What You Need to Know If You are Experiencing Despair and Hopelessness:

Photo by Mélissa Jeanty on Unsplash

Note: If you or anyone you know is in crisis, call/text/chat the National Suicide Prevention Line at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Please know that you are not alone. 

To feel despair is to have a complete loss or absence of hope. It is a very real, debilitating disorder in that those suffering from despair will likely be driven to self-destructive behaviors such as self-harm and suicide. Those suffering from despair feel no joy or passion in their life. Instead, desperation and hopelessness fill their day. Dr. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor who knows a thing or two about suffering, defined despair using a formula “D = S – M: to despair means to suffer without meaning.” Those experiencing despair feel their life is utterly meaningless and their suffering is seen as a useless experience. 

Despair is therefore a crippling disorder that no individual should suffer alone. Unfortunately, many people quietly go about their day feeling despair and profound hopelessness. There have been many studies as to the causes of despair and the treatments for despair, but ultimately it comes down to a single problem: the idea that life, and all the suffering that ensues, is meaningless. At the end of the day, despair is a crisis in spirit. It is therefore important to understand despair through both a psychological and spiritual lens.

Despair is both a psychological and spiritual issue:

Clinical despair is primarily a spiritual crisis. This is not to say that despair is not a biochemical or physiological crisis, the temporary and most immediate remedy to which may be psychopharmacological intervention. Only that the possibility of a patient’s clinical despair stemming from or expressing a spiritual crisis must always be carefully considered in the psychiatric treatment of depression.” – Dr. Stephen Diamond, PhD.

Some prominent psychologists are recognizing the spiritual component of the emotions of despair and anguish. Dr. Stephen Diamond, an American clinical and forensic psychologist concluded that clinical despair must be examined and treated not only from a psychological and biochemical level, but also at the spiritual and existential level.

In other words, in order for someone to begin dealing actively with despair, they must be able to discover or assign some meaning to his or her suffering and misery. Medication can prevent someone with clinical despair from doing something debilitating or dangerous. However, sooner or later, the patient will need to confront their own spiritual crisis they find themselves in and find meaning in their life. The ultimate question is –– how? 

Therapy is crucial when feeling despair and hopelessness: 

If you are feeling despair and complete loss of hopelessness, it is important to understand what caused it and eventually regain that sense of meaning in your life. The cause(s) will likely be unresolved sadness or a traumatic event producing a complex mixture of negative emotions. In cases such as these, speaking to a therapist will help you work through these emotions and ameliorate some of the symptoms.

Clinical despair will not be cured right away and must be patiently endured by those experiencing it but having the support of a therapist can eventually help despair transform into something more positive whether it be hope, joy, faith, spirituality, connection, or creativity. 

The roots of suffering and despair are explained in the Bible:

Suicide and suicide attempts are caused by despair where one is driven to this act because of unrelenting hopelessness. Despair is typically the fruit of ongoing, unresolved sadness, pain, misery, and anxiety. These emotions come from suffering which is a feeling of pain and misery caused by negative and traumatic events. All our suffering in humankind can be traced back to Genesis 3 which records the beginning of our separation from God. 

God created man in His image to be with God and have no unmet needs and be fully happy and at peace. The enemy Satan deceived and lied to Adam and Eve so that they would disbelieve God’s word. Original sin entered their lives and from that point onward, mankind was cursed with suffering: physical pain, calamities, disease, despair. 

However God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son Jesus Christ to save us from the problem of sin and so that we may once again have a relationship with Him. We are no longer separated from God and His spirit fills me with a renewed meaning and purpose – my life’s tragedies do not need to end in despair and hope is not limited to what only the world can offer.

The antidote is having hope – and God provides us with it:

Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” 

Psalms 42:11: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” 

2 Corinthians 4:8-9: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

The hope that the Bible describes is not wishful thinking. The hope we have in Christ is an eager anticipation of God keeping His promises. The enemy Satan throws at us suffering, devastation, misery, and despair so that we may hate God and be separated from Him, but God promises us salvation and restoration if we accept Christ into our hearts and trust in Him. When life’s struggles become too overwhelming, remember that Jesus Christ is our anchor of hope: 

Hebrews 6:19: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul,firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.” 

If we have Christ as our anchor of hope, we won’t be blown around and tossed around by what life can throw at us. Remember that God is always with us as we pass through the turbulence of life on earth.

How to deal with despair and hopelessness right now:

While seeing a therapist will help you, here are some things you can do to deal with despair right now: 

– Acknowledge your feelings. The first step is acknowledging that you are feeling despair and hopelessness in regards to your own life. Resist the urge to just ignore it and “pull yourself together.” Despair is a profound emotion that needs care, just like any physical ailment. Additionally, take care to not judge yourself or others going through this. Many Christians think that if they have faith they will not feel despair but it can happen to anyone at any point in their lives.

– Do not do this alone – acquire assistance. Please receive an evaluation if you are unsure if this is connected to a clinical or medical problem. For example hypothyroidism is a medical issue that can cause deep, low moods. It is very mysterious how it happens but this is where medical assistance would be very helpful. Additionally, cognitive distortions that spring from ingrained experiences in childhood can cause despair to persist. 

– Absorb and believe the promises of God. If you have accepted Christ into your heart and you are a child of God and he is always with you. Focusing on the truth consistently and constantly is more effective than trying to push away and dismiss the negative issues connected to despair. Believing and having faith appears to be a passive thing but it is very powerful.

– Abolish disbelief and guard against Satan’s deceptive lives. Satan’s main goal is for us to disbelieve that God loves us and has a plan for us. He wants us to doubt that we have meaning and purpose in our lives and kill our hope. We need to be vigilant when these thoughts enter our head and pray to God when they do. 

– Await the timing of God’s intervention for your physical situations. Even when we are enduring this journey, we must remember that this despair we find ourselves in is not permanent. The only thing that is permanent and everlasting is God’s love for us. Seek the help you need as you believe and trust that your situation will get better. 

– Anticipate His glorious plans in our lives here and in heaven. It may seem like a cliché but the Bible repeatedly shows that everyone has a purpose on earth. 

A message of hope from the Bible:

2 Corinthians 4:16-17: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Despair is both a psychological and spiritual ailment. It can hit any one of us, no matter how young or old, rich or poor, spiritual or not. Get the help you need by seeking assistance. Remember that this experience is temporary. What is not temporary is God’s love for us and His promise of eternal life. We encourage you to know He is VERY near during your darkest times. 

You can watch the accompanying Anchor of Hope video here.

Do you find yourself succumbing to negative thought patterns? We are licensed psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and psychotherapists that believe in integrating the Gospel message into mental health treatment and counseling, as well as reducing the stigma and prevalence of mental health disorders. Contact us now to learn more about treatments, or just to receive a brief consultation about the need for treatment.

Found this post useful? Please consider donating to Oak Health Foundation, which is a 501(3)c nonprofit dedicated to providing resources regarding holistic mental healthcare and subsidized treatment for those in need.

Related Posts

The team and board members of the Oak Health Foundation

Behind the Scenes of Oak Health Foundation: Meet our Board Members

In this blog post, we're excited to introduce you to some of the brilliant minds and servant hearts behind Oak Health Foundation. Our board members ...
Keep Reading →

Common Habits and Thinking Patterns That Cause Unhappiness and Depression

What are the behavioral and thought patterns that can cause unhappiness, and how can we break free from the unhappiness trap we build for ourselves? ...
Keep Reading →
oppositional defiant disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder – Everything You Need To Know

It is perfectly natural for children to be rebellious and disobey parents from time to time. It is a normal part of development and also ...
Keep Reading →

Give to Oak Health Foundation

Orange County, California | connect@oakhf.org

Copyright © 2023 Oak Health Foundation | Web Design by FroBro Web Technologies

Renew & Revive Spiritual Group Sign Up

This Renew & Revive (R&R) group is a program established by the team at Fully Health to provide a comprehensive approach to address all our needs – physical, mental, and spiritual. Through attending these complimentary group sessions, you will learn about the good news of Jesus Christ and how God will intervene during our journey toward achieving healing and greatest potential.

All individuals 18+ are welcome to attend! You do not need to be a Fully Health client or patient to attend. This service is free of charge. Please note, these sessions are not a clinical service. You may come and go as you like. We would be happy to have you whenever you may be available to join!

Wednesdays 7:30 – 8:30 pm on Zoom

What to expect from R&R
– To deeply understand, believe, and enjoy the Gospel, and know who I am
– To be able to have any question answered without judgment. For example, “Why am I struggling so much even though I have faith?” and “If I seek psychiatric treatment, does that mean my faith is small?”
– To experience the ability to fight the spiritual battle in life, especially regarding mental health struggles around me
– If Jesus is the Christ who solved my fundamental spiritual problem that led to all the “bad fruits” of life, then He is the answer to any other problem (mental and/or physical) that I may face on this earth.