isn't in brandishing glittering swords, but in traversing pain our souls were never designed for. "For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point--and does not break."  - GK Chesterton.

The other conclusion is one I came to after talking with my dentist, truly great fellow. The thing is, if despair is the greatest evil, joy must be the greatest good. And I'm not speaking of anything akin to humanist happiness. Many classic philosophers got close to this truth, that joy was the aim, but they all lacked something. Until Christ, "for the joy set before Him, endured the cross," they had no response to despair, and no true reason for joy. But we have. 

My friend, Esther, shared with me today, "Hope is the ability to look the past & present squarely in the face and say, 'I know that my future will make beautiful and light these harsh and dark moments.'" That's what I'm holding onto. 

I look to the stories again and again, not for happy endings, but for hopeful ones. They serve to remind that the truest stories don't end in despair. "When the sun shines, it'll shine out the clearer." Until then, "never cruel or cowardly; never give up, never give in." No, now is the time to take another step through the valley, trusting the mountain is still there. All we can do in the meantime is to hold onto the promises, to wait and to hope. 


  1. This is SO good, brilliant in fact! Thanks for posting this, Samara!

  2. Love this. Love the stories, "the truest stories don't end in despair." Perfection.

  3. Even though my mom has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and I'm not sure she'll be here to see this year end...there is no despair. "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" Pslam 27: 13. There is hope in heaven and there is hope here on earth.

    1. Catherine - that is one of my life verses (and one of the reasons for this blog's title." While there is life, there is hope. Beks and I are praying for your mom and your family! Know you are loved.

    2. Thank you so much, Samara.<3