It was there again this morning. Just when I thought it was gone. Just when I thought I might be free of it forever; my old friend despair showed up even before I opened my eyes.
In the years when I struggled with alcohol and anxiety, despair was never far from my thoughts. Sometimes it was a nagging tug at my back, and other times a heavy, led blanket. It was so persistent, I came to accept despair as a constant companion.
The Slow Descent
At first, I down-played the problem. Then, it became part of the wallpaper. Something I experienced everyday without a second thought. Until I eventually believed my life was easier when I stopped fighting despair and started embracing it.
As I learned more about codependency, I realized the root of my despair was my need for approval. After years of trying to be everything to everyone, I was exhausted. I had failed to be perfect over and over again. I found it impossible to accept disapproval or ambivalence as a part of life, so I chose to accept despair instead.
The Turning Point
By realizing that God’s approval was the only opinion that mattered across eternity, I came to experience freedom from despair. The more I came to understand His love for me, the more freedom I experienced from the weight of despair. These days, it’s a rare visitor. But I am human, and I will fall back in this rut occasionally.
This time it assaulted my heart when my mind was at its weakest, the early morning. Perhaps it was the familiarity of the feeling, or perhaps it was the confusion of my half-awake and half-dreaming state. Whatever the reason, there was a moment when I heard myself think, “Well, hello there, old friend. Welcome back.” I was actually relieved at its arrival. I knew that this feeling was the excuse I had been looking for to give up the good fight against…myself.
It’s true. Most times I am my only enemy in the world. I am the only person I know who makes the effort sabotage my ventures and bully me into standing still rather than stepping boldly into God’s plan for my life. My own mind lies to me and attempts to derail my hope and joy.
It was just a moment this morning when I entertained despair. Long enough to remember its power of seduction, but not long enough to forget the damage it inflicts on my life.
My very next thought was quite the opposite once I recognized the feeling for what it was. “No,” I thought, “You are not welcome, here. I will fight. I will fight. I will fight.” And fight I did, all day long.
My weapons of choice:
- Gratitude for all I have
- Vulnerability amongst friends
- Service to others.
Every one of these felt uncomfortable at first. My body and mind fought me as I started each effort. But I also felt relief and joy and even love along the way.
Days like today are more course correction than the brutal fight for hope I once entertained within my mind and heart at the beginning of my serenity journey. Most days, hope overtakes my heart and leaves no room for fear, no room for anxiety or despair.
For me, despair is not an option when such gracious and abundant love is given freely by the Creator. When joy and love and hope exist side-by-side inside your heart and mind, it is harder to believe the lie of despair. Its seduction becomes a momentary temptation rather than a cage without a key.