Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. – Alexander Dumas
This quote is from one of my favorite books, The Count of Monte Cristo. In it,Edmond Dantès has his life suddenly turned upside down as he finds himself serving a life sentence in a dismal prison. For all intents and purposes, Edmond should have no hope. I’ll stop there so as not to spoil it.
Like anyone else, I have also felt despair. No, I won’t pretend to have faced despair like Dantès. In fact, I won’t pretend to have felt despair that could compare to so many people today. However, unlike Edmond Dantès and many others, my despair was self-inflicted.
I dropped out of college my first year so that I could work more and make more money. I became an alcoholic, a drug addict, and an all-around jerk—to say the least. I realized that every one of my choices destroyed opportunities in my life, but I just couldn’t bring myself to stop acting stupid. I was aware that the roads I chose to travel meant certain things would never happen in my life. That sorrow and despair led to more abuse, which led to more despair. How many have been, or are currently in, that vicious cycle?
The Israelites, of around 600 B.C., were witness to their world being turned upside down. Their great temple was completely destroyed and they were killed, scattered, or led away in captivity. They too knew despair; and theirs also was self-inflicted. That, however, was not the end of their story.
Around 540 B.C., some of the Israelites were allowed to return back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. The book of Ezra says that “the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia” to send and equip the Israelites to do just that(Ezra 1:1-4).
God had begun a process of restoration where there didn’t seem to be any hope. The people began to work and after they finished laying the foundation for the new temple, the book of Ezra says:
Many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. (Ezra 3:12 NIV)
We despair when we realize what has been lost. This is natural, and usually necessary, to really appreciate what we have or have had in the past. Please, do not take for granted the blessings that you have right now!
What I find even more amazing, is that the people were able to rebuild a temple that was completely destroyed. God brought life from the ashes, and the people shouted in joy. The prophet Haggai says:
‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty. (Haggai 2:9 NIV)
Earlier this week my wife received our family pictures from the photographer. As I looked at them I couldn’t help but be amazed that God had not only saved me from myself, but He blessed me with things that no one in my life imagined were possible for me.I weep for the things that I destroyed in life,but I humbly rejoice and praise God for His acts of grace and love that I can’t even begin to understand.
I’m not a big fan of taking family pictures; but how amazing is it that I get to?!
There is no place of despair from which God is not willing or able to breathe life back into yours.
Please come join us as we fix our eyes on Jesus. We meet Sundays at 9 a.m. for Sunday school and 10 a.m. for worship. Everyone is welcome!