13 Reasons Why Biblical Characters Chose Life Amidst Despair

Some of these reasons are more admirable than others. But the great thing about the Bible is that it includes the good, the bad, and the ugly, which God, in turn, takes and makes beautiful.

1. Moses chose life because God had given Him a leadership position and a task to complete.

“‘But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.’ But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.’”

Exodus 32:32-34

2. Elijah chose life because cake…and also God provided him with strength to face the journey ahead.

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’ And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’ And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.”

1 Kings 19:4-8

3. Job chose life to “find a little cheer.”

“Why did you bring me out from the womb?
    Would that I had died before any eye had seen me
19 and were as though I had not been,
    carried from the womb to the grave.
20 Are not my days few?
    Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer”

Job 10:18-20

4. Job chose life because he was given permission by God to question God.

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.’”

Job 42:3-4

5. David chose life because God heard his cry.

“The cords of death encompassed me;
    the torrents of destruction assailed me;[a]
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
    the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon the Lord;
    to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
    and my cry to him reached his ears.”

 

Psalm 18:4-6

6. David chose life because God delighted in him when (it seemed to David that) no one else did.

He sent from on high, he took me;
    he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
    and from those who hated me,
    for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
    but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
    he rescued me, because he delighted in me.”

Psalm 18:16-19

7. David chose life because he knew that he would have reason to praise God again.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.”

Psalm 42:11

8. Jeremiah chose life because, tomorrow morning, God’s mercies will be new.

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”

 

Lamentations 3:19-23

9. Jonah chose life to see God’s judgment come to fruition in this lifetime.

“‘Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?’ Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city.

Jonah 4:3-5

10. Paul chose life because of the option to “rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[b] of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

2 Corinthians 1:8-10

11. Paul chose life because God’s grace is sufficient.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

12. Paul chose life “for your progress and joy in the faith.” Yes, you who are still studying his letters centuries later.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”

Philippians 1:21-26

13. Jesus chose life for you when He chose death for Himself.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

John 10:10-18

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

We are now almost one week away from Christmas–one of the most emotionally-stirring holidays in our culture. And it should be! The miracle of the incarnate God in the form of a baby should never cease to amaze us. But the emotional nature of this holiday can become exponentially difficult for those battling mental illness. It’s hard to sing about tidings of comfort and joy when you’re not experiencing either. It’s hard being greeted by “Merry Christmas,” instead of “How are you?” I know because I’ve been there, and by the grace of God, I am not facing depression this holiday season. But because I have experienced depression in the past, I want to explain some aspects for those who have not struggled with it. And for anyone reading this, I want to explain the difference Jesus makes in battling mental illness.

I want to start off by saying that I’m not writing this because I want pity. I am actually one of the lucky ones: I know the exact cause of my depression (chronic pain), have not struggled with anxiety, and have had seasons of relief, which I am currently in. Additionally, not everyone with depression has these symptoms. I am simply writing from my own experience with the hope that anyone reading this will be able to empathize more with those facing mental illness.

1.) Feelings of hopelessness

The mind fighting off mental illness is constantly lying to itself; the “sick brain” (as my psychology teacher called it) thinks that the problems it faces today will never go away. As a result, the hope of getting better sometimes gets overshadowed by the problems directly in front of us. When we feel like we’ll suffer forever, we should remember that the exact opposite is true: “So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Lie: The problems of today are eternal.

Truth: Our hope in Jesus is eternal.

2.) Loss of control

Nothing scares me more than having my own mind turn against me. In the past, when my mind was filled with thoughts that were uncharacteristic of me, I felt like I had no control. I think that a universal desire for individuals is to feel some amount of control in their own lives. Even as spirit-filled believers, we are called to self-control, meaning we maintain control over our sinful desires. But ultimately, God does not expect us to have all circumstances of our lives under our own control; instead, He wants the whole of our lives to be under His control. When I’m trying to fight the battles within my own mind, I have to remember that “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:47).

Lie: You’re too weak to have control of your mind.

Truth: God is stronger, more experienced, and more trustworthy.

3.) Loss of interest

I’m not an expert on mental illness, but I think that loss of interest is unique to depression. For me, this was the most frustrating part. It was more than just apathy; I couldn’t remember what I enjoyed about life. I couldn’t fully enjoy spending time with people because–as harsh as it sounds–I wasn’t interested in celebrating with them or hearing about their own problems. I couldn’t turn to music, because I forgot what it was like to enjoy music. I felt dissociated from everything that I thought defined me. But I was more focused on losses than gains. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Lie: Everything you thought you loved doesn’t matter.

Truth: The life that Jesus has to offer you matters.

4.) Sense of guilt

Living in guilt is different than acting on conviction; living in guilt means feeling like a burden for talking about your problems, which then results in shutting people out of your life. Isolation then forces you to listen to your own mind, which tells you that you should feel guilty. It’s an endless cycle, further enforced by my guilt-prone personality. Sometimes we can make the mistake of thinking that our difficult circumstances are punishment for our sins. As sinners saved by grace, we might face consequences of our sins, but Jesus took all the necessary punishment for our sins. To think we are experiencing punishment for our sins is to doubt grace. “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus…For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 8:1, 38-39).

Lie: You don’t deserve to be happy.

Truth: You don’t deserve grace, but take it anyways. It’s already paid for.

So what about Christmas?

“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6

Jesus came as the antidote to the symptoms of mental illness. As our Wonderful Counselor, He reminds us that we are not without hope. As our Mighty God, He fights our battles and brings our lives under His control. As our Eternal Father, He gives us a new identity–not based on our interests, but based on our relationship as His children. And as our Prince of Peace, He removes our guilt and replaces it with the peace of being forgiven. Also, as our Immanuel, He stepped down from the glories of Heaven to be “with us” in our suffering.

This Christmas, let’s remember to pray for and care for those battling mental illness, whether that’s lending a helping hand or simply a compassionate ear. Let’s also remember that only through Jesus are we able to experience joy, peace, and hope.