Every winter, I both anticipate and dread one of my family’s holiday traditions: watching the movie It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve. The anticipation probably makes sense to you—the movie is a timeless Christmas film filled with memorable quotes and a downright heartwarming final scene where the protagonist is reminded that “No man is a failure who has friends.” But in order to get to the triumphant ending, you must first watch the main character get to a point of dark and unsolvable desperation—a desperation so raw and relatable that I often get uncomfortable watching it.
My guess is that you too are uncomfortable with the idea of being desperate. For many, it is a sign of weakness; for others, it points to a terrifying lack of control; still others may view it as a state of complete humiliation. Let’s face it: we do not feel comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable, so we avoid the feeling of being desperate at all costs.
But, I cannot help but wonder if we, as believers, should actually be the most openly desperate people out there. Let’s reevaluate this idea of desperation through the story of the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30…
“And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.’ And he said to her, ‘For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.’ And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.”
What we see in this passage is a woman who was truly at her wit’s end. She was fearful, scared, and likely exhausted by her lack of a solution. And yet, we also see in this story that the woman was fully confident in Jesus’ ability to save. Though she was broken, hurting, and also a seemingly unworthy person, she believed that Jesus was who He said He was and that gave her hope—hope to go before Him in her desperate state and fall at the feet of Jesus.
You see, hope is the element that keeps desperation from becoming true despair. In Him, our fears are calmed, our problems have perspective, and our desperation moves from shameful to appropriate in light of our overwhelming need for His grace in our lives. We are desperate people, whether we like the idea of that or not. We are broken; we face problems; and, perhaps most detrimentally, we are constantly plagued with sin. In light of this, the most appropriate response is not leaning on self-sufficiency, but rather leaning on Christ, our solid rock and true salvation.
Today, whether you feel the desperation in your life or not, remember who you truly are—a broken and needy sinner. But in that realization, do not despair; for in Jesus, you are never without hope.