“All that I ever hoped for in life is gone. There is no hope for me. Tell me, Chaplain, what is God’s great hope for me?” Maybe some of us can relate to these words. A young Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran who we’ll call “John” said these words to me at a time of deep despair. John explained to me how he had grown up listening to his deeply spiritual mother tell him that God had great hopes for him because he had survived a difficult delivery at birth. John had a deep respect for his country and for God, and he chose to make a career of being a Marine . . . serving his country and humankind.
John suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when an improvised explosive device blew up near him. As a result of the TBI, John found that all he had hoped for in life was changed. John’s TBI manifested itself as an unexplainable seizure disorder, so he was medically discharged. His dream of being career military as a U.S. Marine was dashed. When John learned that his disorder would not allow him to drive, he saw himself as unemployable to anyone. John’s heightened point of despair came when his wife told him, “You’re not the man I married, and I want a divorce.”
John looked at me and stated, “All that I ever hoped for in life is gone . . . my career as a Marine, my marriage, my identity as a contributing member of society. There is no hope for me. Now I’m back home in the house in which I grew up, and I hear momma’s words mocking me, ‘God has great hopes for you.’ So . . . tell me, Chaplain, what is God’s great hope for me? You tell me. I want to know.”
Anyone in a similar situation would likely feel despair and hopelessness at some time or another. In such situations, when it seems there are no justifiable answers to be given, our view of life becomes short-sighted, and we may feel like one Veteran who said to me, “It’s like God has gone AWOL.”
In this topic, we’ll reflect on when we despair without answers, how despair makes us shortsighted, and why despair clouds our view of God.