I have a friend who’s an ex-Catholic, and she introduced me to the concept of the Seven Deadly sins… and that each one of us is most plagued by one of those tendencies to sin.
It’s ironic that someone like myself, whose gift is exhortation, is most tempted to despair. But ’tis true. When my plans fail, when my work doesn’t show fruit, I have a tendency to give up. And the more that the result matters to me, the more likely I am to get despondent when things don’t turn ’round quickly.
Now, I’ve battled through despair once… but the stakes were very high. I was willing to walk through the valley of the shadow of death for what I battled for. Other things in life? Not so much. They’re important to me, and I feel badly about myself for not making them happen, but worth my last gasp? No. Just no.
How can I battle on, when instant gratification isn’t going to happen and giving up is something I’ve done off and on for ages?
My first idea was getting more process oriented. Instead of thinking about my goal, I need to think about the daily good things I’m doing that contribute to that goal. Instead of thinking about being thinner, I need to think about the smaller portions and longer walks. Instead of thinking about how I wish my yard looked, I need to make a daily time to spend in the garden.
That’s not a bad thing – but I need more. I need positive stuff. I need to not just think, “my small thing to do for this is x” because then I can despair if I don’t do X every day. I need a carrot! I need to find ways to take smaller portions (check) and *splurge* on spending time moving my body. I need to find things I like about gardening (meaning I need to balance my time weeding with time planting and cutting flowers and harvesting fruit – because I hate weeding). I need to feel like my daily stuff IS the good stuff, not just the medicine I’m swallowing down in order to *get* to the good stuff.
And that’s how my idol of approval gets a hold of me. If I can get someone to tell me that my life is going well, then that means that it’s going well. I don’t need another human to approve of me, what I need to do is submit my smallest actions to God and seek His approval in each day.
Each day, sufficient unto itself… because we don’t know if we’ll have a tomorrow, but we are supposed to do our best with what we have today. That doesn’t mean I kill myself trying to complete the work today. That means that I am faithful to *do* the work that’s put before me today, and then leave the result to God.
There’s nothing more difficult for me than to let go of the consequences and faithfully act each day. No pie-in-the-sky, no cup-of-despair. Just daily faithfulness and patience and perseverance.
And that is how I shall vanquish despair.