Depression and its Cure

Depression in Context

It is not surprising to find Christians struggling with depression in a society where traditional devotional practices and personal disciplines are not in fashion. Cassian wrote that there are eight faults against which Christians must fight to become holy and, consequently, happy. They are:

  1. Gluttony
  2. Lust
  3. Covetousness
  4. Anger
  5. Dejection (i.e., Depression)
  6. Sloth
  7. Vain glory
  8. Pride

What is Depression?

In the battle of the spiritual life, depression is the fifth fault against which we must fight. When depression seizes us, it prevents us from thinking rightly about God, and ruins our minds. It does not allow us to say our prayers with gladness, nor to rely on the comfort of reading the Scriptures, nor allow us to be quiet and gentle with others. It makes us impatient and rough in all our duties. And, since all good counsel is lost, and steadfastness of heart destroyed, it makes our feelings almost drunk, and crushes and overwhelms us with a sense of despair.

The Cause of Depression

Remembering that depression is found in the midst of the faults against which we must battle as Christians, it is often caused by our having failed to fight against those before it. For example, if we are overwhelmed with anger over some issue in our lives, we will not be able to resist depression. If we have allowed our hopes to be set on gaining something that is not in our control and fail, we will be unable to resist depression. Sometimes, we may be tempted by the devil with depressing thoughts that we are not prepared to resist — which is why he tempts us in that way. The gate is open.

The Remedy for Depression

1. Accept Responsibility

The first step in defeating depression is recognizing that the cause of our depression is in ourselves and not in those around us. The tendence for people overcome by depression to withdraw into isolation is a symptom of the deeper spiritual problem, that they are blaming others for faults of their own. We must be patient in this battle and realize that it is impossible to hide the seeds of depression in us from the water of ordinary trials of this life. The solution is removing the seeds we have stored up in our souls, not avoiding the rains.

2. Confess, Repent, Amend

The second step in defeating depression is to turn the sorrow produced by our faults into acts of penance. In this, depression is useful to us and can push us to confess our sins, do penance and amend our lives. These words from the Act of Contrition show us that praying the Act of Contrition, along with the other Acts of Hope, Faith and Charity are spiritual medicines for this disease. Any sorrowful thoughts or feelings that lead us not to penance, but to other sins must be resisted. It is clear that the sacrament of Confession or Reconciliation is God’s remedy for this and all other faults — if we understand and make use of it rightly.

3. Stop Neglecting Meditation and Prayer

Third, must meditate to keep our mind constantly filled with hope of the future happiness which God has promised us. If you are struggling with depression, it was your neglect of this duty that got you into trouble in the first place — and you’ve learned it cannot be neglected. We must read the Scriptures daily and allow the spiritual comfort they offer us to fill our souls constantly. We must recite the prayers the Church has given us, which both promise us future happiness and procure it for us — and do so rightly. For example, the Rosary, if recited mindlessly to check a box each night, is no Rosary at all, but can produce the opposite effect in us, leaving us with a sense of guilt. If we are to pray the Rosary, it is to be prayed with meditation on the mysteries, and attention to the prayers which fill our hearts and minds with hope and joy and obtain for us the promises of the Rosary. Likewise, if we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, it is not to quickly and mindlessly rattle of the words to check the box, but to enjoy the comfort offered by the readings and prayers of the divine office.

Conclusion

When we consider the cause of depression in human souls, we see why turning to human doctors and medicine is dangerous. If a soul refuses to turn to God, to stop blaming outside influences, to do penance and to fill the soul with hope and joy that comes through holy meditation, sacred reading and prayer, the act of turning to a human remedy or material solution may, in fact, lead the soul into greater guilt and sorrow, even final despair. Do we not see this in the experience of many?

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William C. Michael

William C. Michael

Mr. William C. Michael is the founding headmaster of the <a href=”https://classicalliberalarts.com">Classical Liberal Arts Academy</a>. He graduated from Rutge