I'm a daughter, granddaughter & niece of pastors. I love God & studying the Bible and want to empower others to do the same.
“to console the mourners in Zion—to give them a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for a spirit of despair. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified”. -Isaiah 61:3
“A garment of praise for a spirit of despair.” Some versions of this verse say “splendid clothes”, like a party outfit or costume, a special dress or suit worn for a big night out, a first date, a prom, a wedding.
A “tallit” is a Jewish religious garment for prayer, often now a “prayer shawl.” A person in mourning would wear “sackcloth and ashes” to signify to others their suffering. After the death of her husband, Queen Victoria began wearing black to show she was in mourning, and so many cultures wear black at funerals. In the early 1900s, men would wear a black armband around their suit jacket to signify mourning. All of these are garments of despair, of sorrow, all a stark contrast to a garment of praise.
Some Jewish sects wear a “kitel”or “kittel”, a white garment on special religious “High Holidays” such as the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the Passover, and even on the Sabbath (by some). It may also be where the practice of Jewish couples both wearing white on their wedding day began. White signifies purity and new life or new beginnings. This is an example of a garment of praise. And what do we do with garments and clothes? We put them on. Just as when we are in despair, we need to turn our attention elsewhere and “put on praise.” Sometimes putting on praise music, joyful music, can help. Sometimes it’s a certain song, or one works this time that didn’t last time. I have a song playlist set up (which I periodically add to as I find the right songs for it) for when I’m in need and feeling despair. But I don’t stop at music when it isn’t enough or isn’t working. I have a notebook on my desk of things I’m thankful for. Some are tiny things, like a brown sparrow who landed on the windowsill one morning and stared at me, or the way the sunlight looked on a creek one day, as if it made a path up to the sun. One thing is the way my niece didn’t want me to leave for five minutes to go to the store because, as she said, “But I would miss you.”
When I’m in despair or feeling depressed, another thing I can do is read over the list or add to it:
What small moments occurred today or yesterday that I can list that brought me a bit of joy or a smile to my face?
What were my happy moments?
I also have another list I keep and add to that randomly lists as they come to mind my favorite smells, foods, textures, and sounds, or anything that makes me feel the Danish concept of “hygge” or coziness. When I picture these things in my mind, or I physically find one to enjoy, it helps soothe the despair (not completely and not always, but it’s worth a try). I highly recommend keeping a list of these too.
When I’m in despair and feeling unloved or undesirable or something negative toward a friend and I’m waiting on them for something, I make a list in my head about all their positive attributes to focus on, or how trustworthy they’ve been in the past, to consider whether I need to just extend grace and forgiveness, or maybe set a boundary. But also to teach me to be grateful for them. This is also especially helpful if you’re missing someone, particularly someone you can’t see. The people I’ve lost, when I think about my wonderful memories with them, the times we’ve laughed and enjoyed life together, it lessens the pain for me. It doesn’t erase the pain, but it teaches me gratitude, which often reverses the despair.
I have a journal for daily good things, even tiny blessings or positive memories I want to hold on to—it also teaches me to be on the lookout for them and retrains my brain to have hope, eagerness, and look for good things to happen. I used to keep a small LOTR one in my purse to add to throughout the day and it led to wonderful conversations. Sometimes I even tape things into these journals on top of the page margins when I pick up something interesting that day, like a leaf or a flower petal, event tickets, receipts for things I'd longed to own or were special to me, or even a chocolate wrapper with an encouraging message on a day I needed it.
I have a list for Bible verse promises for various needs that I add to (strength vs. feeling weak, wisdom in unsurety, about fear, about money, about humility vs. pride, about love when I feel unloved/unlovable, about my identity in Christ when I feel unworthy, etc.). I keep a journal of my daily Bible reading and its promises.
I have a list of positive attributes and good memories of people (especially ones that I’m struggling with), to refocus my brain when they’re being difficult (not toxic or dangerous—there's a difference. This list also comes in handy later when I need to write in a card for them). I have lists of songs that fit different moods or needs (Happy-make-me-dance songs, songs to encourage me with truth, songs that are a certain style/genre).
When I'm tempted to despair, I make lists of quotes that I look up about the subject. I list prayer requests and hand them over to God in prayer.
I list books I've enjoyed and their themes for when I need something to refocus me and give me that perspective again (and lists of those I want to read also).
I'm working on a new list, of things I want to learn or study or research, because I don't always have the time when I encounter a new topic that makes me curious, but I've realized that learning something (new or better or deeper) refocuses my brain and teaches me to look outside myself or my circumstances (often the sources of my despair) and to see the wide, amazing world around me, and the other incredible people in it who are discovering or teaching wonderful things (I have TED talks saved to a "watch later" playlist).
I have lists of all types of things that make me happy or give me joy, because listing them helps produce gratitude that they exist and I've found them, and gratitude can produce joy and strangle despair.
My handwriting is atrocious and most of the journals aren’t pretty (although I do have pretty highlighters to help with that and to color code). I’m not good at drawing or coloring, but I do it when the mood strikes me. These journals are a complete no-pressure zone (a huge relief for my type-A, achiever brain). It’s a place of no rules, of freedom, of relief. I can have as many lists as I want of whatever I want and they can be as pretty or messy as I want. I can write as fast and illegibly as I want because these journals, these lists are for no one but me.
One time I started a list of just attributes of God (kind, gentle, patient, all-sufficient, provider, healer, friend, comforter), and specific instances of my life when He has shown those to be true. When I’m in despair, it helps to look at Who my God is and has been and always will be. It helps to look at His past faithfulness to remember that He will be in the future. Sometimes I grab my Bible and look for promises that specifically address what I’m in despair about. I use the key words of how I’m feeling (lonely, ignored, unwanted, etc.) and see how God feels/thinks about me regarding that aspect, and I let His opinion of me be enough. I ask Him to fill me, flood me with it, so that it doesn’t matter where others lack, or situations seem hopeless, or people aren’t enough for me. My God is. And I am enough for Him. I’m just right. (Ephesians 1 is a great chapter for looking at who we are in Him and how He sees us).
Going to God in prayer and His Word for answers should be our first line of defense against despair, since it will always be the most effective. It’s good to delight in who and what HE created too, as long as we don’t “...worship and serve created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.” (Rom. 1:25). I can’t let anyone or anything but God be my primary reason for praise, or I risk making it into an idol. And I need to praise God more often than anything or anyone else, in my words and thoughts, because I am a Christian, “prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband,” (Rev. 1:25), Jesus. He dresses me in praise so beautiful that everyone turns their head as they do for a bride at a wedding, they see why and Who I’m praising, and they will desire to do it too, like 1 Cor. 2:7-13. This is the power of God and the Spirit within believers. He’s the One who removes my despair, who offers garments of praise in place of it, and saves me from it.
“I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom wears a priestly headdress, as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” -Isaiah 61:10
The antidote for despair is sincere praise, which leads to thankfulness, then to rejoicing and joy.
For more verses about this, read: Jer. 31:13, Heb. 1:9, 1 Pet. 1:6, Ps. 28:7, Ps. 149:4.
© 2021 Amanda Lorenzo