I am Depressed, Lord
by Fr. Jack McArdle
Lord God, Father, Mother, please reach down and lift me out of this dark hole of depression. I am surrounded by darkness on every side, and I can see no way out of it. It is like a dark thunder cloud, or a heavy black fog that has come down upon me, and I cannot see the road ahead. I feel drained, empty, useless, hopeless, and helpless. I just feel like going to bed, covering my head, and I don't want to face the world again. This is something that happens to me from time to time, and it frightens me. I feel so powerless, and unable to do anything about it. It feels as if something has died within me, that the lights have gone out, and the curtains drawn. I have a profound sense of loneliness, because no one else could possibly understand how I feel. I would be much better if both legs were in plaster, because then, at least, there would be some external sign that something had happened to me. But with this depression, I feel cut off from the world, I have no interest in anything, and I feel that no one has any interest in me. My own sense of hopelessness is reflected in the faces of my friends. They don't know what to say, and, when they try to say something, it is never really helpful. I do not blame them, of course, but I feel that I'd be better off if they just left me alone. They cannot enter my world, and I cannot enter theirs. I feel so bad, because it might appear that I am wallowing in self-pity, or voluntarily locked up in my own little world.
This awful feeling just fills me with fear, and I dread what the outcome will be. Sometimes I just don't want to go on living, and I hang in there in quiet desperation. All that keeps me going is the hope that it will pass, as it has before, and to-morrow, the sun will come out again. I have a sense of some heavy leaden weight within the pit of my stomach, and I cannot motivate myself to get up and go. The feeling that nothing is happening, that I'm stuck in a state of inactivity, that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, ....all this is really scary. What makes it worse is that I'm afraid to be in touch with my feelings, and I just wish I could go to sleep until the cloud passes, when I could waken up to see the sun again. I don't believe, Lord, that it is your will that I should be in such a dark hole, and that my life should be so lifeless. That is why I cry out to you : Please, please reach down, reach out, take me by the hand, and lift me out of the dungeon. "It is not good for man/woman to be alone". Lord, I feel totally alone, totally abandoned. I often seriously query your part in all this. I'm sure you know, and I'm sure you care, but there are so many times when I see no evidence of that. Maybe the very fact that I'm crying out to you now is, in itself, a positive sign, a sign of hope. If I'm honest, I must confess that I turn to you, because I don't know where else to turn. I don't want a life that is dependent on medication to survive. I know the treatment serves a purpose, but it can never remove the anxiety in the depth of my being that yet another dark cloud is looming, and that I'm back in the hole again. This constant fear is crippling, and I don't want to have to live with it. I have no claim on your power beyond your love, and my own desperation.
Please, please, let me know your love. Let its warmth melt the fog, penetrate the darkness, and dispel the gloom. I feel I have nothing to offer but my cry and my despair. I cannot pretend to have great hope, or any great depth of faith, because when I feel like this I am conscious of nothing but the darkness. Somehow, in the midst of it all, however, I continue to hope against hope, because you are the only one who can get to where I am now. Even my best friends can have no idea what is going on inside me, and I feel powerless to let them enter there. I wouldn't know where to start, and I don't believe it would make much sense, even if I shared with them. There are times when I suspect that I'm going crazy, and, I fear that any attempt to share with them how exactly I'm feeling, would only succeed in confirming that fact to them.
Jesus, Lord, I have often heard it said that you came as a light to the nations, as a light to those who sat in darkness, and in the shadow of death. Please, please come into the dark cave of my soul, of my spirit, and bring your light to dispel the darkness. Please free me from my bondage, from my prison. Visit me in my solitary cell, and enkindle within me the spark of hope and of faith. Surely where you are there can be no darkness. I often think of you crying out on Calvary, as if the Father himself had abandoned you. You know what it's like to feel utterly alone. In Gethsemane, when the apostles kept falling asleep, you experienced the darkness of that hour. Somehow, I believe that you understand, and I feel I can open my heart to you, and let you see me exactly as I am. I don't really know how I am, to be honest with you, because I seem to have lost my inner sensitivity, and even my feelings are unclear, and hard to describe or distinguish. In the darkness, I'm not too clear where the door of my heart and soul are, but I trust you to find that. One of my reactions to this awful experience of depression, and inner darkness, is that I get to a stage where I just don't care any more, one way or another. In my present cry, there is no order or priority, because I just don't know where, or how, you could start to set me free. With my finger nails, I cling to the hope that, in the midst of it all, you can see what I cannot see, you can go where I cannot go, and you certainly can do what I myself could never do.
Lord, I think of all those times in the Gospels when you entered the darkness of other people's lives ; when you healed the blind, raised the dead, and gave hope to those in desperation. I remember you walking into the life of the widow of Naim, who had lost everything, and you restored her son, and her joy. You reached out your hand to Peter as he sank in the waters, and your raised your hand to quell the raging storm. Lord, I beleive, help my unbelief. Lord, increase my faith. Lord, to whom else can I go? I beleive that you are the Christ who has come into the world. Even as I speak to you, I can experience a spark of hope being lit within my heart. It was for people like me that you came. You came to find the lost ones, and to bring them safely home. You came to give freedom to captives, and light to those in darkness. Without wishing to be dramatic, Lord, with all my heart I now believe that I qualify as one of those you came to redeem, to set free. My faith cannot stretch far enough to accept that there might be some good purpose in my depression, but if it means that I have a deep personal encounter with you in that darkness, then it surely will have led to a good. There were many people in the Gospels who made contact with you in the most unusual and unlikely ways, whether it was up in a sycamore tree, or being lowered through a roof on a stretcher. Nicodemus came to meet you in the dark of night, and you walked with distraught and defeated disciples all the way to Emmaus. Lord, if this is your way of entering my life, then I can accept it. I can accept it, because I believe that if you make your home in my heart, that the darkness will be dispelled, and that the lights will come on again.
Spirit of God, you came to enlighten us, and to guide our feet into the ways of peace. You came to be our Comforter, to complete the work of Jesus, and to bring us the fullness of grace. Grace is gift, total gift, and that is why I dare ask you for the grace of enlightenment, of hope, and of faith. Please flood my soul with light and with life. Roll away the stone from my heart, and let the doors of that room be thrown open once again. Lead me out into the light. Jesus said that you would never leave us, so, with all my heart, I ask you, please never to leave me, and may your presence, and the light of your presence, be the one constant experience in my life. When I am trapped in the midst of a depression, it appears as if you have left me, deserted me, and I return to clay again. As the Hebrews made their way through the desert, for forty years, towards the Promised Land, you accompanied them all the way. In the heat of midday, you were a cloud to protect them from the desert heat, and in the cold of the night, you were a fire to keep them warm. You hovered over the waters, at the time of creation, and brought order out of chaos. I keep reminding myself of this, as I turn to you. I open my hands and my heart, just as I open my lungs with a deep breath, and I invite you to fill the sails of my boat, so I can move on, and not remain stuck in the one spot. Please give me lift-off out of the quicksand of terror, when I experience myself sinking, without hope. Spirit, Breath, and Power of God, please breathe power and life into me now, so that I may live again. Like the dry bones in the vision of the prophet, please bring the bones together, put flesh on them, and breathe life into them, so that I can live and walk in your power. Thank you.
My dear dear child, my friend, thank you for turning to me, and for pouring out your heart to me. I am always on 'stand-by', waiting for any of my children to call to me. I didn't create you to be miserable, to be lost, to be a failure. I gave you life, and I want you to live that life to the full. My grace builds on human nature, but it does not, or never will replace it. Therefore, at the end of the day, you are still a human being, who is heir to all the frailities that go with being human. Human nature is very very complex. It is full of emotions, drives, instincts, inclinations, moods, etc., etc. You are created in such a way that, left to your own devices, you can do anything you choose, you can go down any road you select. I know what is best for you, but I cannot deprive you of your choices, of your free-will. There is something that is inbuilt into your nature, which you call conscience. In simple language, that is a way of knowing things.(You notice the word 'science' as part of the word?). In other words, because of your conscience, you, too, know instinctively what is best for you. It is like some little inner voice that approves or disapproves whenever you do something. Original sin was the result of believing or accepting a lie. All the damage to human nature flowed from that. It follows, then, that the only antidote to that is truth and honesty.
Thank you for being honest about how you feel. The road to truth is the road to health. Depression is often brought about by an inability to share what's happening within. We 'bottle' things up, as it were ; we bury our emotions, we don't cry, and we insist that we're not really angry. Eventually the system becomes clogged up with unclaimed and unnamed emotions, and, like the engine of a car with no oil, our insides completely seize up, and we grind to a halt. It may seem simplistic to speak of the lack of a lubricant in the soul, but that really is part of the problem. The soul can become cluttered with repressed emotions, and unexpressed desires, hurts, angers, etc. You become as sick as your secrets. Satan loves the darkness, the secrecy, the festering unexpressed grievance. It is exposed and overcome when you open your heart totally to me, and acknowledge things just as they are. I am not at all in the business of apportioning blame here. It matters little how you got into your present predicament. It matters greatly, however, that you know how to get out of it. Thank you for turning to me at this time.
I am not interested in simply lifting a cloud of depression. I need and want to get underneath the sickness, to eliminate the causes; otherwise, in no time at all, you are back in the cloud again. My Spirit is like a fountain of living water, deep down at the core of your being. You may feel as dry as a desert, but, don't forget, that beneath every desert, there is plenty of water. I want that water to rise to the surface, so that you become an oasis, which gives abundant life to yourself, and to those around you. What is preventing that happening is the amount of wreckage and garbage that has gathered within your spirit. You have to be willing to get rid of all of that, if you want to be free. Like an engine with dirty oil, or a computer with a virus, you have to clear out all of those things that fill you up, and weigh you down. You have to get down to some serious stock-taking, that will enable you to name, claim, and tame your demons. You can do this through counselling, therapy, doing a full moral inventory of yourself, and sharing that with someone you can trust, or, if your religious upbringing has been within the Roman Catholic Church, then you could do nothing better than make a general Confession, where you could unload all that weighs you down, and cast it into the sea of my mercy, forgiveness and love.
Jesus told you that I would surely give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. Implied in everything you have said is a clear request to be filled with my Spirit. It means entering into a whole new way of living and of being. If you live by the standards of the world, you find your power and your strength in material things, in wealth, politics, social status, etc. If you want to live in my Kingdom, then you have to accept that I will supply the power. That Power is the Spirit. That Spirit has to become for your inner being what your breath is to your body. When you are in a state of depression, you experience a sense of deadness deep within your spirit. The fire has gone out, the light is switched off. It is into that very place that I want to breathe my Spirit, to enkindle within you the fire of divine love. It is right there, at the very core of your being, that you are your most real, your most authentic self It is there, also, that all of your human weaknesses are to be found. That is why you must think of my Spirit as a burning fire, entering the very core of your being, ready to burn the rubbish, and to melt the ice. It is there that the Spirit wishes to flood you with light from within.
Living in my Kingdom is really very simple. It means that Jesus is Lord, and that the Holy Spirit is the power. If my Son Jesus is Lord, then you will allow him take charge of everything, and if my Spirit is to provide the power, then you will do nothing, literally nothing without involving and including my Spirit. "Whether you eat, or drink, or whatever else you do...." is how the Bible speaks of this. At the beginning of each day you go on your knees, hand the day over, and ask for help. At the end of each day you go on your knees and give thanks. You have to learn to live and to walk in the power of my Spirit. This may not be easy for you, because, after years of worry, self-centredness, self-preoccupation, and trying to run the show yourself, you will have developed a pattern of behaviour that may not easily be broken. Old habits die hard. That is why I want you to live in the power of my Spirit. Don't go out the door, make a decision, make a phone call, undertake a task, without first getting in touch with the Spirit that is dwelling within your heart. That Spirit will never leave you, but if you continue to do things your way, then in effect, you are on your own. And you cannot make it on your own. Of that you can be certain.
I said earlier that you have to develop a whole new way of being and of living. This is going to involve prayer. By this I don't mean saying prayers. It means being in touch with your heart, where the Divinity dwells. It means going aside for short periods, where you can be still, let the muddy water within your heart settle down, and be conscious of the Presence within. Words are not necessary for this. This is reflection, which is sometimes called meditation, or contemplation. It is taking time out to go downstairs, to be in touch with where the Power lies. You carry that Power around within you, and you are never one moment without that Power being there with you. On a human level, you may be a naturally depressive person, who is pessimistic and worried about everything, always expecting the worst to happen. In your case, no long-term resolutions will work, because you will naturally tend to drift back into your old ways. With you, this present moment is the most precious moment of your whole life. What I mean by that is that you can live in peace for only one moment at a time. At each and every step of the way, you have to practise becoming a person of NOW, where, just for now, you will do exactly as I have told you. I want you to reflect on developing the attitude that continually reminds you that : whatever I am doing, wherever I am going, whoever I'm with, I am walking in the Power of my God within. Nothing, but nothing can harm me, or come between me and that Presence. It is almost as if there was someone else walking in front of you, every moment of every day, making smooth the path ahead, and holding up a placard, with the words: Nothing will happen, nothing will go wrong, nothing will change unless you decide, unless you want it to. In a way, in a very real way, indeed, I am asking you to go back to school! You have to return to the very basics of living. Surely, living in the NOW is only common-sense, isn't it? You cannot change yesterday, and you have no control over to-morrow, o why not live today, enjoy it, and make the most of it?
I have given you life, and I offer you everything it takes to live that life to the full. Notice I use the word offer, because you must be free to accept or reject. You don't have to accept any of my gifts. I never want you to be depressed, lonely, afraid, or lost. That has never been my will or intention for you. I want you to experience my Presence at all times. One problem you might have with this is that you may be trying to understand it. That is not possible for you, with mere human intellect. All I ask is that you experience my presence firstly, and, perhaps you might come to understand something about it at a later date. My Spirit rises up from within you. In other words, it doesn't begin in your head! It begins in your heart, at the core of your being, like living water beneath the driest desert, and it rises up within you, to dispel the dryness, to refresh the spirit. Pride is a major obstacle to my work in the human heart. It is the on-going presence of Original Sin, that was a sin of pride in the first place. 'Human' comes from the word 'humus', which means clay. 'Humility' comes from the word 'humilitas', which means of the earth. You are totally subject to the law of gravity, and, by yourself, and on your own, you can only go down. That is a simple basic fact of life. Humility does not consist in believing that you are no good, or not as good as others. Humility is truth, and that means accepting the basic truths about yourself, and your human condition. It may seem a paradox, but you are at your greatest strength when you are prepared to admit your weaknesses. It is then, and only then, that my Power can be seen at its best, that the Spirit can take over, and become your strength.
You turned to me because you were depressed. Thank you for that. In my response I do not promise some sort of stop-gap solution that will get you by for a week or two. I want to fill you with such life and such love that your heart will be filled with gratitude, and, with time, you will come to know that it is not possible to be grateful and unhppy at the same time. Mary sang her Magnificat. She magnified the Lord. The bigger your God, the smaller your problems. The only limits to what I can do in your life are the ones you yourself set. O.K.? Let's begin again.....you are not alone.....I am walking with you. There is a Power within you that is greater than all the other powers you can meet on the road of life. With me, you will win..... All I ask is that you accept and believe that....
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It's Me Again, Lord... copyright © 2004 Fr. Jack McArdle. All rights reserved.