Wrestling with Depression

Jesus said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)

The desert fathers understood that we each are tempted by or influenced by demons.  They also understood that sometimes “demons” are our own thoughts over which we lose control so that they come to dominate us.  Depression is certainly such a demon.  It can oppress us and take away from us hope and joy and love.  In the modern age, we also realize that sometimes depression is caused by chemical imbalances in our brains and bodies.   Knowing these things, we also have many weapons to fight the “demons” of depression.  For some, medical treatment, including the use of pharmaceuticals, can help in the fight against depression.  For some, counseling can help rid us of false ideas which run like a continuous tape through our minds.  The fog can be lifted as we understand  what is oppressing us is not real, but false ideas that we believe to be true.  For some, prayer along with reading scriptures and the Fathers, and receiving the sacraments, drives from us those demons which suck the life and hope from us.  For some, all methods are needed.  This is true because as humans we are spiritual and physical beings, we are psychosomatic beings.  Whatever affects us spiritually, also affects us mentally and physically.  What affects our physical being, lays hold of our minds and spirit.  What affects us mentally, touches our bodies and souls.  We are one being, and whatever affects one part of us affects our entire being.

We don’t need to see psychological problems, or treatments, as somehow being nonspiritual or unChristian.  Healing is a gift from God.  Christ used physical means to heal people.  Christ healed bodies, minds and souls.  Depression is not some kind of spiritual failure, but can be part of the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged, hopefully only occasionally, but sometimes daily.

St. Cassian wrote about the demon of depression:

It is the evil spirit that causes depression and from that we come to know the fruits of the evil spirit, which are discouragement, anger, impatience, hatred, contentiousness, despair and sluggishness in praying. So let us struggle with the demon of depression, who casts the soul into despair, and drive him away from our hearts.”

(in Holy Joy by Anthony Coniaris, pp 102-103)


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