Praying Into the Abyss of Despair

Praying into the Abyss of Despair

By: Dr. Stephen R. Crosby

Sometimes our circumstances make us feel like we are standing on the edge of a dark and bottomless abyss of hopelessness. We pray, do all the things we know to do, have been told to do, trained to do (and then some), and nothing changes or things get worse.

The pressure can lead us to the brink of madness. Cliché Christian answers and the insensitivities of cheap canned theology of fellow Christians don’t help. Rather than identify with us in the darkness of the mystery of our circumstances, “Job’s comforters” type of Christians heap guilt, shame, introspection, fear, and anxiety upon us with: “There must be sin in your life” or “You just don’t have enough faith,” or this would not be happening to you. Both are lies.

Prayer is an activity that takes a lot of courage. 

Sometimes the essence of prayer is little more than throwing our self into free-fall of the abyss of our hopelessness. We have no assurance of anything other than darkness. We can’t stay on the edge any longer, and what is in front of us is nothing but darkness, hopelessness, and despair. The cowardly turn from the precipice, give up on prayer and accommodate their present reality. The courageous throw themselves, heart and soul, into the abyss.

Once they do, they discover that fearful free-fall turns into flight when the Spirit gets a hold of the courageous faith we have shown by praying into the darkness. Those who refuse to face the abyss of their hopelessness can never know the experience of having free-fall turn to flight by the Spirit. Ezekiel spoke of waters where we can no longer touch solid ground–waters so deep that we cannot control anything, even our own survival. Those who insist on the security of the shoreline, where everything is safely neat, predictable, understandable, and manageable, will never know the dynamic of the real prayer of faith.

The Spirit of the Lord came to me a while back and strongly impressed on me how much the Father appreciates the “faith” of those who, in the face of their impossibility and no answers, throw themselves into it any way. It’s corny and cliché, but He appreciates it in ways that we cannot truly fathom.

There is an intimacy with the Father, and a fraternity with the Son, that can only be subjectively experienced when we have stared at the darkness and thrown ourselves in. It is what Jesus did at Calvary and in the grave, facing it, going there willingly with nothing other than hope in a promise: “You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor allow me to see corruption.” Until resurrection morning, all is darkness, and we can’t “faith confess” our way out of it. For the children of Israel, the last minute of the last hour, of the last day of the 39th year of wilderness wanderings looked exactly like every day that had preceded it . . . but then . . . resurrection dawn.

I get discouraged as much as anyone, but somehow, if I must fall, I have learned to fall forward, or more recently, “fall in.”

If you are struggling, or seem to have no strength, or if the thought of engaging in prayer excites you as much as a toothache, don’t give up. Don’t let a lack of results deter you. Faith is more than getting results/answers. Faith is saying to the abyss: “This will not have dominion over me, and if I must perish, I will, but I will throw myself and my hopelessness right into the mouth of gaping despair with the testimony of my God on my lips,  where my only hope will be, God taking my free-fall and turning it into flight, where it is His supernatural resurrection life . . . or it is nothing.

It has been a recent burden of mine, that as long as the Lord has given me life, breath, health, and strength, it is my spiritual, moral, and kingdom “reasonable service” to use it on behalf of those who might not be as fortunate, in any circumstance of life. The great mystery of free-fall into the abyss is discovering that the buoyancy of faith doesn’t have to be mine! When I am weak, the faith of others, who love me and with whom I am in relationship, taken and animated by the Spirit of God, becomes: the air beneath my wings! My only job is to jump into the abyss. My contribution of faith is to admit that I don’t have any! Then, “in faith” throw myself in! This is overcoming prayer. This is overcoming faith. This is faith that stares death in the eyes and prevails.

If God has given me strength, or a season of favor and prosperity rather than adversity, it is my moral duty to my brothers, sisters, and the world to fulfill my priestly ministry: to enter into their suffering and impossibility, and release my faith when they have none. I sincerely pray that I will be able to live the rest of my days in this way. I pray every day: “Lord, you have given me life and strength and health, please, let my life amount to something today for your purposes in your saints. May my existence be more than the delusions of American cultural priorities of self-interest.”

I hope you would join me in this prayer and that each of us would more fully awaken and respond to our priestly calling to represent Christ to the world, and the world to Christ.



Copyright 2013,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Would you like to partner with us in distributing our materials and perhaps generate some income for yourself?  Please go to for details of our Affiliate program. This ministry is sustained by the freewill offerings of those believe in the message of a radical grace in a new covenant understanding. If this article has been a blessing to you, would you prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible contribution through our Paypal button to help? Thank you and God bless you.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob lee November 2, 2017 at 4:27 pm

I am in shock at the announcement from my 23 year old son; " I'm gay".

Your heart felt writing and truthful expositions soothed me and I believe could help those,

like my son suffering in lust for healing/ intimacy in same sex attraction.

  Have you thoughts or helpful interaction or writings?

keep up you Good work.





White Dove November 6, 2017 at 10:24 pm

Thank you for your encouraging words, Bob…. 

Today a friend of mine lost his 20-some year old son. The only thing I can think of right now is that God has your son safe and secure in His hands and you can trust Him to keep your son on the path that’s just right for him. I believe there’s nothing God can’t do, and that He will go to the uttermost parts of the universe to save our children. I am seeing that happen in my life and I believe it will happen for your son, too…. we’re all learning to Trust!

Life certainly has a way of sending shock waves, doesn’t it…. but nothing is a shock to our Father. On that we can depend.

Thanks for writing!


Victoria Dove August 24, 2017 at 10:40 am

This is beautiful.  I have experienced much despair on my walk with the Lord, but nothing like I did this past month when thoughts of suicide were rampant and I actually had a plan in place to complete it.  Only God can meet us and rescue us in those times of great despair, and you are so right — we have to press in to Him, fall into His arms rather than falling back into the world.  The empty words and quoted scriptures of well-meaning friends only deepened the despair.  I thank God for friends who know how to pray and hold up my arms when the enemy of my soul comes in like a flood.  And as always, having found victory in this particular battle, it was followed with an amazing breakthrough in ministry.  God is so faithful.


White Dove August 24, 2017 at 11:27 am

My heart joins yours, for real….. in a reality beyond explanation. And yes, these darkest of times nearly always precede an amazing breakthrough, I have found, as well…. pretty much every single time!

Maybe that’s why Papa God says to “Hang on” for the ride of our lives. At least, that is what I heard Him say to me so many years ago, just before the ride of my life began! Perhaps that is all we can do, is hang on.


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