Our despair is Satan's greatest joy
When life is going badly and there seems no way out, it's easy to fall into despair.
Yet Christ's Easter message is: "Don't despair!"
Repeat After Me..
We proclaim that message every time we recite the Apostles' Creed: Jesus "rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father....I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting."
There's no despair here.
But perhaps constant repetition has dulled our attentiveness to the reality of what we're saying: that Jesus suffered horribly for our sakes so that we might rise up from death and have eternal life.
We are made in God's image and destined to be with Him in heaven. Christ asks us not to let earthly setbacks throw us into misery and distract us from that goal.
God loves us. If he puts suffering our lives, it's to turn our thoughts away from the world and back to Him and His infinite mercy.
But fighting off despair and trusting in God's mercy is tough.
Judas Versus Peter
Despair is Satan’s most powerful weapon against God. He rejoices whenever he succeeds in separating us from our hope in Christ (see 'Hope versus Hope' in my last post). He thus sabotages our salvation and adds our souls to the ranks of those destined for hell.
Judas of Iscariot committed the ultimate sin when he despaired of forgiveness for betraying Jesus, thus cutting himself off from future happiness with God.
Peter denied knowing Christ three times, after having just said that he loved Him and would do anything for Him. But in contrast to Judas, he wept bitterly and repented over his betrayal.
This humble admission of guilt and belief in Christ’s forgiveness wiped his slate clean. Peter's faith and hope restored his good standing with God and ensured his redemption.
Judas allowed Satan to deceive him into despairing of Christ's love: Peter believed in Our Lord’s mercy and was granted it.
Who would you rather be?
But What Use Is God's Mercy When I'm Suffering?
Blessed Sopocko, confessor and spiritual director of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska has this to say about despair in his book God is Mercy (Marian Press, 1965, p. 81):
“Despair is passion arising in us because of the impossibility of escaping evil. The name covers not only the feeling of despair itself, but also the inclination to it. ... It is opposed to hope and trust, so much so that while hope enlightens, despair kills. ... (my italics)
“The causes of despair can vary. Temporal or spiritual misfortunes, incurable illness, loss of respect and honor, financial ruin, threat of inevitable danger, etc. Under the influence of such disasters there follows a terrible depression which takes away all energy, paralyzes the nerves, renders clear thinking impossible, and even impedes breathing and the normal circulation of the blood, so that the brain is not supplied sufficiently with oxygen and ceases to function sufficiently. ...
“If we search for the very first, deepest cause of despair, we always find a lack of trust in the Mercy of God. ...” (My italics)
(Taken from What Is Divine Mercy? By Dr. Robert Stackpole)
But why is it that when things are going badly, we find it the hardest to trust in God?
Because we want control over our lives. We want to know exactly what lies ahead, we demand concrete proof that our bad situation will end and quickly.
‘Show, don’t tell!’ is the usual advice to story writers and we feel the same way about God. Don't tell us that all will be well, through the Scriptures, don't tell us that we must trust in You: show us a reason to trust you by performing a miracle!
For some reason, God's amazing miracle of resurrection on Easter Sunday often isn't good enough for us. We're doubting Thomases who want to see it for ourselves, not have to believe writings from 2000 years ago.
Unfortunately faith means believing without seeing, and we must have blind faith if we’re to attain the goal for which we were made, namely to be with God in eternity.
Dispelling Despair Through Divine Mercy
Since despair comes from believing things will never get better and that we are alone in our misery, the antidote is complete trust in God’s love for us. (See 'Christ's Strategy' in my last post.)
Dr. Stackpole says, regarding the benefits of trusting in God:
"It opens the door to all the graces and blessings He wants to give us.” (My italics.)
We mustn’t hang ourselves with despair, like Judas. Instead we must trust in God’s mercy and be raised from misery to happiness.
....Which Leads Us to Divine Mercy Sunday
This weekend, Catholics will celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday (Feast of Mercy).
God’s mercy is not confined to this one day of the year – it is available every single day of every year! – but there are certain graces to be obtained on that day.
Here is entry 699 of St. Faustina Kowalska’s diary, in which Christ makes clear his desires for Divine Mercy Sunday. This entry is very long, but if you read it, you'll feel overwhelmed by Christ's love for you.
My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.
(Even if you've not been to Confession for 60 years or more, you may feel that it's worth going now, before next Sunday. :) I promise you, priests are kind in the confessional: they are there to help us make a good confession, not beat us up over our sins!)
Christ also revealed to St. Faustina the extraordinary graces available to those who devoutly receive Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday:
I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My mercy (1109).
Whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment (300).
The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion will obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment (699).
Click here for further information on how to prepare for Divine Mercy Sunday
Are God’s Graces Confined to Catholics?
I know that we Catholics are considered arrogant because we believe that Catholicism is ‘the one, true faith.’
We make no apologies for this belief.
Christ instituted the Catholic (i.e. universal) Church 2013 years ago. All other Christian faiths are man-made spin-offs. (I now cheerfully await an onslaught of angry comments!) The Sacraments of our faith make the Christian life easier for Catholics. We certainly don't believe that non-Catholics are doomed to the eternal fire of hell.
The important thing is to trust in God’s mercy and humbly ask Him to forgive our sins. Christ longs for us all to come to Him – Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
We will stop feeling despair when we realize that Christ is always walking with us.
Postscript: Whenever I find myself teetering on the edge of despair, I quickly recite this prayer, over and over again:
‘Eternal God, in Whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence, submit ourselves to your Holy Will, which is Love and Mercy itself.’ Diary 950
I hope it helps you, too.