Despondency and despair during times of darkness

Looking around us at the state of the world and the situation closer to home, it would be easy to sink into despondency.

Jul 25, 2020

By Anil Netto
Looking around us at the state of the world and the situation closer to home, it would be easy to sink into despondency.

We can detect the despair and uncertainty everywhere. The economic outlook appears bleak, the position of minorities in the face of religious and racial rhetoric looks uncertain, job prospects seem dismal, nature is facing an existential threat, basic rights appear to be curtailed.

The promise of the ‘new Malaysia’ appears to have dimmed. Some are even telling their children to explore greener pastures.

Yes, these are trying times.

How are we not to sink into helplessness and despair at what is going on? After all, it is only human to feel such despondency during times of darkness.

In the Gospels, even the two followers of Jesus, Cleopas and one other, felt crestfallen on the journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. (This could have been the same Cleopas whose wife had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus as described in John 19:25). Along the way, they poured out their sorrow and disappointment to a stranger who had joined them on the jour ney, late in the evening on that first Easter.

We can imagine how heartbroken they were. Only a few days ago, they had probably seen Jesus in Jerusalem, perhaps heard him preaching. He had proclaimed a new kingdom where the last would be first, where love and justice would reign. They had hoped for a liberation.

But now he was gone – executed mercilessly on the cross, dying in excruciating pain. The Empire had vanquished their Messiah (or so they thought). How cruelly their hopes had been dashed! Perhaps they could sense the fear among the scattered Apostles and could foresee a time of persecution looming.

No wonder they were leaving Jerusalem, putting behind all their hopes and dreams of a new world, perhaps also distancing  themselves from the painful memories of the crucifixion, still fresh in their minds. Just as many of us are prone to during difficult, trying times, they felt dejected and downcast. Their faith and hope had taken a beating.

But then this stranger came into their midst and rekindled their crushed hopes bit by bit. He explained the scriptures to them and reminded them how the Messiah would have to suffer before entering into glory.

While he was talking, the hearts of the two disciples burned within them. And when they broke bread together, they experienced him among them. He fired up their faith and they felt his presence. But in a flash, he was gone.

Whenever we are tempted to sink into  despondency, the journey of the two disciples to Emmaus should give us hope. When all seems dark and foreboding, the words in the scriptures should revive us.

After all, we are called to be the salt of the earth. This means we must continue to be prophetic voices in the world around us, making a difference wherever we are placed. This is unlikely to be easy, for it could come at huge cost.

The world around us doesn’t have to be like this. We are blessed with a diversity of people, fertile soil, lush rainforests and precious flora and fauna. We have enough for everyone if everyone is given fair opportunities, if corruption is wiped out, if the greedy are kept at bay and if leaders truly serve the people’s interests.

If we live in faith, hope, love, and solidarity – some of the hallmarks of the kingdom – we can hasten the transformation of the world. Along the way, as we travel along our own road to Emmaus, we can draw strength for the journey from the words of the risen Jesus.

Let us comfort and encourage one another along this journey. We cannot afford to sink into despair and despondency – for we are all here for a purpose.

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