Despair and Salvation

By Pastor David M. Choi

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. -Romans 7:15

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There is certainly more to fear in enjoying a life of unrepentant sin than in despairing over a life of ongoing sin. With regards to the former, their happiness is unfounded, whereas with the latter their despair is leading to something real. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the weight of your sin, I simply say this: take heart.

When we continue to do what we know we should not do, we are tempted to believe that the despair born out of that means we are doing something wrong, which then leads us to believe that we are not cut out to be good Christians. However, was it not Jesus himself who said that it was the poor in spirit who would receive the kingdom of heaven?

Rather than being discouraged, be encouraged by your despair. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s true. Scripture tells us that sorrowing over sin is not a human possibility. That requires divine intervention, namely, for you to recognize your own fallenness, and for you to grieve over it in the way that Christ does. Only the Spirit of Christ can convict us of our sins. And for that reason, there is great encouragement in despair.

You’ll notice, though, that such encouragement is short lived if you refuse to go to where it leads: the cross of Jesus Christ. If despair draws you into yourself, then you’ll fall away. But if you follow its trail, by going to where Christ is, then you’ll discover that there is a marvelous power that awaits you. A power that helps you become what you otherwise could not become on your own.

God convicts us in order to help us. He would never do one without the other. So, in your despair, take heart.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for showing me my sin, and for allowing me to sorrow over it. In my sorrow, you are giving me glimpses into your heart, and because of that I see just how much I hurt you. Forgive me, Lord. In my despair, I ask that you bring me closer to the cross. Grant me your strength to live in obedience, and give me grace for moments when I do not. Remind me, Lord, once again, that it is your cross that defines me and not my greatest failures, that no matter how badly I fail you love me nonetheless. Amen.

Reflection/Response Questions: What sin in your life do you despair over (or need to begin despairing over)? And in what ways do you need Christ’s strength to help you in your battle against sin through spiritual and practical measures?

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