The Agony of Defeat


Sometimes the Kingdom of God seems so near, and sometimes it seems so far.

In the past few weeks four people I have been praying for have died. Two died of cancer. Two died of depression. A fifth person, an elderly friend, died suddenly of a stroke this week as well.

I have seen miraculous healing with my own eyes – things I never thought I would see in my lifetime. I have seen people I know walk out of hospitals after receiving a diagnosis of “hopeless.” I have seen babies diagnosed in the womb with “anomalies incompatible with life” alive and well, smiling in their mothers’ arms and someone who once had stage four treatment-resistant cancer pronounced cancer-free.

Then there are weeks like this when it appears the enemy has not been defeated. Three of these people who died left young children behind. The fourth left a family of older children who still need a mother’s advice. As the child of a motherless child, and as a sensitive kid who grew up carrying grief for a grandmother she never knew, I know that kind of pain, the pain that goes on and on even to successive generations. I used to sing the spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” as if it came out of my own sorrow.

Two of these young women died of cancer. I hate cancer and I join with the millions seeking a cure. I HATE cancer.

Two of these people died of depression. Those numbers are consistent with my experience of people who die young. Some die from cancer or rare illness, some from accidents, but a shocking number have obituaries that say, “died suddenly.” Can we get past the stigma and admit that depression is as hellish as cancer or heart disease or injury caused by drunk driver? Can we admit that depression victims often fight and suffer for months or years too? Can we admit that far too many people die from it?

I’ve had very painful illnesses in my life. I stopped counting how many kidney stones (closing in on top spot on the pain scale) I birthed when the number passed 25 many years ago -and there have been other unpleasant afflictions that seemed hopeless at the time too, but nothing that was so relentlessly painful that I wanted to die just to escape the agony  -except for depression. I understand why asking for help can be so difficult. Suicide is sometimes a form of self-administered euthanasia (although some victims kill themselves because they have been deceived by the demonic lie that their families will be better off without them). Don’t get me wrong. I believe with every fiber of my being that taking your own life is not God’s plan, removes permanently any option for recovery, and inflicts inordinate pain on loved ones, but I do understand why people do it.

When I told friends I was having tests done because doctors suspected cancer they gushed sympathy and gathered around to pray. When I was young and told people (very few) that I was seriously depressed they said, “Oh, dear, you mustn’t feel that way,” “Keep it to yourself. Don’t bring everybody down,” “You need to work on that attitude,” or “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.” I learned early on that I was on my own with this shameful illness.

I have no problem with using both medical treatments and prayer. I deeply admire those in whom God has placed the ability and desire to learn how the body works, and to pursue methods of restoring health. I have an equal admiration for those who realize God, who made our bodies, is behind every healing, “explained” or not, and who pursue Him for more than we understand. It’s time we pursued more in the area of healing mental illness.

My “suspicious growth” was benign, thank God. After years of medication and hospitalizations (for which I am grateful because although it never healed me, medical treatment kept me alive) God healed me of depression. I thank Him from the bottom of my heart. I am so utterly grateful!! Freedom from mental illness is something I will never take for granted. I HATE depression. I really, really HATE it. I can’t bear to see gentle folk in its grip.

On days like this when other people die of diseases I escaped I hate those diseases even more. On days like this I want to ask why me and not them — but why is seldom a useful question. What and how are the start of better questions.

We say all sorts of things to comfort ourselves in times like this, but deep down a sense of outrage wells up. I don’t care how old you are. (I attended the funeral of the friend in her 80’s this week as well and saw the grief in family who still appreciated her attention.) Death is wrong, fundamentally wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Death is never dignified. We are created for relationship, not to be cut off from those we love. We are created to be eternal beings in love and in connection with our Creator. The agony of grief is another proof to me that there must be more than this.

The thief has come to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus came that we might have life -abundant life, and that we might live in love and fellowship with God and with others. On days like this I can choose to pull the blanket of despair over myself and learn to lower my expectations or I can cry out to Jesus Christ , the Lover of my soul. How long, oh Lord, how long?

I choose Jesus Christ.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

17 thoughts on “The Agony of Defeat

  1. I understand. I have always found comfort in Psalms 27 and the song “The Hiding Place” found here
    We use to sing this a lot in church. It brought comfort when going through something.



  2. sherri

    this is, such a huge issue for me! I appreciate your knowledge and understanding! I also know that it has come at a great price to you….thankyou.


  3. Allan Halton

    “One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
    Never doubted clouds would break,
    Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
    Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
    Sleep to wake.”


  4. Allan Halton

    …Not sure who that “one” is… who never turned his back but marched breast forward, never doubted clouds would break… unless this is God’s testimony of that one, the same God who said of Abraham that “he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief…” Yet when I read the story of Abraham I wonder if God and I have the same Bible.

    …But I do like the line, “baffled to fight better.”


    1. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
      Perplexed, but not in despair.


  5. Yes, it hurts, doesn’t it, to see lives cut short, knowing God had so much more for them to receive, give and experience in this earth-bound life. It hurts that children are robbed of mothers or fathers and the wisdom and hugs of grandparents. It hurts to pray and not see the answer we desire. It hurts when we know only too well the despair someone is experiencing because we’ve been there ourselves and to not be able to say or do anything to take that despair away from them. It hurts when sorrow comes upon sorrow and overwhelms us.

    There are some things that there are no verbal answers for. There are times when words only make the speaker feel better, but not the sufferer. I too know these things and carry them, like all who love deeply do. I once had a dream in which I was allowed to experience just a tiny portion of the pain Jesus experienced in His last few days. I told the Lord I could not bear that He suffered so much, even though I knew so little of His sufferings. His only reply was “I know”.

    If we know Him, we do not hold the pain apart from Him. His response to the unbearable sorrows in life is simply “I know”, because He does know and therein is our great comfort, hope and peace. He doesn’t take sorrow away, but He bears it along with us, and He bears the greater portion.

    Never think that you have been defeated. The only thing that’s been defeated in any of these situations that you describe is death itself. That’s the very crux of the gospel and the very purpose of the Cross. Death is defeated…..fullstop.

    He knows.


    1. Thank you, friend. Peace walks in with you. There are so few He can trust with even the tiniest bit of His pain.
      The rest of the passage from 1 Cor. 4 I posted under Allan’s comment:
      For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.
      And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

      Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight

      Yet will I praise Him.


  6. Karen Purcell

    Charis I am so sorry for your loss. Thankful too that you found the words to express your grief and anger to us, entirely appropriate and empowering to those of us who understand and feel the same.

    I have been and sometimes still am occasionally in that painful beyond words place choosing to live in unimaginable mental pain or leaving my children to a wounded and fragile motherless life. By His grace I have been able to chose life. Right now I’m battling again and long for healing but like you have good support frm husband and doctors, etc. for me it is now a settled argument but the enemy still lurks at times.

    My heart goes out to you and those little and not so little ones whatever the cause of death.

    Shalom in abundance precious one

    Karen Purcell Sent from my iPhone


    1. And my heart goes out to you, Karen. For some reason many people who love the Lord go through long dark nights -the valley of the shadow of death. It’s a custom-made horror show that plays on your worst fears and strips you of all confidence, I know. I don’t know why it takes so long for some of us. I think I prolonged my stay by entertaining the accusations of the devil and allowing guilt and resentment to become familiar resting places -but that’s just my experience. Everyone is different. I do know that Abba prepares a picnic in the middle of the presence of our enemies; when we feed on His promises they can only watch from a distance. As hellish as it can feel sometimes, there is gold on the other side after we’ve pushed through. We can come through with stories of victory, our cups overflowing and finally knowing that goodness and mercy have been our companions all along. Praying that hope will start to shine on you soon. You are very precious to our heavenly Father.


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