Rethinking Desperation

Desperate for God? Why the word desperate? It’s so… extreme… intense… emotional. In American culture, “desperation” stirs up images of emotionally distressed individuals pleading with another to give over something craved. One is also struck with images of desperate poverty, hunger, or overwhelming hopelessness. Often such desperate ones are the butt of jokes, avoided in social settings, and seen as socially unstable. What good could possibly come from such a belittled disposition?

Despite these impressions of desperation, I will recast this attitude from the perspective of faith and show how it is actually critical to our renewing of faith and restoring of hope. Toward this end we will also need to shatter certain assumed beliefs which have perpetuated cycles of hopelessness in our lives. In particular, we will see that the notions of security and control are more illusion than reality. Life comes at us from a multitude of angles with virtually infinite twists and turns that could level us in a moment’s notice.

While we have learned to control aspects of our lives, we are, in fact, at the mercy of the unknown. When such unquestioned beliefs are threatened by the brutal storms of life, the pounding waters of disappointment, loss, tragedy, or disillusionment pour through our breaches and the rising tide of hopelessness soon overwhelms. While such times of desperation have a way of rocking us to our core and challenging many of our long-held beliefs, they can also awaken a new outlook on life… a view point of hope, if we allow them.

So, rather than apologize for the metaphor of desperation, I endorse it as an apt description of the human experience we call life on planet earth. Yet, the desperation I speak of is not one of hopelessness but of unspeakable hope if we can understand our desperate need for God. Instead of hopeless desperation, I propose holy desperation.

In short, holy desperation is an attitude of utter trust and dependency on God’s saving grace and undeserved mercy. Holy desperation is critical for finding the way beyond our disillusionment and discovering hope once again. So, right now in your dark night—however it may look—embrace this reality of holy desperation and begin learning how to hope once again.

For the next few months let us take a risk on hope—let us risk letting go of our negative suspicions of desperation and be open to seeing it anew. Let us be willing to honestly critique our undisputed notions of control and consider how they just might be perpetuating the very hopelessness we are seeking to avoid. Next week we begin looking at how desperation and suffering are integrally related to hope.


What Do You Think?

Do you struggle with the phrase “holy desperation”? What kind of images does it stir up in your mind?




Author: David Trementozzi

David Trementozzi is married to his wife, Emily and they have three children—Judah, Kaleb, and Halle. David likes to write on topics related to Christian faith and their contemporary relevance. He has a B.A. in Psychology (Messiah College), Masters of Divinity, and Ph.D in Theology (Regent University). David is currently a professor of Theology at Continental Theological Seminary in Brussels, Belgium. To learn more about David, go to the About David page above.