From Despair to Hope

From Despair to Hope

I’ve seen the face of despair,” says Jack Munday. “It’s a face I’ll never forget—the absence of any hope. And that face had a suicidal plan.”

Munday—who serves as international director of the Rapid Response Team for BGEA—and the nearly 2,000 chaplains of the RRT, ministers to people who are in crisis as a result of natural or man-made disasters, terrorism or civil unrest. Often, the people they meet were already hurting before the crisis that brought the chaplains to the area, and now those people are teetering on the brink of despair.

What can you say to someone who has just lost everything to fire or flood—or a loved one to riots or rampaging terrorists?

Although Munday emphasizes that the RRT members are chaplains, not counselors, they are trained to ask appropriate questions and to listen with a heart of compassion. Munday tells of meeting a soldier who had spent two weeks pulling dead bodies out of attics after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The images of death were haunting him, and he hadn’t slept in five days.

The soldier came to a Bible study being led by the RRT. During the study, he began to sob.

“Is this something you can talk about?” Munday asked. As the soldier told his story, he said that he had told God in desperation that morning, “If You don’t bring me hope, I’m killing myself tonight.”

The Bible study was God’s divine appointment to bring the soldier hope. He prayed to receive Christ on the spot.

Pastors are no strangers to distraught and troubled people. Skip Heitzig, pastor of Calvary of Albuquerque, has counseled people for more than 30 years. He notes that when a person is spiraling toward despair, their zest for life vanishes, and even simple tasks can seem impossible.

Believers are not immune, Heitzig says. They can take their eyes off God, disconnect from Christian fellowship and fall into deep depression.

Heitzig reassures people that they can be honest about their struggle, and he reminds them they are not alone. He points out that godly men like David, Elijah and Paul all experienced times of depression.

Second, Heitzig challenges people to change their focus—from inward and downward to outward and upward—by replacing their own thoughts with God’s truth. He tells of being called to speak with a young woman who had attempted suicide and was in a locked mental health facility.

After listening to her story, Heitzig challenged her to change her focus and listen to God’s truth instead of her own thoughts. Then he gave her an assignment for when she was released: Go to a senior citizens center and spend some time visiting with the residents there.

“She called me about a month later,” Heitzig recalls. “She said, ‘I’m much better. I was turned inward, but now I’m focused outward and upward.’”

If you or a loved one is struggling with feelings of despair, there is hope.

“Christ is sufficient,” Munday says. “There’s nothing He can’t do to bring you out of hopelessness, to give you the light of hope that everybody on the face of the earth needs.”

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