Despondency and the Incarnation of God  

Patronus

 

 God is in the flesh, not operating from a distance, as did the prophets, but through Him human nature, one with ours, He seeks to bring back all mankind to Himself. –St. Basil the Great

With so many tragic events going on in the world right now it is easy to lose hope and to wonder, ‘When will God arise, when will he help?’ When we see our communities and families struggling and full of turmoil we can feel alone and helpless. With it looking like evil is winning on so many battlefronts, despondency can overtake our souls and rob us of the peace we have been promised by Christ.

I am slowly understanding just how deep despondency can sink into one’s soul: Into the tiny crevices, into the places I didn’t even consider or knew existed, into the places I thought were filled with light and good.

Despondency is an affliction I’ve only realized I suffer from in the last few years. I was receiving spiritual direction and my priest explained it was despondency that I was describing to him. It came as a surprise to me and was one of those moments when I realized just how little I know my own heart.

I had been struggling with overwhelming negative thoughts. That’s an understatement: Soul-crushing, life sucking, Dementor-like, debilitating thoughts is a better way to describe the thoughts that were permeating through my entire being and days. I felt hopeless and couldn’t see an end and couldn’t cast a proper Patronus charm no matter how hard I tried–my prayers felt pointless.

Once I explained my state of mind to my priest he explained to me exactly what I needed to hear. In his usual caring and gentle manner, he told me what could be summed up to this: The world doesn’t revolve around me. He advised me of how to overcome the daily drowning in negative thoughts and sorrowful feelings and gave simple but helpful tips on distracting my mind with small joys (like listening to my favorite music for ten minutes or acknowledging and being grateful for my blessings) to prevent myself from the downward spiral of doom.

I was rather dumbfounded by this new knowledge and simplicity of helpful advice. My realization of the problem along with putting my priest’s good advice into action made a huge difference, and for quite a long time, too. But, as I have discovered in life, once I uncover a sin, any small victories over it are inevitably followed by a new battle with the same sin in a new corner of my soul, which of course can lead one to become even more despondent!

The fight against sin can feel like a vicious cycle. We all have those times when we think, ‘Why am I going to bother with confession? I will just commit the same sins over again, I know I will.’ Or we wake up only to feel that we have already lost the day at the beginning of it so why bother. Despondency can cripple us and rob us of joy.

So how can I overcome despondency? I keep going back to the words my priest gave me–the world doesn’t revolve around me. My first thought after hearing him was, ‘I know that’ but I take the words given in counsel seriously and not lightly so I have thought on them a lot. See, I may very well know in my mind that the world doesn’t revolve around me, but my actions show what my heart believes.

I started writing this because of the despondency I am struggling with in regards to writing. I write because I believe it is a work God has called me to do. Lately, every time I sit down to write I am overwhelmed with thoughts that prevent me from writing. Thoughts that tell me I am no one to write on spiritual matters and I am way too sinful of a person to write about God. I feel like a hypocrite when I start writing. And still, I keep feeling the need to come back to it, because I told God I would.

It hit me that this is more of the despondency I suffer from coming back to haunt me. Or rather, just manifesting its ugly head in another area of my life. I realize just like it is really pride that tells me to not go to confession because I will only commit the same sins again, it is also pride that tells me I shouldn’t write because I am a sinner. Of course, I am a sinner. That doesn’t mean that God cannot work through me any more than it means God cannot forgive my sins or one day when He is ready, give me the grace to not continue committing the same sins. Despondency is a sin of pride because the lack of hope and the debilitating reaction comes from thinking everything really depends on me and not God. I foolishly take myself far too seriously and do not have the faith of a child.

This latest struggle is making me see other areas of my life where despondency is leaving me dry, sorrowful, and like a lost ship at sea. I have been surprised again to discover the battle is waging in most areas of my life right now: every time I feel like things will never change, like certain relationships will never be head and good, when the daily struggles of being a mother and wife weigh me down, when I feel like I shouldn’t bother fighting to make things good or right because darkness always seems to prevail, at those times I am giving in to pride–thinking results depend on me, when they really depend on God.

The fact of the matter is, God has already saved the world. He has already won. I realize I have been just like the people who rejected Jesus as the Messiah when I give in to hopelessness and think Jesus Christ cannot conquer in any given situation, relationship, or area of my soul. When He is not the savior I want right now. I think if we are honest with ourselves, most of us want Superman but what we are given is a baby born in a cave, a poor man on a cross.

The Incarnation–God becoming man, is a mystery we can contemplate our entire lives and never reach the depths of its wonder. The Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ mean that God has defeated the evil one and though death may seem to prevail at times it will not have the last word and we should never allow it to have the last word in any area of our own lives, no matter how small.

Jesus Christ who was born in a cave longs to be born anew in our humble hearts. He who died a painful death on a cross wants to rise in our daily lives—he wants to overcome our passions and bring new life to our souls and the souls of our loved ones.

The thing that definitely depends on me is the giving up of my will every single day, numerous times even, throughout the day to God, and accepting His will. Often, struggles in life come from not wanting to accept the way things are in life and wanting my will to be done and not His. Even faith is a gift; I can want to have faith and leave it to God to give it and increase it when He wants.

Saint Basil has reminded us that God is not distant, He is one with our nature and seeks to reconcile us to Himself. He is not like Superman, who is not of this world and not able to truly relate to our human struggles. Jesus does not save us by force and strength, but by humility and death; He defeats death by death. He has become one of us and as St. Athanasius said, “God became man so that man can become God.” If ever there is a reason to not lose hope, to not be despondent, it is the knowledge of that truth. A truth I am praying will sink into all the dark places of my heart so the light of Christ can be born there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. You are indeed called to write and lead others to God through your words- your many readers testify to this!

  2. This really does speak to me at this time in my walk. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: