despairAncient portraits of Despair.

The Greek poet Aeschylus wrote –

He who learns must suffer
And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
And in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

This was quoted by Robert F. Kennedy in his speech announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on 4 April 1968. He changed it slightly
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

Luther talked about a form of despair and he mentions in the Cathechism where we ask God to save us from “unbelief and despair and other great shame and vice.”

LW 42:102: “Sin also grows large and important when we dwell on it and brood over it too much. This is increased by the fearfulness of our conscience, which is ashamed before God and accuses itself terribly. That is the water that the devil has been seeking for his mill. He makes our sins seem large and numerous. He reminds us of all who have sinned and of the many who were damned for lesser sins than ours so as to make us despair or die reluctantly, thus forgetting God and being found disobedient in the hour of death. This is true especially since man feels that he should think of his sins at that time and that it is right and useful for him to engage in such contemplation. But he finds himself so unprepared and unfit that now even all his good works are turned into sins.”