When I am tempted to despair…

“Out of the depths, Oh Lord, I cry to You when I am tempted to despair. Though I may fail to trust Your promises, You never fail to hear my prayer. And if you judged my sin, I’d never stand again, but I see mercy in Your hands…” ~ Out Of The Depths

“When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin… Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free. For God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me…” ~ Before the Throne of God Above

Oh what truth these stanzas hold.

Despair and guilt are two lethal snares that I never thought that I would fall into so easily. Yet in the midst of overwhelming sin, when I felt completely overcome by my flesh, when I saw only defeat and not victory, when I so desired to be rid of this entangling sin and yet always seemed to return to it… I slowly and easily fell into this trap that the devil so delights to set for believers.

For many weeks now, I have been struggling and wrestling with a certain sin in my heart that I’ve known is rooted in idolatry. I knew that every time I gave into that temptation, I was displeasing and dishonoring my God. I knew that I was spitting in the face of my Savior, who died to redeem me from such sin. Yet I still returned to it and returned to it. Like a dog to its vomit, I returned to it. It was absolutely despicable and disgusting… something that I had struggled with before and thought that I had been freed from it. Yet here I was, supposedly more “spiritual” and stronger in my faith than the last time I wrestled against this sin, but I was still stumbling and falling into this temptation. Even in the midst of all this, though, I hated what I was doing. I could relate to Paul who expressed how he was torn between the desiring to be obedient to the Lord, but still falling prey to the desires of the flesh (Romans 7:15-25). I was completely weighted down by this sin in my heart and I so longed to be rid of it!

Consequently, I repented of my sin to my God, praying earnestly that He would cleanse me and wash my heart! And then I repented again. And again. And again. And each time, I would contradict that repentance by falling prey to the temptation again. How could I?! …….And I thought that I had even an inkling of my own depravity… No. I am realizing that this was only scratching the surface. I wanted so badly to defeat this sin, to be over and rid of it! I prayed and prayed that the Lord would strengthen me to overthrow this sin in my heart, but would He really fail to answer my prayer? Why was I experiencing this constant defeat? What was my problem? Was I not doing enough to fight against temptation…?

God is so gracious… He has since revealed to me that THAT was my problem. I WASN’T doing enough. And I can NEVER do enough. How horribly weak and lacking I am! The truth is that, while I was wrestling with this sin in my heart, I was trying to do it all in my own power. I would place myself in the way of temptation and think that I could somehow withstand its force in my own strength. I failed. Over and over again. That’s all I can ever do if I am trying to obey the Lord by myself. Then, I saw my sin, I saw that I was fighting a losing battle, I saw that there was not a victory yet, and I knew that I needed to be cleansed of my sin. But could I not do that in my own power, too? Yes, I only fell deeper into the trap.

Now, all I wanted was to be reconciled to God again. I wanted to be washed clean and pardoned from my iniquity! But… I still refused to go to Him, to humbly bow before His throne and admit my transgressions. I wanted to clean myself up first, so that I might be presentable when I went before Him. I wanted to show Him the victories that I had accomplished (which amounted to zero). I wanted to bring Him something that I had done for Him (which was absolutely nothing). The thing is, I was failing at that too.

So… after all of this… I began to despair. I was sadly discouraged, and I didn’t really even fully understand why. I thought that I was despairing because of so-called “brokenness” over my sin. But if I were truly broken, I would have cried out to the Lord with a contrite heart and begged for His mercy and forgiveness. No… I was feeling guilty. This is different from conviction. I was feeling worldly sorrow, not over my sin, but over my failure to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish in my own strength. I felt guilty that I could not enter into the presence of my King with a pure heart… guilty that I had allowed myself to fall so into sin… guilty that I could not overcome my sin and live obediently to God in my own strength. Truthfully, I could have told anyone during this time that I KNEW that I am incapable of any good works apart from Christ and that victory over sin only comes through faith in Jesus Christ. But saying this truth is much easier than living it.

“Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul. Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole. Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God. Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load…” ~ Not What My Hands Have Done

“Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling. Naked come to Thee dress. Helpless look to Thee for grace. Foul I to the fountain fly. Wash me Savior, or I die!” ~ Rock of Ages

By God’s amazing grace, I am still learning that I AM NOTHING before God, and there is absolutely nothing that I can bring to Him of my own merit that could possibly please Him. Without Him, I am sinful, and so sin is all that I could ever accomplish before Him on my own. However, what a great Savior Jesus Christ is to me, who washes me and makes me white as snow… who grants grace and power and life that I may even consider seeking to please Him! Oh… what an eternity of agony and suffering I would be experiencing if were not for my loving Lord and Savior! I am truly nothing without Christ! After such sin and despair, how sweet it has been to recognize my own weakness and to acknowledge His great power. Though I am not even close to arriving at a complete understanding of my worthlessness in light of Christ’s infinite value, I will declare that I am nothing, and He is everything!

Dear readers, will you not consider this in your own heart, that you can do absolutely nothing for God, but that He has already done everything for you? Please join me in praying that you and I will live eternally dependent upon Christ for all things – for freedom from sin, for victory over the flesh, for deliverance from despair, for joy in the midst of trials, for strength to follow His commands, for humility to confess our sin before Him, and for faithfulness to continually declare His ultimate sufficiency for all things.

“All unholy and unclean. I am nothing else but sin. On your mercy I rely. Give me Christ or else, I die.” ~ Christ, Or Else I Die

“Now, Lord, I would be yours alone and live so all might see. The strength to follow Your commands could never come from me. Oh Father, use my ransomed life in anyway You choose. And let my song forever be, my only boast is You. Hallelujah! All I have is Christ! Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!” ~ All I Have Is Christ

4 Responses to “When I am tempted to despair…”
  1. Daniel says:

    Sierra – Thank you so much for sharing this post on your blog. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness in the lives of His children- Philippians 1:6

  2. J says:

    Thanks for this post, it is very encouraging to me as I’ve been finding myself in a similar situation.
    It is with much exhaustion when I assess my own loathsome addiction; that cycle of sin, self-disgust, repentance,… but followed by temptation and no respite.

    I have found myself that Prayer is possibly the strongest tool we have available. Sometimes I find myself ashamed to pray; even knowing the truth that I earned nothing of my own justification and yet feeling inadequate to approach God as a ‘Wretched Man’!

    The devil does delight when he can wedge a divide between us and our Father.

    Another thing that I have noticed having been a believer for only 6 years myself is that while my simple perceptions might have me believe I am becoming even more sinful over time (certainly, my agonising at my own sin increases!) – I believe the reality is that he has, through his abundant grace and mercy, worked in my heart and has indeed corrected many of my sinful behaviours. And it is through his grace that he reveals to me and convicts me not of new sinful behaviour, but of old sin that I was previously unaware of. Whilst I hate sin, I shudder to think of a day on this earth if I should consider myself rid of it fully, for it would mean that I had become instead blind to it.

  3. Excellent thoughts here, found this post when searching for “satan tempts me to despair” as I’d forgotten what the title of the song is.

    Strikes me that feelings of despair, whether of guilt past or struggles ahead, are not from God, but from satan, and therefore to be recognised as such and rejected.

    Life would be so much free-er!

  4. Brian T Vermilya says:

    This was such a blessing to me.I am grateful to the Lord that I was able to stumble across this.
    It was so insightful and articulated so well.
    Blessings to you

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