For me, sorrow is a low level hum at the back of all I do. Sometimes it has turned into depression where I feel like doing nothing, hiding, playing endless games of Candy Crush in a dark room. One cannot merely “cheer up” and the advice most people give, Christian or non-Christian, is so unhelpful that it makes me dread the person who comes up to me saying: “I have an idea of what will help.” I have been told that sorrow is caused by aspartame, the Bomb, devils, and Christianity. I have given up aspartame, no relief. I don’t know how to give up the Bomb. When I gave up Christianity, I was sad and a wretch, so that did not work. I have found a “solution” (don’t over expect!) and every once in a great while someone asks me what it is. The Saint Constantine School is a sister program to Wheatstone Ministries and one of our students asked me a question that caused me to (once again) share what I can about depression. Call this a FAQ post: Dear Miss Sayers*, I love hearing from you and hope I can point you in some good directions. Remember nobody in Christianity not named Jesus is the Christ! Our answers, unlike His, are imperfect. Let me encourage you to question, wonder, and even doubt. This is a good thing and no question should be asked in secret. You are fearfully bright, but like many bright people, you suffer from depression. You said:
How do you deal with depression spiritually? Like I can barely handle it physically but it’s driven me so far from trusting God because it feels like I’ve been going through all of this alone for the past at least 3 years if not more and everyone keeps saying oh God will be there but no He hasn’t been there I haven’t felt him or heard him or seen him like almost everyone else in my church constantly talks about, and it’s so discouraging. I don’t want to not be a Christian but I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle with my faith because everything I’ve been told my whole life just isn’t matching up to the pain I’ve been dealing with for a long time now and it’s driving me crazy. Also how do you deal with it without being totally overwhelmed? How do you hear God’s voice and find rest and peace in Him like everyone talks about? I don’t think I’ve ever felt that and I desperately need it.
One cannot deal with a physical problem “spiritually.” You cannot cure cancer by cheering up. Some of our depression is caused by physical problems. Start by going to your medical doctor and asking him to give you a check up. Many times depression can point to a physical cause. Check that out carefully. Ignore stupid ideas that solving a physical problem physically proves anything about the spiritual realm. You can have a physical problem in this broken world without having sinned. Make sure that this is not the issue.
Sometimes depression is the result of evils done to us. Some people are sad because they have been emotionally or physically abused. This is a psychological problem and requires an emotional “cure.” Go see a good therapist. Talk it out. Work on the hurts that overwhelmed you. Talk. Don’t expect instant miracles here: bad people sowed bad seed and the order of the universe means that bad fruit will result. You can survive it. Talk to someone.
I have also had sorrow caused by demonic oppression and have received relief through prayer. Find a wise, older pastor who will pray with you against external spiritual powers that might overwhelm you. Let me be blunt: when I have engaged in patterns of sinful behavior (depression is not a sin!), then my depression gets worse. Make sure that you are moving toward the Good.
You cannot hate your brother or sister and be mentally healthy. Find a good pastoral councilor and get some freedom from spiritual bondage and be candid about your moral struggles. They don’t help. Remember that they are not the only possible cause of your depression, but they might be a cause.
Great saints like Mother Theresa have experienced the “dark night of the soul” where God doesn’t “feel” like He is there. This is hard and has many causes, but sometimes the cause is simply the badness of the world. We are surrounded by beauty all the time, but this beauty is hard for us to see or feel. Reality is not, of course, determined by what we feel, but when what is real doesn’t feel real it is very hard.
You are smart and beautiful, but I bet you do not always feel that way. Reality does not change, but we are still sad because we cannot experience reality.
Sadly, so many of churches do not teach us about people that go years without “feelings.” We are taught in this culture to live by feelings and this is very dangerous. I don’t feel like doing many things I should do, but I do them. I do not feel like getting up in the morning due to sorrow, but I do. I have been badly hurt by people I loved, I try to forgive, but sorrow still overwhelms me.
We cannot live by feeling . . . and we also have to realize that our feelings are complex. You are writing to me and wanting God and that is God in you answering to God in the cosmos. You are feeling Him, just not in the way you desire. He is there, not silent, and He is in the longing you have for Him. People in the Church are afraid of reality, they have not read the Psalms, I guess, and so want easy answers. There is peace and joy, but mostly in the life to come.
This side of Paradise, no thinking person is ever perfectly happy . . . at least for a long period of time. Accept this. We don’t preach a Gospel of mindless happiness, but the religion of a painful Cross where real change is made at the deepest level. Trust me, over the years I have seen that it is good. I have gotten better. Peace? I have known it, but nobody seeing this world can cry “Peace!” because there is no peace.
You are a better person because you will not take easy answers.