The Luxury of Despair

All of us experience difficult times. Whatever your economic circumstances or social position, you cannot live long without feeling the impact of accidents, unexpected losses or cruel twists of fate. Feelings of loss, loneliness and longing are a natural part of human existence.

Clearly, however, some of us dwell in situations better suited to buffer us from the storms life can send. Repairing a broken car, finding a new job or negotiating governmental bureaucracies — many of us face and deal with such trials successfully. We are able to do this for a number of reasons. Perhaps we have financial reserves, attended quality schools that prepared us for high-paying jobs, have access to support networks or were born into a sustainable social class.

Of course, there are events for which nothing prepares us. Unexpected death or illness can hobble us in ways that money and social status cannot prevent. And yet, even in these challenging times, some of us possess resources that help us cope, such as access to therapy and counseling, paid time off from work and quality medical insurance.

For most Americans, the challenges of life are something we can overcome. We may face brief periods of sadness, confusion, even anger. But most of us can adapt and move beyond life’s difficulties.

For some Americans, however (as well as for much of the world’s population), such resources do not exist to overcome hardship. For people in need of clean drinking water, arable land to till, or homes free of bombs and bullets, every day presents insurmountable challenges. For these people, despair is a luxury they cannot afford, because every waking moment must be spent surviving and caring for loved ones.

So in this season of Christmas, let us remember the man whose birth is celebrated — not as an iconic babe, but as a champion of social justice and equality. Let us remember Jesus as the peacemaker and healer. Let us live his words through our deeds, and continue to do so throughout the year.

(originally published December 26, 2015)