Trust in Him

Friday, January 29, 2010

Depression--Lack of Zeal

Depression: called the common cold of all mental illnesses. Many, if not all, people suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Not only is it very common, but it is also very dangerous, particularly for young people. Why? Because depression is the loss of motive... it is a desparing, purposeless feeling which, for some, often indicates to them that life is not worth living. It is my belief that if one is not heroically virtuous and long-suffering, he is unable to cope with depression without some resource. Some strength must help us to persevere even with no motive for doing so.

For some, including myself at certain times, the resource is work. Sometimes untiring determination overrides depression. At low points in my life I have set very high goals for myself and then set out to reach them. These goals have included driving, working, and studying religiously for A's in college courses. Sometimes responsibilities put off depression until it is no longer an issue. At times in my life my responsibilities have been so great that to stop for a moment out of self-pity would turn others' lives, and my own, upside down.

However, my idea of the ideal resource for combating depression is faith. We are human and go through phases. Some of these phases are zeal and great love... at other times, however, we forget what we are fighting for or where we want to go. It is these points in time that we must work for Faith. If you have ever been in a large crowd, like that at the March for Life in DC, you know how important it is to keep some landmark or sign in sight in order to stay with the group and not be carried away by the numberless crowd. You can't see the people you are trying to stay with, at times, but you rely on this landmark or sign to lead you to them. So also is faith important to keep one from getting carried away by the waves of depression.

In the Old Testement this concept appears to be clearly understood. Moses' last words to his followers included "The Lord will go before you and deliver you into the land of your inheritance"... or something like that anyway... but is this not the same faith I am speaking of? The Israelite's knew of the Lord's Promise and through all their trials and blindness allowed Him to be their sight. This is how we must act in the face of depression, when our own minds and hearts fail us.

Another interesting concept I noticed in the readings this morning was that the Old Testement clearly understood the phases of men. We have phases of zeal and hard work as well as those of exhaustion and desolation. It is for this reason, this understanding of our "phases", that the Lord ordains the seventh day as our day of rest. The Chosen People also had many customs for days of feasting and days of rest, as does the Liturgical Church of today. Why do I mention this in a discussion about depression? It is because it is important to remember that we go through phases such as this, but that we must have faith in the Lord in spite of it because He does not go through phases. We must believe that He will lead us to our inheritance, even when we cannot believe in our ability to find it. He requires obedience from us to follow His lead in spite of our difficulties precisely so we can rise out of them.

I speak of faith and understanding... but when one is depressed, a far greater issue arises. This is purposeless and lack of motive. One who is depressed might say "I don't care if I have faith or not... I don't see any reason to put any effort into maintaining this faith if it might bring me to nothing." Truly, it is faith that brings one out of such thoughts, for one must believe before he can expect to be redeemed through his belief, obviously. While looking from the perspective of God and others, one can see the necessity for faith. From the perspective of a person who cannot trust himself do to the disease of depression... faith is merely that landmark he knows will bring him out of the waves of troubles. He must have some movement, some strength, even when he has no motive; because at the moment we stop moving we die.

I will speak more on the Office at a later time... but here I must mention daily prayer also. Why do Catholics have such structured prayers? It is because of these phases. Man needs some sense of structure, something to follow when he does not know his way. We need to know what to pray for when we are not even thinking straightly enough to know what we ourselves need. The Office is a perpetual prayer, as is the Mass... no matter how many years will pass, the Church must maintain this liturgical year for the safety and security of her flock. By praying in such a structured way, we are walking even when our legs are tied with fear and doubt. We are steadily walking, steadily working, and most importantly steadily making progress with the Lord through these prayers. We do not stop our efforts, even when all motive and hope is covered by a veil of depression.

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