Ministry Resources

Dealing with Despair

Author: The Journey Online Team

“He put his hand upon my shoulder and told me that in the world were two kinds of people, those who wish and those who will, and the world and its goods will always belong to those who will.” – The Warrior’s Path by Louis L’Amour

One day while working as a university chaplain, I spent a great deal time trying to help a young lady work past her despair. She had been a student of veterinary science at the University of Nairobi, but dropped out. Her cousin, who brought her to me, said she had suicidal tendencies caused by a breakup with her boy friend.

This, however, was not her real problem – it was much deeper.

After establishing a rapport, I made several unobtrusive probes. After satisfying myself that she most probably would not end her life I gave her an assignment. I handed the her a small note book in which I had listed the following instructions:

  1. Memorize and repeat Romans 8:28 at least 5 times a day.
  2. Establish but limit your daily devotions to twice a day, maximum of 15 minutes each.
  3. List the 10 things that hurt you the most, and the 10 things which give you the most comfort; and
  4. Write an unedited autobiography on the remaining pages.

My experience as a pastor and chaplain taught me that people need to establish new thought patterns. They need to be reprogrammed. Therefore, Scripture memorization plays a large role in my recommendations.

Second, most emotionally disturbed people don’t pray well. They spend too much time on petitions and introspective guilt trips; in short, on their hurts. They need, instead, to worship. So, I encourage them to worship. For I find that if a person does not worship well, they cannot become well.

Third, most Christians mask their hurts; so I encourage them to identify these hurts. I also ask them to identify those experiences which have given them the most comfort. Surprisingly, a large number of hurting people mask their real hurts by retreating into a comfort zone. So, we take a close look at their comfort zones.

This serves two purposes. Primarily, it serves to identify their hurts. And, secondly, it serves to see if their most cherished comfort zones are there to shield them from their real problems. For example, this young lady enjoyed the ecstasy of listening to her boy friend tell her how physically attractive she was.

She knew that he was not sincere and was using this as a way of getting her to become romantically involved with him sexually. Basically, she wanted to be something she knew she was not, to pretend that he was sincere in his affection for her. Later, after several sessions of meeting with her, we came to the conclusion that he was giving her compliments that her father never gave. She had always been the ugly duckling in the family. Now that she had found someone who was willing to tell her otherwise, she became a victim.

Finally, I always encourage those that are hurting to express themselves in an unedited autobiography. I find this is the best way to get to know them. Also, I have found that most people don’t really know themselves, and a good cathartic experience, like writing the biography, helps.

Well, I don’t want to take too much of your time in detailing why I counsel as I do, but basic to my theory of counseling is the belief that you and I are created in the image of God, and that a remnant of that image is still present. Further, I believe that we will never be psychologically and spiritually well until His image is reconstructed in us.

So, good spiritual advice encourages those that are hurting and in despair to allow God to help them reconstruct that image of Him in themselves.

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