Despair in a Gospel Song

Driving along I heard the best song the Eagles ever created: Desperado. For some reason, though, the lyrics hit me differently this time. The despair of the title character (who’s called Desperado for a reason) reminded me of the gospel.

The lostness of sin

In the opening verse, the singer warns:

These things that are pleasin’ you
Can hurt you somehow …

Everyone who’s ever sinned – so that would be everyone – knows that it can come back to bite you. Whether you ascribe to the philosophy “what goes around comes around” or a pop definition of karma, bad things have a way of coming back at you. Not always, but often enough for the phrase “coming home to roost” to have taken on significance for a lot of people who thought they’d gotten away with something.

This is the despair the Bible speaks of for people who are so far gone in their sin that they cannot see that the things they find pleasing are really hurting them:

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. (Romans 8:28.)

If a person insists on pursuing depravity, God allows them that choice. This is cause for despair for many.

Rejecting the riches

The singer next makes an interesting observation:

Now, it seems to me some fine things
Have been laid upon your table,
But you only want the ones that you can’t get …

Your desire for the things you can’t get can get in the way of recognizing the riches God has placed before you.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4.)

God’s kindness, patience and forbearance have a goal and it is for your benefit, your richness. As Jesus said:

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10.)

Despair can come easily to those who do not recognize the richness of life in Christ.

Yearning for more

Everyone feels trapped some time, literally or figuratively, and a yearning to break free can be all consuming. The ultimate prison is the eternal one of being separated from God forever. The song hints at this in these lines:

And freedom, oh freedom, well that’s just some people talkin’
Your prison is walking through this world all alone …

But there is freedom promised by the One who wants to walk with you forever.

[Jesus] stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:16-19.)

There is a prison of your own making in trying to get through life alone, without Jesus. He has come to free you from that captivity.

prison-of-your-own-makingRainbows and Promises

The song closes with:

It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it’s too late

Rainbows are a reminder of God’s promise to preserve and not destroy. (Genesis 9.) And in Jesus you not only have this promise but also an invitation to be with him.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28.)

Can it ever be too late, as the song suggests? Why would anyone want to wait and find out? Take advantage of what God is offering now.

The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.
(2 Peter 3:9, 15.)

Repentance and salvation, both are found in the God’s patience. He wants you with him for eternity.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever. (Psalm 23:6.)

Look back on Desperado, the song and the person. This is where the singer is heading, whether he knew it or not. There is a rainbow above because there is a Person above who wants to love you before it’s too late.

Don’t despair, Desperado. Jesus loves you and wants to be with you forever.



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10 Responses to Despair in a Gospel Song

  1. I was feeling nostalgic about the Eagles not long ago, Tim: we were visiting my dad & brother and my brother had a Rolling Stone special edition dedicated to the group. I read it cover to cover and it brought back a lot of memories of listening to the entire “Desperado” album on the giant headphones we had at home! Your post is packed with great insights but one additional thing that struck me was, if only everyone who is in desperate circumstances had someone to speak into their lives and show them the way. The singer is staging an intervention, isn’t he? It’s pretty powerful.

    This also reminds me of another of my favourite Eagles lines: “So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key.”

    • Tim says:

      “if only everyone who is in desperate circumstances had someone to speak into their lives and show them the way” – That’s another gospel aspect of the song, then Jeannie, because we are called to bring the gospel to everyone around us. There are so many who need to hear it and I confess I am not always speaking it into people’s lives.

  2. Gwen Jorgensen says:

    This song has struck me the same way, often. I have some beloved desparados in my life that I’m praying and trusting Jesus for. I know they have the free will to choose, but I’m crazy praying just the same.

  3. Ann Adams says:

    I always say there’s a lot of good theology in Eagles’ songs. A lot of people tease me for saying this though! What can I do, if you grew up in California in the seventies, you listened to the Eagles!

  4. FW Rez says:

    I’ll know our minster of music reads Tim Fall if Desperado is our invitation song some time soon.

    In addition to the Eagles version, I have at least three other recordings. Johnny Cash may be my favorite cover.

    Very enjoyable post. Thanks, Tim.

  5. FW Rez says:

    BTW: I noticed that your assertion that Desperado was “best song the Eagles ever created” went unchallenged. My worst Eagles music experience was when they had us sing “Amazing Grace” to the “Peaceful, Easy Feeling” tune in a singles group (a decade or 3 ago).

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