The Blessing of Spiritual Desperation: When God Meets Us Where We Are

Today we’re featuring the second post in our Advent series based on the seven themes from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s Advent devotional Born a Child and Yet a King: The Gospel in the Carols. “Desperation” is the theme of today’s offering by Lori Hatcher. 

The man standing on the front porch of the dental office where I worked didn’t have to say a word. We knew exactly why he was there thirty minutes before we were scheduled to open. Pacing. Clutching his cheek. Wiping away tears.

Someone suffering from an abscessed tooth does desperate things to relieve the agony. Remember actor Tom Hanks using an ice skate to extract his abscessed tooth in the movie Castaway? I haven’t witnessed any ice skate extractions, but I have encountered people who have burned their gums with powdered pain relievers, bruised their faces, and drunk themselves into a stupor. One man admitted he’d considered using a Black and Decker drill in his mouth.

I’ve never had an abscessed tooth (praise God), but I have been desperate. I suspect you have too. 


I was desperate when my husband lost his job, leaving our young family without income or insurance.

I was desperate when I faced a health crisis with an uncertain outcome, and I was desperate when my marriage struggled under the strain of anger, apathy, and disappointment.

I was desperate when a prodigal child turned their back on God, me, and everything I held dear.

My Greatest Desperation

When I was eighteen years old, I experienced my greatest desperation.

On the outside, I had everything that should have made me happy. I’d graduated fourth in my high school class, had a steady boyfriend, and was offered a full-tuition scholarship to the college of my choice. 

On the inside, I was miserable. Unexplainably miserable. So miserable that I’d look in the mirror every morning and sob.

When the cloud failed to lift and instead threatened to swallow me, I became desperate. I knew I couldn’t live this way much longer. I had to relieve the pain and begin to heal.

But heal from what?

I’d been attending a Bible-believing church—not because I cared about God, but because I cared about my boyfriend. He attended three times a week, so I did too. Besides, his ex-girlfriend also attended, and I had to be sure she remained his ex.

But for all the hours I spent there, nothing in my life changed. I sinned, and it didn’t bother me. I had little interest in the Bible or spiritual pursuits. I served others only when it served my purposes. I was selfish, self-centered, and self-absorbed. And did I mention I was selfish? I’d argue with my mom for fifteen minutes over doing a chore that took five.

One Dark Day

On the darkest day of that horribly glorious summer, I stared into the mirror at my red-rimmed eyes and snotty nose and knew something was desperately wrong. I needed help.

But who could I turn to? I couldn’t tell my parents. (Why? I have no idea, except that in addition to being selfish I was also prideful.) I needed to talk with someone. A counselor. But counselors cost money, and I didn’t have any.

Then a realization struck me. I could talk to my pastor. Pastors are like counselors, I thought. They listen to people and try to help.

I called the church office and made an appointment for the next afternoon.

I don’t know what I planned to say to my pastor that day, but neither he nor I was prepared for what came out of my mouth.

In the presence of that kind man and in response to his gentle questions, an overwhelming sense of my sinfulness washed over me. I confessed the self-centered attitudes of my heart and the impure actions of my life. 

“I’ve been living my life my way,” I sobbed, “and I’ve made a mess of it. I’m making decisions that will impact the rest of my life, and I have no clue what I’m doing. Life is too big and too scary, and I don’t want to be in control anymore.”

With my pastor’s guidance, I surrendered my life to Christ that day. I left his office changed. 

Dependent not Desperate

Just like Scripture says, when I placed my faith in Christ, I became a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Fear of the future no longer lurked in the shadows of every day. Peace enabled me to sleep at night and wake up feeling joyful. The Holy Spirit inside me began to transform my thoughts and actions. Suddenly, I loved God’s Word, God’s house, and God’s people.

I faced each day dependent on God, not desperate to figure out life on my own.

I now had a Father who promised to love me no matter what (1 John 3:1), meet my needs (Matt. 10:29–31), order the days of my life (Psalm 23:1–3), and, one day, take me home to live with Him forever (Rev. 21:1–7).

Are You Feeling Desperate Today?

Maybe you’re feeling desperate because you’ve never surrendered yourself—your whole self—to God. Today can be the day. 

Seek the Lord. Ask Him to help you understand your sin and your need for His redemption (Rom. 3:9–21). He’s designed your desperation so you will seek His salvation (Rom. 6:23).

Maybe you’re feeling desperate because you’ve asked Christ to be your Savior but you’re not following Him. You’ve been living your life your way, and it’s a mess. Surrender it to Him—all of it. Confess your independence and promise to follow Him as He reveals Himself to you through His Word and wise counselors. Give Him the broken pieces of your life and trust Him to make something beautiful.

Maybe you desperately want God to work in a situation that seems too big and too ugly for even Him to fix. Trust Him. Pray. Seek wise counsel. Pray some more. Surrender the outcome to His all-wise and all-loving will, and faithfully obey what He tells you to do. As the familiar verse Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Translation: Don’t lose heart. God is always at work. 

Desperation Is a Good Thing

The dental patient’s desperation was a good thing because it caused him to seek out someone who could ease his pain and help him heal. 

Spiritual desperation is a blessing, too, if it presses us into God. He—and only He—can ease our pain and help us heal.

If you’re feeling desperate today, run to Jesus. He’s calling you.

Editor’s note: If you’ve read this article and realized that your greatest desperation—your need for Christ to save you from your sin—has gone unmet, we’d love to send you a resource to help you know for certain that you will spend eternity with Jesus. Request your complimentary copy by filling out the form here.

Women around the world are desperate to hear God’s truth and be equipped to be fruitful in every season of life, and helping them thrive in Christ is why Revive Our Hearts exists. Your support of this ministry through a year-end gift today enables us to call women away from desperation and toward freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ throughout 2024. And, thanks to a generous group of donors, your gift will be matched dollar for dollar! Give today to impact women around the world tomorrow. 

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