Banias Falls—Where Your Overwhelming Despair Meets its Hope

How Jesus’ resurrection gives the solution to the despair we feel.

Sometimes despair can wash over us like a wall of water. One moment we’re dry—the next, we’re dripping with discouragement. I’m talking about an overwhelming sense that it will never get any better. 

Banias Falls-Where Your Overwhelming Despair Meets its Hope

(Photo: Banias Falls. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

“What if,” to quote Jack Nicholson, “this is as good as it gets?” I don’t know about you, but despair can be one of my greatest struggles. In those moments, I travel in my mind back to Banias. 

The psalmist used the waterfalls at Banias in northern Israel to express a similar question and emotion. But he also had a solution of hope we need to turn toward when we feel overwhelmed by despair.

In fact, Jesus gave us that ultimate hope in the exact same region.

The Banias Falls—A Picture of Despair

In far north Israel, the melting snows of the Mount Hermon mountain range seep underground and resurface as natural springs.

One of those springs flows at Banias, or Caesarea Philippi, and helps to form the headwaters of the Jordan River. Less than a mile downstream, the waters twist and turn through boulders, trees, and ravines, forming foaming streams and beautiful waterfalls.

Banias Falls below Mount Hermon

(Photo: Banias Falls below Mount Hermon. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In Psalm 42, the psalmist uses the waterfalls at Banias as a metaphor of the heaviness of his “despair.”

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.
O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. —Ps. 42:5–7

The Hebrew term for “despair” refers to “sinking down,” and the author wrote it in an intensive form that points the action back upon itself. The waves picture a heavy, bludgeoning, hopelessness—in which the more you dwell on it, the worse you “sink down” deeper and deeper into despair.

Got the picture?

Have you ever stood beneath a waterfall? The water is amazingly weighty. It feels like someone standing over you pushing down on your shoulders at rapid (no pun intended) intervals.

Pounding, unrelenting—and most of all, heavy. The challenge is made worse by the fact that the rushing waters are of God— “Your waterfalls . . . Your breakers and Your waves.” Somehow, God’s hand of providence has guided the circumstances.

The psalmist recalls the good days when he enjoyed the festivals at Jerusalem (v. 4). He longs to go up to Jerusalem again and be with the Lord (cf. Psalm 43:3-4).

The hope of Jerusalem keeps him going in the midst of despair.

Jesus, Banias, and Hope beyond Despair

Upstream from the falls centuries later, Jesus gave the solution to the Psalmist’s despair.

About one year before Jesus went to the cross, He took His 12 disciples to the far north of Israel to the region of Caesarea Philippi. In that region, Jesus uttered a word He had never used before: “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18).

Caesarea Philippi

(Photo: Caesarea Philippi. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Jesus also shared something with His men He had never shared so plainly before. “From that time,” Matthew wrote, “Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matt. 16:21).

Don’t skip that last part. (The disciples did.) “And be raised up on the third day.”

While we can’t make too much of the geographic connection, neither can we dismiss it.

  • Both scenes of despair—with the psalmist and with the disciples—occurred in the region of Caesarea Philippi or Banias.
  • Both looked to a future feast in Jerusalem as the hope and solution.
  • Both anticipated what God would ultimately do at that feast.

Of course, Jesus knew the full implications of the upcoming Passover, a fulfillment the psalmist’s hope could not even imagine.

The Solution to Our Despair

Jesus’ death and resurrection gives the fullness and solution to the despair we feel. When the waterfalls seem overwhelming, when it feels like “this is as good as it gets,” remember that this life isn’t the goal.

Just as Jesus was “raised up on the third day,” so will those of us who believe in Him. Our ultimate hope is not for a solution in this life. We can keep plodding through the waves, because our hope lies in God’s promise to raise us up again.

In the mean time, our help is in the promise of God’s presence with us:

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence. —Ps. 42:5

Question: When you struggle with despair, what helps keep you going? To leave a comment, just click here.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts. Just keep it kind and relevant. Thanks!

  • Stephen White

    Getting back in God’s Word is the only answer and solution for me personally.
    And prayer!

  • GALAXYKID MAX

    Mr. Wayne…

    I now have solid evidence that God truly is with you.
    He must have come to you and told you to send me this email because I am in despair today!
    See….in my youth, I made some very stupid mistakes. Very very very stupid mistakes, all of which I am much to afraid to reveal because it rips open old wounds. As a result of all this, years later, that mistake, coupled with the imperfections of my father toward his family resulted in the destruction of that family.
    My father, in his rage, blamed me for everything and even told my mother via phone call that, if he continues to take this to heart, he will kill me. He even specified some methods he would use.
    That was since May.
    Now last night, both my girlfriend and my cousin dreamt that my father met me on the street and was using obscenities and attacking me and beating me up. How severe, I do not know…but knowing my father….IT WOULD PROBABLY BE HORRIBLE.
    I was deeply troubled by this…very much so. I prayed to God for protection but I do not know if my prayers were that effective…they felt weakish….not weak but they didn’t feel that powerful either…

    And honestly Mr. Stiles, I am scared…without Lord Jesus….my father will kill me.

    But when your email arrived…which was JUST A LITTLE WHILE AGO….It encouraged me. It gave me hope. It strengthened me. Although….I still feel nervous…I feel much better. I also feel motivated to ask you to pray for me.

    Please pray for my protection, Mr. Stiles.

    • I just prayed for you—and I urge you to reach out to your pastor or some other trusted authority. You needn’t walk through this valley alone.

      • GALAXYKID MAX

        Thank you Mr. Stiles. Thank you so very much. Thank you for praying for me. That means a lot to me. So very much. And right now….you are one of the only ones I can turn to. Either that, Jesus himself or the Heartdwellers. Again….thank you foe being in my life Mr. Stiles.

      • Stephen White

        Thank you, Wayne. You are a good man and servant!

    • Steve Cole

      I am praying for you too, GALAXYKID MAX, and you are correct, God does work through Wayne and other people as well. Please know I am sending a prayer request to my prayer group for you. God bless you.

  • K Boone

    Praying and remembering tomorrow is a new day. I know there are only so many things I can control -to keep that constantly on mind can be troubling but I know the Lord can and will take care of everything else that is beyond my control.

    • Yes, looking forward to the morning— where His mercies are new— is a great way to deal with it.

  • Donna

    Just telling the Lord, that all I want is His presence. That is everything. But oh, what that cost Him. Lord, help me to never forget the price you paid so that I could live in your presence today and forever! This thin veil of mortal life is all that is between heaven and me. Heaven is all around me – and within me, and I am already in that holy place with Jesus! Thank you, thank you, thank you Jesus! All I need………

    “The heavens are roaring the praise of your glory, for You are raised to life again!

    “…Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can take new courage, for we can hold on to His promise with confidence. This confidence is like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain of heaven into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest……”
    Hebrews 6

    • Amen, Donna. Great prayer and great perspective. God bless.

    • Steve Cole

      Wonderful inspiring prayer Donna. Thank you.

  • Carole Mcintosh

    One of the things I have concentrated on lately is Jesus Christ died on the cross and was raised again for all humanity and for me. It makes you feel so significant and loved. This is The Most High God takes away any self pity.

    • I agree with you, Carole. How significant we must be if the Lord himself would give his life for us!

  • ARM BAR

    The only one Who helps me is God Himself,through many different ways,He will never short on the methods to help us,regardless how bad the situation and condition,God will always be the one Who can help Wayne.

    • The Lord is both thorough and merciful in His dealings with us. God bless.

  • Steve Cole

    As you know I struggle with aphasia, Wayne. Yesterday, I was low, very low. Despair was overwhelming me…you know…sort of like a wall of water washing over me. I hadn’t struggled this much in years, when, while sitting at my computer, God sent me this wonderful healing email through you Wayne.

    This is the way the Lord seems to work in my life. He may not give me what I want but He always gives me what I need, and your email was exactly what I needed at that moment. The Lord blessed me with finding you sir. He works through you Wayne, and I will always be grateful.

    • You’re welcome, Steve. But of course, as you said, God sent it to you. He loves us and wants to give us what we need to keep going and not quit.

      • Steve Cole

        You are way too kind sir. Thank you for everything you do for the Lord Wayne. You are a blessed servant and a wonderful man. Thank you.

  • Moroesi Carol

    I have been through a lot and waiting for God to change my situation and lately I have being tired. But after reading the article I am encouraged again. Thanks

    • I understand, Moroesi. Waiting on God is one of the most challenging parts of our Christian life. If you’ve not read it yet, you might find some encouragement from a book I wrote on the subject: Waiting on God. God bless.

      • Moroesi Carol

        Thanks