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Despair During the Season of Christmas By Ed McDowell

When Despair Finds You at Christmas

From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer. Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you. I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word. I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn. O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord, there is unfailing love. His redemption overflows. He himself will redeem Israel from every kind of sin.

Psalms 130:1-8 , NLT 

Christmas often draws out a contrasting reality in people’s lives that often leads to despair. Beautiful expectations of relationships and gift-giving are often met by the harsh realities of brokenness among family and friends, personal exhaustion, and little to no ability or desire to give or receive gifts.  This is the beautiful tension Christ brings in coming to the world.  Jesus represents all that is possible – literally a new life in Him.  We represent all that is broken, and our own efforts have come up woefully short. 

The writer of Psalms 130 is writing from a tough place: The depths of despair.  It is a cry for help.  The need to be attended to, heard, and responded to is part of the request wrapped up in “pay attention to my prayer.”

This cry for help is filled with profound declarations:

  • Were it not for God’s character filled with grace and mercy, none of us would survive even coming into His presence asking for help.
  • God offers forgiveness through Jesus Christ so that we might come to surrender our lives completely to Him out of profound awe and reverence.
  • Count on God.  Rely on Him, even in the “depths of despair”. This is the focus of the writer of Psalm 30.
  • Put hope in God’s word.  It is more important than any other form of rescue and help.
  • Where God is, there is unfailing love.
  • God redeems from every kind of sin.  


We are in an extended season of dealing with discouragement and despair at levels I have not seen in my lifetime. Cries for help are a common part of the daily journey.  Many people with great faith in God have hit the wall in their own life.

We are invited to deal with despair honestly, by declaring it.  We are also invited to focus on God with some clear declarations about God as we ask Him for help. God is inviting us to count on Him.


If despair is part of your journey this Christmas, that’s ok.  Declare it honestly.  Ask God for help. Rely on God to bring the Holy Spirit, people, and resources around you to care for you.  Spend time with God’s word.  Experience His unfailing love for you.  Is this something you need to talk with God about?  Take time right now, stop, and have that conversation.  Perhaps the greatest gift you can experience this Christmas is honest time and conversation with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.


Father God, 

Thank You for the words of Psalm 130.  May these words become the prayer and focus of the many in our world who are dealing with despair.  May these words be our words and focus when we are spent and depleted.  Thank you that Christmas is meant to focus us on You, Your love, Your word, Your forgiveness, and Your redemption anytime we are given to despair.  May we choose to count on You even in times of despair.  Thank You for coming to us and being with us. 

In Jesus’ name, we pray,



Ed McDowell is the CEO of Warm Beach Camp. He has extensive experience in overseeing and directing ministry organizations, including stewardship development, personnel and organizational management.



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