the seasons of the human soul have something to teach
us of God. We more readily see the fruits of our spring,
and summer experiences than those of autumn, and winter.
Depression can be regarded as a ‘winter experience’ although
for some it may last for many years.
Depression and melancholia are common to us all with lesser
or greater degrees of intensity, and certainly they are
a common experience for those on the Christian journey to
I would like to define “depression” here as
feelings or emotions of heaviness, oppression, inertia,
sadness — the sense of being removed from the reality of
existence, coupled with a lack of motivation for life and
an overwhelming sense of everything being without meaning.
Depression is bound to ‘passage’ both of time and relationships.
Depression is invariably linked to loss, and loss brings
There are, of course, certain clinical conditions of which
depression is a symptom, but even in these cases we must
see that, because God has allowed it for that particular
person within a particular set of circumstances, He
permits it for their greater good even while they
are unable to discern it — for God alone sees all
Depression linked to loss may
be the loss of a loved one, status, a home, a place, a country;
loss of possessions, esteem etc. Very often it is linked
to loss as the ‘passage of time’, the loss of our youth,
old, diminished abilities, and all that these experiences entail.
We like do not like to lose people or things; when we find
ourselves in a congenial situation, we like it to stay as
it is! We like things to remain as they are..... for life
to be, as it were, a sustaining happiness free of suffering.
That desire is a blessed glimpse of a far greater
happiness that awaits those who, in Heaven, will
experience the Beatific Vision — forever! It is not
attainable on earth, but what is most encouraging is the
fact that it is attainable at all ... just
not yet! Not here. Not now.
Most of us have already learned that there is no
life and no love without suffering.
When God created man it was God’s intention and will that
we should abide and remain, in love — in that state of
permanence with Him and with each other that was
forfeited though Original Sin, lost
through the fall of Adam and Eve.
The Seed in
this longing, this wishing things to remain as they are,
is deep down in our being a seed, a seed of eternity, that
we somehow instinctively feel and desire as permanence in
love and being. It is a prefigurement of what we shall be
and attain in the presence of God in Heaven.
It is the soul reaching upward to God, who alone is
it is truly a seed of eternity.
Depression can also be a great teacher, for as we had
said, God has allowed
it, hard as it is, for our greater good.
These experiences can be a pathway to true wisdom, a growing
awareness of reality and truth. An awareness of the transitory
nature of this earthly life; it is a time for reflection
... a time to allow God to draw our souls to Him. Everything
in the divine plan has a purpose. We may well think it is
life wasted, or life only half-lived, but through it all
God has something to say to our souls that perhaps He can
only communicate, and that we will only receive, through
suffering — in this case, the suffering of depression.
The beauty and harmony of creation is probably the initial
way in which God will allure us and attract us to himself.
When we are young, or were young, our hearts were expanded,
and inspired by all that surrounded us, the majesty of the
sea, a brilliant sunset, the rolling hills, a blade of grass,
a flower ... many of us would associate our growing years
with such memories of beauty, — and God lured us through it
all to question many things, especially the purpose and authorship
of it all. Much of what we have learned of what is true, beautiful,
and good, we have learned by observing the created world,
and that indeed was God’s purpose in all creation.
There was a lesson to learn. and as with so many many things
within this earthly pilgrimage, once we have learned, God
calls us onwards.
When we grow older we can look back with a degree of nostalgia
and tears, to what has passed, to what was ... and wonder
“why”. Nothing can bring back the splendour in the grass
and the glory of the flower...
was all part of the journey: we have to let go
and pass on to where God would have us be and what He would
have us do.
Every single memory, every experience is a preparation
It is the same with human relationships. So often in life
we are involved with others for a time, they come into our
lives and they leave our lives. We have learned and have
been grateful for the experience; it all had a value and
a place and always taught us something of the Lord.
one or the other will die, children grow up, leave home,
and lead their own lives. But all is for the purpose of
our bringing each other to God. This life truly is a pilgrimage
and we need to struggle to look forward to what
we shall become in God, to trust in His promises
— for so, so much awaits us!
Loss is a poverty, it is a preparing for Heaven: we must
lay everything we have down before we can pass this life
to the next; for all that we can take with us is love ...
Some of our greatest thinkers, writers, artists suffered
from depression, and in so many cases it was a companion
that brought great fruit to their spiritual and creative
Depression and loss, yes — but let us focus on
gain, for by all these experiences
we learn, we grow, and as we pass along life’s journey and
the external world loses its enchantment and attraction,
we become aware that God is calling us inward, to that
imago Dei (image of God) deeply within —
in which He created us — to be with Him in eternal
happiness, that knows nothing of loss ... only of glory
“As the deer longs for running streams,
so longs my soul
for Thee, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while men say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’
These things will I remember
as I pour out my soul;
how I went with the throng
and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts of thanksgiving,
and multitude keeping festival.
Why are you so downcast my soul,
and why are you so disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,
my help and my God.
My soul is cast down within me
therefore I remember Thee
from the land of Jordan to Mount Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the thunder of Thy cataracts
all Thy waves and billows
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love;
and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my rock;
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my body,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’
Why are you cast down my soul, O my soul
and why disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,
my help, my God.”
Psalm 42.1 epitomizes much of what we have discussed.
The visual imagery of this psalm evokes an immediate response,
the deer bounding across the scrubland, lured by the scent
of water, knowing that its thirst will be quenched at the
pool of water, as we long for God. The psalmist has an aching
heart, full of longing, he is a priest in exile. He longs
for the invisible God to become a reality, to see His face.
The psalmist is a man of prayer, reflection,
nostalgia, a man of tears and subject to depression. A man
conscious of the transitory nature of life, lured into memories
of things that have passed. But his depression makes him
reflect on deeper things.
The cause of his depression is seeming loss: he is in exile
from his native land, he experiences himself distant from
God, he finds its difficult to raise his heart to God in
prayer. But within it all he makes an act of hope and communes
with his own soul.
If God has allowed you to know the suffering of depression,
know that it will bring you to His face. Speak to Him, share
everything with your God ... one day you will see clearly
that it was all for His purpose and from the very heart
of His unutterable love.
A Poor Clare
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