January 11, 2021

The Gospel and Mental Health: Hopelessness

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)

Hopeless. That is how many of us feel today. An empty, gnawing feeling of despair. We ask questions like: What’s the point of my life? What am I doing with it? Where am I going? Is there any point in living?

And this lack of hope leads to feelings of darkness and a general lethargy about life. In other words, we cannot be bothered with today. We cannot be bothered pretending everything is okay. We cannot be bothered facing people. We have no energy to look after the kids and clean the house again. We don’t want to go to work. Hopelessness literally sucks the life out of us.

Everything Done By Hope

But hope is vital. Martin Luther wrote: “Everything that is done in this world is done by hope.” In other words, hope motivates us. Hope gets us up in the morning. A hope-filled person is full of energy for the day ahead. They see their purpose and they know what they are doing.

The problem we have is that often our hopes are placed in the wrong things. Either we had hopes and they haven’t been fulfilled, or we achieved our hopes and they haven’t fulfilled us. Misplaced hope can lead to severe disappointment.

When I went into ministry, I thought I was going to conquer the world. I had this vision of leaving University, moving into an area of poverty, and seeing it transformed. However, very quickly, I realised ministry doesn’t work like that. There are often more setbacks than strides forward. People didn’t want to hear the gospel. Those I invested in, people who seemed to be changing by the power of the Spirit, walked away.

For a season, I found ministry soul destroying. I struggled with low mood and a lack of motivation. What was my problem? It wasn’t the ministry itself. My problem was my misplaced expectations.

Hope Greater Than All Others

Maybe that’s something you can relate to this morning. Maybe you had great expectations that haven’t been fulfilled. Or maybe you achieved your expectations and they’ve left you bitterly disappointed. If you are in that place today, then maybe you need to rewire your hopes. Even though your emotions scream darkness, you need to gently remind yourself of the hope of the gospel.

As Christians, we have a hope that does not disappoint: the hope of heaven to come. The Lord Jesus died for our sins, rose for our justification, ascended to the right hand of the Father, is interceding for us now, and has prepared a place for us in heaven. This is something that cannot be taken away from us. We have a reason for living today no matter what is going on in our lives.

Yes, even in the face of another lockdown. Even as we anticipate more isolation. Even as we struggle with loneliness. Even as we fight that same sin again, and again, and again. We have a hope in Jesus that does not put us to shame (Rom. 10:11). We have a hope that energises us for the day ahead. It’s good news that this hope cannot be shaken, cannot be taken away, and will never fail.

Fight for Hope

This again will be a battle for many of us today. Many of us are struggling with depression, anxiety, paranoia, and even suicidal thoughts. However, let me encourage you to stop now and pray over Romans 5:1–5:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Remind yourself that you have purpose in life because God is your creator. You have hope in life because you have Jesus. You have meaning in life because the Holy Spirit has been poured out into your hearts and is a downpayment of heaven to come.

This life is disappointing, but there is one hope that doesn’t disappoint, that will never disappoint, and that is the hope of Jesus Christ. This hope won’t make your mental health struggles go away, but it will help you press on for another day.

This is the third article in an ongoing series on the gospel and mental health. You can read articles on brokenness and on feelings.

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