Tools to Defeat Despair

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.

2 Corinthians 4:8

Things rarely get fixed in my house. There are two reasons for that. First, I have the handyman skills of a badly trained parakeet. Second, I don’t buy tools, so that when an issue comes up I can honestly tell my wife, “I don’t have the tools for that. Sorry.” And then we hire someone who does.

Broken things require tools to fix them, whether it’s a table leg, a fuel pump, or a person’s spirit. Fortunately, when we face “trouble on every side,” we have at hand a well-stocked toolbox provided by the Lord that can save us from despair.

It isn’t difficult in our current circumstances to find people willing to admit that they aren’t in a good place. The world’s troubles have come in addition to our own personal crosses, not as a substitute for them. But for many of us, acknowledging that times are difficult, that we don’t have all of the answers, and that we feel more like crying than smiling feels like a denial of our faith. Once we have committed to Christ, shouldn’t our thorns and thistles be replaced with unicorns and butterflies?

Christian discipleship doesn’t require us to be in denial of our difficulties. It isn’t apostasy to admit that things could be better. It is far healthier to recognize the things that are burdening our souls, and then turn to the Lord’s toolbox to find a way to fix the despair that we feel.

Note that we seek to fix the despair, not necessarily the underlying conditions that led to it. We don’t enjoy complete control of our environments, but we can change how we feel about them. One of the great truths about the Atonement of Jesus Christ is that it has the ability to change everything without changing anything.

What I have learned from facing (at the very least) my fair share of hardships is that despondency drains the Spirit from us…both with a capital and a lower-case “s.” The best way to counteract that is to do the things that most quickly reconnect us with the Holy Ghost. So we turn to the toolbox to see what we have.

Not every person is the same, nor is every situation. Because of that, the Lord offers us several tools to restore our connection with the divine. You probably know what works best for you already, and ironically, it is probably the first thing you gave up when you started to feel down.

For me, if I listen to sacred music, it stills my soul and helps me feel for the divine. I get much the same from meditation. My wife finds joy in dance, which seems to me to be a type of prayer for her. Other people can take a deep dive into the scriptures or spend more time in prayer. There are any number of things that can lift sagging spirits.

More often we find that we restore ourselves by not focusing on ourselves or our internal needs. Finding someone else in need or in harm’s way, and offering whatever balm we possess, is probably the surest and quickest way to awaken us spiritually and defeat the demons of despair and depression.

Rummage through that toolbox. Find the tool that brings you the most joy while inviting you and enticing to believe in Christ and feel His spirit. The tool is in there. Discover it and put it to work.

…we faint not, but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4:16.

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