Jan 29, 2017
This is a highly personal post. Like most abuse victims and many depression sufferers, I am well familiar with despair. Having been grievously wounded, we cannot help but wonder whether God has turned His back on us, whether He exists at all.
There are Christian denominations which view despair as sinful. Not all Church Fathers (influential early theologians) would, however, agree . Neither do I, for that matter. This post was written to demonstrate that the despair abuse victims experience is NOT sinful, even from that strict perspective.
“Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Ps. 130: 1-2).
Depression sufferers often face condemnation from their well-meaning Christian friends. Such condemnation is misplaced. Depression should not be confused with despair. And for despair to be considered “sinful”, certain conditions must be met.
Depression v. Despair
Depression can arise despite our circumstances. Despair stems from our circumstances. Depression is the manifestation of a medical condition. Despair is the spiritual conclusion we draw about an eternal reality.
Both will make us unhappy. Only despair, however, can be seen as “sin” .
Despair as “Sin”
When we despair – as most of us use the term today – we view our suffering as pointless, and God as powerless (or uninterested) to intervene. This is situational despair.
For our hopelessness to qualify as “sinful”, we must have a genuine understanding of God; must be above the age of reason; must be in sound mind; and — in the strictest sense — must despair not about our circumstances, but about our Salvation.
Abuse victims (and depression sufferers) simply do not satisfy these conditions.
Judas and Suicide
Judas Iscariot’s suicide is often put forward as the classic act of despair. The apostles had daily close contact with Christ. Judas had experienced firsthand Christ’s infinite holiness, infinite power, and infinite love.
All these Judas is said to have rejected by his self-destructive act . Judas viewed his betrayal of Christ as so heinous it was beyond God’s capacity to forgive. He despaired, in other words, of his Salvation.
By contrast, the child who is daily abused and gives up hope is not guilty of the sin of despair. For one thing, the child may not yet have reached the age of reason. S/he may not, therefore, be capable of forming the necessary intent.
For another thing, a child who is abused is likely to have little or no understanding of God’s true nature. S/he has no reason to believe in a just and loving God, so cannot be penalized for the failure to trust Him. At worst, the child rejects a flawed image of God based on tragic experience with a hostile and painful world.
As important, the abused child despairs of his/her situation (not his/her eternal Salvation). Hell is here and now. If anything, unfounded accusations – in reality, out and out lies – about the child’s responsibility for the abuse and overall lack of worth may make death appear inviting.
Depression and the Will
Finally, adult or child, our capacity to sin is reduced when our will is compromised as, for instance, by the brain chemistry associated with depression.
God is hardly likely to condemn us for the sins committed against us, or the scars stemming from them. That, at least, is the opinion of this lawyer.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15: 13).
 Augustine believed that despair was not a sin. Thomas Aquinas argued the point, seeing despair as a variant of pride. Aquinas, however, distinguished hopelessness about our Salvation from hopelessness about our situation. He explained that a physician might despair of curing a patient without committing sin. Aquinas conceded that God could forgive despair, by way of a miracle.
 It should be emphasized that not all Christian denominations view despair as equally sinful. Unlike Catholics, Presbyterians and Baptists reject outright the concept of “mortal” sin, i.e. sin so serious it has the potential to cost us our Salvation.
 Suicide has frequently been described as the “unpardonable” sin (Matt. 12: 31-32). This though is an error. According to Scripture, it is speaking against the Holy Spirit which will not be forgiven. Since the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove when Christ’s divinity was revealed (Matt. 3: 16-17), the consensus now seems to be that the unpardonable sin actually signifies rejection of Christ’s offer of Salvation.
 Even those who never publicly acknowledge Christ as their Savior may accept Him in their hearts, during their final moments. “But do not forget this one thing dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3: 8).
ANYONE WITH THOUGHTS OF VIOLENCE OR SELF-HARM SHOULD SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION
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