When You're Tempted to Despair


Three truths to cling to when your sin makes you feel like a poor ambassador for Christ.

Now you’ve done it. You’ve blown it again.
How can you call yourself a Christian? You keep doing that same sin over and over again.
As if God would forgive someone like you!

Do similar accusations ever swirl in your mind? Are you tempted to believe that God won’t forgive you this time? Have you ever questioned whether or not you are truly His?

I’ve often, with a saddened heart, wondered how I can love Jesus so much and want to be like Him so badly and yet still reflect His image so poorly. As the eldest sibling in my family, as the supervisor at my job, and as the Sunday school teacher of fifteen plus little children, I know the importance of being a godly example to those who look up to me.

But I’m also well aware of how I often prove to be a poor ambassador for Christ. In the past, whenever I failed to act in godly manner, I considered my sin to be unforgivable and my testimony ruined, but by God’s grace through the encouragement of more mature Christians, I’ve learned to see my despair with new eyes.

This is why we need older, wiser Christians in our lives so desperately. When our feelings shout one thing, they can point us to the truth. When I am tempted to despair, they’ve shown me these three things.

1. God’s got me (and you!).

We may, for a time, lose our assurance, but we don’t lose Jesus. Listen to His words in John 10:28-29: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

He holds you in the very palm of His hand. He won’t drop you or discard you simply because you miss the mark.

2. It’s not about what we’ve done but about what He has done.

God’s Word teaches that it is by grace we have been saved and not our good works (Ephesians 2:8-9), yet we often lose sight of that when we sin, thinking we have somehow altered our status before the Lord. Don’t get me wrong. Sin is an offense to God, and we must take sin seriously because God takes sin seriously. But our salvation isn’t dependent upon us, thankfully, because even our best of works are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

We were rescued through Christ’s work on the cross. All of our sin was placed upon Him. The wrath we deserved was poured out upon Jesus, so “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). When we are loaded with guilt and shame, we ought to, as Robert Murray M’Cheyne so beautifully prescribed, “with every one look at self, take ten looks at Jesus.”

3. The struggle is real (and good!).

There is a difference between embracing sin and struggling with it. The latter proves a sensitivity to our sin and a desire to turn from it and obey the Lord. So we can be encouraged if we genuinely mourn over our sin. That’s the Spirit working in us!

There is a hymn by Charitie Lees Bancroft that captures more eloquently the work of Christ. Pay close attention to the lyrics.

Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea:
A great High Priest whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands. My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heav’n He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there, who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died my sinful soul is counted free.
For God the Just, is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb! My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM, the King of Glory and of Grace.
One with Himself, I cannot die; my soul is purchased by His blood.
My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ, my Savior and my God.

Instead of falling into despair over our sin, we can let it drive us to the cross. Your sin doesn’t mean you can no longer be a representative for Christ but rather that you are able to tell the story of His grace.

By Kaitlin Dendekker

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