Don't let go of faith in times of despair

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Life has a way of roughing us up. Sometimes by the decisions we make, often by the decisions others have made. Sometimes we get roughed up by things beyond our control that dramatically affect the course of our lives, like a call from the doctor to come see him his office or being rear-ended on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon.

Tragedy invokes a response of prayer. We talk about prayer and the niceties, the formalities, asking and seeking, but it's not often we really think about praying in the depths of despair and frustration. At times despair and trouble build up so much that we pray and we pray and we pray, exhausting ourselves to the point that we just want to give up. Enter Jonah.

The story of Jonah is most remembered for the great fish that swallowed a man whole for three days and three nights only to discharge him upon the seashore. The great fish becomes the focus of the story so much that the great God goes missing in it. This prayer in the midst of Jonah reveals a problem -- despair, depression -- yet also how faith emerges from the depths.

Jonah's prayer is one of desperation. Out of my desperation I call to you. Out of being taken to the place where the mountains are born I call to you. His life being squeezed from him, Jonah was in a place of desperation.

Often during times of desperation, when it seems that nothing changes no matter how hard we pray, faith becomes the first thing to be jettisoned from our lives. After all, how could a good God allow such a terrible thing to happen to us? How could a good God not intervene and change these circumstances.

Jonah's present address is halfway through the digestive tract of a great fish. Yet through his personal tragedy, he saw God's hand. He recognized his touch as he was thrown overboard. He felt his embrace as the waves crashed over his head. God may not cause the despair in our lives, but he certainly will use it to grow our faith in him.

Faith is not drowned in despair, it is the life preserver to keep us a float.

Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more from him at

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