Do you despair of life?

In these bulletin articles, we have been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. We have been looking at God’s law as summarised in the ten commandments. We started by examining the first commandment: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). We saw the duties of the first commandment and then began to examine the sins forbidden by the commandment, such as unbelief, atheism, self-seeking, loving the world, ignoring God, forgetting God and hating God. But what other sins are forbidden?


If you worship God above all other gods, then despair is forbidden by the first commandment.


Despair is the complete loss or absence of hope. So if the eternal God is your God, then there is always reason to hope – no matter what situation you face.


Cain is an example who broke the first commandment by despairing. Cain was Adam and Eve’s first son. But Cain also became the first murderer when he killed his brother Abel.  We read about God’s confrontation of Cain in Genesis: ‘Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be  hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:9-14).


Cain did not trust in the Lord and so he complained that his punishment was beyond him. All hope was gone.


Whereas if we trust in God, then we know that we can always bear up under any suffering we may experience. God will carry us through. The Apostle Paul says to his fellow Christians: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).


Thus, despair demonstrates that God is no longer god for you. When you despair, it is usually because something you hoped in instead of God has been taken away. You may not have realised it was your god, but its absence reveals its significance to you. For example, some people despair when their bank account is empty or overdrawn by a significant amount. Suicide is not uncommon at such times. The god of money is no longer present and taking one’s own life seems like a good idea.


But the Christian lives with a simple faith in God that everything will be ok. Even with an empty bank account, you know that life is still worth living because God is your god and in him you put your hope.


Do you regularly despair of life? Begin to trust in God and he will forgive you of your despair and will begin to give you a despair-free life.                 Joel Radford