The Spiritual Life in Depression and Anxiety

A very poignant question was sent privately to me after my last post. It asked how I was able to go about my parish work when I was battling with depression and anxiety. I have pondered the question over the past week. On one level, I felt a sense of personal astonishment that, in hindsight, it had all been possible. There were very few days through the decades where I was unable to get on with things. So, what did I do? Or, perhaps better, what did God do?

At some point in my life, I began to think of the depression and anxiety much like a broken leg or a sore throat. We never say, “I am a broken leg, or I am a sore throat.” But when we are anxious or depressed we say, “I am depressed, I am anxious.” Strangely, it makes a difference. It is certainly the case that having a broken leg can interfere with any number of activities. It could cause enough pain that medication and rest would be required. Depression and anxiety are no different.

To my mind, it’s possible to be “depressed” about being “depressed.” And this leads to a terrible paralysis. Spiritually we begin to agree with our adversary. Not only do we suffer the pain of such a feeling but we have to tolerate his taunts of “look how depressed you are! What kind of a Christian are you? Give up! Quit!” and the like. He is a liar. I often thought that it was important to act in a manner that contradicted the depression and anxiety simply to infuriate our adversary. There is some joy in ruining his day.

I am describing certain aspects of my inner life that I can only speak to for myself. I do not know if these strategies would be of help to anyone else. I have often thought of others who carry very debilitating chronic diseases and think that my own struggles are quite minor by comparison. I have developed a strong interest in the stories of those who endured the Gulag and the other prisons of our time. Nothing in my life begins to compare to even the shadow of their ordeals. This was not a practice that “cheered me up.” Rather, it was a practice that encouraged me to be patient, ask for their prayers, and, as much as possible, to ignore the inconvenience of my brain.

Parish work is blessedly composed largely of two things: pastoral care for others and prayer in the altar before God. Both are salutary and of deep benefit. I think there were many times that my prayer life was reduced to little more than “arrow prayers” through the day (“God help me!” Lord, have mercy!” “Glory to God for all things!” etc.) and the blessing of liturgical prayer in the altar. There have certainly been many times that, standing in the altar, I could not “feel” anything of which I spoke. But I prayed quietly that God would receive it as though I did.

And all of this has been within God’s mercy. He has sustained me. I prefer not to share the worst of my days and my failings – those belong to my confessor and are well-enough known to those immediately around me. I am convinced, however, of the goodness of God. Much of that conviction, for many years, was rooted in the examples I saw in the lives of other people because I could not see it in mine. I see it more clearly now, I think, partly as a function of getting older. There’s enough scenery in my rear-view mirror that I can now see the unmistakable pattern of divine goodness. One strategy against depression and anxiety is to outlive it!

The Elder Thaddeus spoke about profound changes in his own life that came with a true acceptance of Divine providence. To some small degree that has been part of my own experience. There is a strong physical component in depression and anxiety, but there is an equally strong component of self-talk and habits of thought. Extended meditation and confession of God’s good work in all things has served, especially over the past few years, to calm my soul and preserve my joy. All of the things that cause anxiety or are objects of depression simply do not matter. They are of no consequence in the last analysis.

Four years ago, I had a heart attack. As such things go, it was minor, but certainly served as a mortality check-up. St. Paul said that we should “reckon ourselves dead to sin.” I reckoned myself dead to everything and came to the conclusion that it would be fine. My life has been deeply blessed. Everyone, everywhere, every day, is living on “borrowed” time. Every moment is a gift. If we give thanks for the gift, then we can begin to know that the Giver who has sustained us this far will also give us what we cannot see – a new life in a new world in the depth of union with Him. Of course, writing the blog would be more difficult!

76 comments:

  1. Unfortunately, in my experience, many times one gets told, when suffering depression, “what a terrible Christian you are! If only you’d pray more, had more faith, etc..” I wish I could say this is only my experience in baptist/evangelical circles, but alas, it happened in the Orthodox Church as well.

    I was eventually diagnosed with autism, and in adjusting my life to that reality, depression has disappeared for the most part. (Anxiety hasn’t. It comes with the autism package. But it gets manageable). It is a shame I listened to such poor advice, I might have been diagnosed sooner without it.

    Of course, autism and spirituality is a subject matter on its own, but it is my experience that God has been the one steady presence throughout it all. Once I let go of the idea that I have to ‘feel’ that somehow, and saw more clearly, I realized that.

  2. Thank you Father. Your experiences and the example of perseverance are of great help.

  3. As ever, Father, thank you for your ministry, your sharing, your compassion, and your heart. You have become a beacon in my life.

  4. Thank you for your honesty and transparency. I have wrestled with depression for the majority of my life, the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs, the mental battles. The struggle is real!

  5. Fr., I have dealt with depression and anxiety for over 40 yrs. I took the strong pills, and had the terrible side effects, because I thought it was all I could do. Eventually, in my quest to get off the drugs, my research gave me insight into what was really wrong to cause it. I had a chemical imbalance due to stress. I did not have enough serotonin in my system, and my GABA levels were too low. Thru research and trying different amounts, I finally found the way to treat mine all with natural supplements of things our bodies make, but mine did not have enough of. 5HTP is a precoursor to serotonin, and taking it daily ups my levels to normal.
    For me, that is 300 mg daily. GABA works on the anxiety. I take 500 mg daily, and carry Pharma-GABA in a chewable form for panic attacks. Two of the 100 mg tablets chewed quickly has the same effect as a Lorazapam used to have on me. Depression has no logical rhyme or reason. It just happens, and it is very dangerous. I walked a fine line for a while – of making myself stay alive just ONE MORE DAY at a time.
    Every negative comment I had ever heard or felt , played on an internal tape loop system in my brain, trying to convince me that I would be better off dead, and the world would be better off without me. I am sure my family disagreed completely with that, but not everyone knew. It was something we kept quiet in those days. I have been free of the drugs, and the terrible depression and constant anxiety for about 17 yrs now. The supplements have done their jobs, and I suggest them to people struggling with the problems all the time. Especially the ones that don’t want to depend on pharmaceuticals or pay the price they cost. I don’t believe it has anything to do with our faith. It is a physical and psychological problem. I DO believe that we survive things so that we can have more compassion for others who are struggling, and we can share hope and help.
    What I use is natural, and our bodies make them both. My body simply does not make enough without the supplements. I have NO side effects from the supplements, and the pills used to have some very bad side effects. They work for ME. Not everyone is the same, and each should find what works best for them and stick to it. It is not something that has a cure. It is a problem in our bodies. Like having any physical problem, you have to deal with it and accept that it is something you will have to take care of for life.
    I am very grateful you brought this to the attention of your followers. It takes courage to admit you have struggled with such a difficult thing. I believe it gives us a much stronger compassion for others and what they struggle with too. God is love and compassion, and I believe it brings us closer to Him when we are caring and compassionate with others. Little Children – Love one another.

  6. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was stopped in my tracks by anxiety, convinced that something was wrong with my child. I couldn’t pray it away. And I felt like I wasn’t praying well enough. I received a gift that has helped since then, an image of me in a sphere going crazy, within a larger sphere that God held, and had under control. Your posts, Father have helped change my paradigm and I see how gentle and loving that gift really was/is.

  7. “The Elder Thaddeus spoke about profound changes in his own life that came with a true acceptance of Divine providence. To some small degree that has been part of my own experience. ”
    I can second that the believing in Divine Providence has helped me with anxiety and depression issues that I have struggled with for 47 years. The other practice that has helped the most is being thankful and the practice of the remberance of God. I can’t say this will work for everyone, but it has helped me.

  8. Real life stories many of us share and how we got thru it all. Thank you. Sometimes I think of how I got thru my nearly 69 years of life and I have to say God carried me a lot. I think without my underlying determinism even God would not have helped me. He put life and death before us and we still must will to live how ever it shows. I always think that the judgments for any condition we receive from others are not God’s, because he knows how we got there in the first place. I remember my mother having survived the bombing of WWII, the depression, the post-war era of still having nothing, sick and/ or little food and comfort, the losses in life of family members, the toll on her health and spirits in all manners must have been low, exhausting and at times unbearable. She was still young and depressed, and though we kids were new life to the family and a gift to her, some how life took it’s toll on her and she attempted suicide. She did not succeed, but I remember her condition and it saddened me that we kids, God’s promise and love was not enough for her and wanting to end her life. It turned my faith up side down. Though she recovered, I have never forgotten what it did to me. That sadness of nothing being enough for another can depress me in this world that has so much beauty, so much talent and so much love waiting, but man can not see or perceive it. My mother was Christian and often Christian look to the other side after death of having a glories life, and not seeing how ever small or minute the glory is always with us in our hearts. Sometimes when I hear “God is dead” theology, I truly believe that we are killing him softly by never acknowledging his presents all around us, in men, women and children. We don’t see each other, we don’t read between the lines, we don’t trust our God that we have professed and have received in Spirit in our physical bodies. We are so busy trying to convince others of Christ, so we can belief and forsake our own doubts instead of finding the treasures to make our life meaningful and what it was meant to be here on earth. We capitulate/surrender to something we don’t know . I get it though, depression or low key moods are heavy, because sometimes we can not change our surroundings and circumstances. That adds to the space, gap and distance of our ideal of what we know, and what actually IS, Sandwiched between we find the depression and having to settle somewhere in between and short of the ideal/mark we desire. I like the understanding of being chemical creatures. Every time I sweat I am amazed of the salt running and burning my eyes. We are amazing and complex creatures and ought to celebrate it every breath we inhale and exhale. So much life is depended on us that we do just that and other lifeforms for us. Just finding life amazing in spite of all the imperfects which propel us to find answers. All progress starts with what is not perfect….cures etc. Long live Life!

  9. Unfortunately, the insanity of the world helps to create a situation that if on is not anxious and depressed it is because one is crazy. Nevertheless that too is a lie as pevasive as it is.

    Do the best you can and let God give the increase.

  10. Your blog posts relating to depression and anxiety and despondency are very helpful to me. I have severe depression and PTSD. Mine was the result of abuse. I have a few blogs I follow daily (as they come up in my facebook feed, depending on posting frequency of the authors), including this one, and I believe they’ve helped me infinitely more than counseling and medication. Being depressed (which happens to everyone at one point in their lives) and having depression are two entirely different things. Thanks for making the distinction.

  11. Thank you, Father Stephen, for the gift of your wisdom to us! I, too, have found Elder Thaddeus to be helpful to reset my mind to gratitude to God when I am feeling anxious or depressed.

  12. “Each moment is a gift”.
    Some days I can’t get out of bed. the weight of life is too great.
    When I read of others similar situations it helps to bring life into focus.
    I met with friends today and cried my eyes out, bless them thy understood and supported me in my current situation.
    I pray three times a day but I must say the hugs of these friends was Christ with me.

  13. Father, I’m touched (though not surprised) at how many have mentioned being helped by your posts on shame and now those concerning your battle with anxiety, etc. It’s a reminder of how common to all so much of our suffering is. It has reminded me of the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5:

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”

    Thank you also for mentioning the Elder Thaddeus. His book is obviously one I need to read.

  14. Merry, I can really appreciate your testimony as to the power of finding key nutritional supplements for improving much more than just physical health. My sister-in-law gave me the book entitled The Mood Cure a few years ago. It details the effects of diet and nutritional deficiencies (which are numerous for those of us who consume the Standard American Diet, SAD) on mood. It describes the uses of the supplements you mention. My daughter who is on the autism spectrum has problems with mood swings, and her perseveration (OCD) worsens markedly with faulty diet. She has to avoid gluten, milk products and refined sugars. Our family chiropractor is trained in nutritional medicine and has helped to diagnose my daughter’s food allergies and educate us about diet–especially sugar (which is everywhere in processed foods). I have read the deleterious effects on health of refined sugars (including starches) are more than those of tobacco.

  15. Father, this post is a wonderful help to me. I struggle with Epilepsy and have for many years. I have been struggling recently to find the Meaning (or God, I suppose) in my trial. I do not even want it ‘healed’ rather I want to understand what lesson, what wisdom, what patience I need to learn through this suffering? The terrible thing is that it when it strikes, any attempt at inward prayer is ham-strung. It’s like a reset button being pressed in my brain, every minute or two and focused thought seems to aggravate it. So the best I can hope for is an attempt is a ‘diffused focus’, to relax my mind as much as possible. So prayer has to be reserved for when I feel healthy – which almost seems to make it meaningless.

  16. Thank you for sharing Father Stephen.
    On top of the comments specifically on dealing with depression, my take away point from your article is that a person is not their most recent, defining characteristic, be it their illness or sin, their job or lack of, or other gift or apparent disaster. I like how in Spanish there is a verb for ‘being’ as a permanent characteristic (ser) and ‘being’ as a temporary state (estar).

    I think that assigning labels on others and ourselves is lazy and unorthodox. You cannot unite yourself to a label. I can only be defined by Christ and not by my worldly, social and health status.
    My neighbour is not a depressed woman, she is my neighbour and sister in Christ.

    Could you elaborate a little on carrying out the pastoral care of others while in a state of depression and feeling yourself in need of help? Was there a discipline to force yourself to listen to others even when their troubles paled in significance to yours?
    Thank you.

  17. Father, thank you so much for being you. You, St. Anne, and the fullness of the faith you have introduced me to have been critical to my daily struggle. I think, above all, your insistence on calmness had helped most of all. It’s hard to let go of guilt, pressure, and the self-created turmoil. It’s also a balm to oft be reminded that this is a journey and it’s ok to take it step by step. Glory to God for all things!

  18. Thomas,
    I have written about anxiety and depression – though probably more significant in my daily life is my ADD (however we understand the nature of that brain problem). I do not mean to make myself sound like a basket-case – but simply to be honest and open. I joke that at any moment there are “5 men in my head.” So, listening to others can be a chore even on the best of days. I do it – though I think I am not very good at it. It is not a strength. At some point in my ministry (I was first ordained in 1980), I began to realize that this was not a strength and I also began to think a lot about the nature of the priesthood. There is a sort of “omni-competence” myth that comes with a protestant background. The priest is a generalist and so he’s supposed to be good at generally everything.

    I concluded that this is not true. What is a priest? He is a microcosm and mediator (as are all human beings) but he is such in a sacramental form. As microcosm, he gathers into himself the world around him (including the people for whom he cares). As mediator, he stands before God and makes intercession. As sacrament, he is given back to the world by God as a means of grace. And, I think, it is up to God the form that this grace takes.

    As a counselor, I sometimes have a useful insight, drawn from my experience within the tradition. But I’m not a “professional” counselor. I’m not a psychologist, or a medical doctor. Frankly, I refer people to professionals at the drop of a hat if it seems like that’s what is needed. I began at some point to realize that it’s ok not to know everything or be good at everything.

    As a priest, my primary task is defined within the sacraments. I hear confessions, anoint, give communion, etc. If others are patient (with me and with God), they will find that in time, grace works. Americans, especially, get impatient. They want solutions, improvement, better performance, etc. I suspect that people with such thoughts are probably frustrated with me as their priest and sometimes leave and go elsewhere. I think they will come to be disappointed with Orthodoxy as well.

    At a few critical points in my ministry, I became painfully aware of my “failings” and weaknesses. The success/competence models within our culture certainly had a deep place in my own soul. Learning to repent of that was/has been difficult. Oddly, I think it has made me a better priest in that I quit trying to be a great priest. I am what I am. Indeed, I believe that my failings and weakness are intrinsic to my salvation and the salvation of others around me. We are not saved by our excellence nor the excellence of others.

    Ive not had any discipline “to force myself.” I suppose that my commitment to answer my phone and not say no might qualify. St. Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” Being a part of my parish and its families – committing my life to them – mostly means sharing, participating in whatever is happening in their lives. By God’s grace, I plan to be buried from this parish, having been with it since its founding some 20 years ago.

    The wonder of all things is God Himself. That is the joy that drives away all darkness.

  19. Polly, you mention an aspect of healing that is easy to forget–loving human touch.

    My priest rests his stole on our heads as we offer our confession. Held there with a light touch. It is extrodinarily comforting to me. It makes me feel safe.

    Some folks do not like to be touched. I want to hug everybody. I don’t out of respect for them but sometimes it is difficult. The laying on of hands in the Christian faith is important even informally. Somehow it expresses the hypostatic union of God and man.

    In my bad times, I retreat from all human contact. Part of the shame I think.

    Father have you thought much about touch and it’s place in healing and traditioning?

  20. Yvette, I understand your ptsd and depression from abuse very well. Abusive father, molested as a child of 9 and terrorized by by abuser, abusive and cheating husbands for over 30 yrs. . I found the only way to break from the pattern-for me- was to learn to like myself, and to deliberately and repeatedly forgive and pray for those who had hurt me. It was not easy and it required a lot of prayers and help from God, but eventually I was free of the anger and pain they had left me with. I refused to let them take one more minute of my life, my joy, my happiness from me. I took away the control they still had over my life and my emotions. It did not happen overnight, but I fought to be free of them and all they had done to me. I was determined to be a survivor, no longer a victim. God gets the credit. I could never have done it without Him. The amazing way letting go of the pain and hurt feels! I pray you find that in your life too. I used to think if I did not stay hurt and angry then that was like saying all the lies, cheating, and cruelty was ok, that they got away with it. I discovered that was only hurting me. They didn’t care, and I was a mess. Romans 12 showed me the way to release myself and find a better, happier life. Depression does have many forms, and causes. I pray yours is healed. My third husband was disabled because of severe ptsd from Vietnam. He died at 54 from the physical effects it placed on his body, emotions, and stress levels. His heart gave out with the struggle. He was a wonderful man who just could not forgive and let go. It was terrible. I really hope you find Your way to let God help you too. He has a plan. Of that I am sure. God bless!

  21. Merry Bauman, I always appreciate your participation in the comment threads. Your comments are so edifying.

    Robin, I haven’t had epilepsy, but one occasion when I had ptsd, I did go into a physical shock which might be the closest experience I’ve had to what you might encounter in the ‘storm’ in your mind in your experience. You describe your approach to ‘diffused focus’ your mind to ease the symptoms, rather than focused prayer. But as you begin to feel your symptoms, do you say a prayer arrow, “God help me” and then ‘relax’ into the symptoms as you seem to describe? All of this is prayer, I would say, even your diffused focus of your mind, can be described as prayer, which in its purist form, is communion with God. God is there with you. Although it might be nearly impossible to be able to ‘detect’ God’s presence. You are not descending into these experiences without Christ by your side, although I will admit, it can seem quite terrible and hard to imagine Christ’s presence in these circumstances.

    Our prayers are also for our salvation and for the salvation of the world. This is the action we seek and the words of thanksgiving as Fr Stephen, mentions. I don’t think being thankful for these really difficult experiences is possible without grace. You are not alone in these terrible moments of loss of control. Too frequently we might descend into despair, if we let ourselves dwell on the ‘worldly view’ of these experiences. Perhaps this might be why we might look for ‘lessons’ in such experiences. Such despair typically comes from negative ‘self-talk’ I believe. Perhaps, Fr Stephen’s words might be helpful in regard to your prayers during the times of health: “…confession of God’s good work in all things” might help to preserve your peace and joy. The prayer for the grace of thanksgiving, that “thanksgiving for God’s good work in all things” is a prayer and a wisdom that we all need.

    May God grant you peace and joy.

  22. Thank you Father Stephen for this post, its theme and additional answers, and thank you all for the comments and sharing. I especially look forward to Father’s reply to Michael’s question about physical touch. I like to give hugs too, but as Michael said, many people don’t. For a single person as myself, it’s even more problematic, as those hugs can be mis-interpreted, especially with men, priests and monastics.
    I remember Fr. Zacharias saying once that a priest is someone who has one hand on the shoulder of God, and another on the shoulder of man… I like that image very much and your description of a priest holding a stole gently over the person confessing is very beautiful Michael.

    (Speaking of Fr. Zacharias, he also often emphasizes that he saw many people with very deep depression healed when they began “giving thanks to God for everything”. He said “the juices in their bodies change through thanksgiving…”)

    Thank you Father for sharing that you consider “answering the phone” “forcing yourself”…. I find it so difficult to force myself to do many things, but in the end I do them because it’s the right thing to do. It is often tempting to think that I have all the right to “feel depressed”, but somehow it seems dishonest, especially before God who sees our hearts. I appreciate that some people don’t have that “option”, and their bodies almost “think and feel for themselves”. Fr. Meletios Webber often spoke about that, as he is a priest and a psychologist. He told me many people are in such difficult state, they barely function. And that I should count my blessings with the problems I have… 🙂

    Thank you again, you are such a blessing to us all Father.

    P.S. I feel like this is also a great place to share with your readers (and you) the Tapping method… It’s something so simple and easily accessible, and often helps with many issues. I was introduced to it long ago, and used it for different emotional “problems” (anxiety before a job interview, anger at old hurts, even physical pain). If only one person who reads this blog benefits from it, I think it’s worth mentioning. Please remove my comment if you disagree. But since nutritional remedies were mentioned, so I think tapping could be (www.thetappingsolution.com has basic techniques, testimonials, even clinical research that validates tapping ).

  23. Agata, my chiropractor teaches some simple tapping techniques, too. These, like acupuncture and acupressure on which they are based, make use of the pressure points of Chinese medicine. Several years ago, I was trying to sort out the hocus pocus from cutting edge science in alternative medicine, and to educate myself, I read The Body Electric, where M.D., Robert O. Becker, describes research he and colleagues did trying to uncover the mechanisms behind regenerative/healing properties in the human nervous system. In so doing they discovered and validated the meridian (accupressure) points of Chinese medicine as related to the subtle electromagnetic properties of the nerve cells in our bodies that they were also able to validate and describe in their research.

  24. Hi Karen,
    Thank you for your book recommendation, I will look into it.
    Some people need a lot of scientific research to “believe” in such techniques, for me that is not necessary, I will try something once or twice and see if it works. When it does, what difference does it make “how”? 🙂

  25. Michael,
    I think it is pretty essential to human well-being, but, obviously, surrounded with issues. The experience “under the stole” in confession can be very important. Touch is an aspect of safety, intimacy, vulnerability. Where physical touch is not readily available – depending on personal/social settings, safety and vulnerability can be practiced to some measure as a “substitute.”

  26. Thank you for the comment, Father.
    I wonder if the place of the ‘deep heart’ is one that we can only reach through pain and sadness. In this light, depression, mental illness and physical disability are shortcuts to getting close to God. Of course it would be completely inappropriate to say this to someone who is suffering these trials.

    However, I’ve yet to read a spiritual Father whose advice is to avoid pain and pray for an easy ride in life. We read about Job and above all we pray to a Crucified Christ. Most Christians around me have the right answers in theory, but the truly memorable quotes come from those who, like you, have endured the hardships of taking up one’s cross and following Christ.

    All I do is dance around my Cross and make occasional attempts at caressing it, like an unfit man visiting the gym for the first time. Forgive me. I take courage in your line “I quit trying to be a great (priest)”. For the world, good is the enemy of great – it is to be surpassed.

    It seems to me that we can never be great unless we acquire a humility that is not the product of a comparison with our old self, or others. A Mystery…

  27. Thomas,
    I do not think that pain and suffering are necessary to finding the deep heart – but they are inescapable in this life. As such, I think God doesn’t waste anything. The Cross meets us in our suffering. I’m not sure anyone “likes” their Cross – it contains our shame – and so we avoid it. But Christ will meet us there.

    When I was young, and was once hospitalized with a terrible depression (in college), I can only describe a terrible darkness. But one day, at the very heart of that terrible darkness, I saw a point of light and had joy. I cannot say that the depression ceased – it did not. I had many, many tortured days and nights in the year or two following. But that light made a huge difference and carried a deep promise within it. God has kept the promise and exceeded it.

  28. Father,
    Thank you. This blog has been the best medicine for me throughout the years. It has brought me clarity and peace. Glory to God.

  29. Thank you Father.It is said..I think in 2nd Corinthians.(Ill look it up and pisr it..it says , basically, sometimes we do not suffer fir our own sake but for others..that the comfort we receive we can then share with others.and undeed you have done this for me. Over the pased few months I have found myself up and down with a nearly dibilitating depression.i fight it, i have victories but ive need to understand what other Orthodox might do to combat this.I, only tonight, was asking this very thing and found your article.Again Thank You.
    I’ll post the scripture here.

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
    2 Corinthians 1:3‭-‬7 NASB
    http://bible.com/100/2co.1.3-7.NASB

  30. Fr.,

    You said, “I do not think that pain and suffering are necessary to finding the deep heart.”

    I don’t know that I have ever met anyone with personal depth who hadn’t suffered.
    I can clearly see how a life of self-emptying devotion, a life of sacrifice, would create depth. But, depth takes on a significantly different character when it has seen the worst. I think at some point you have to look into the abyss and enter it. And what you do with the abyss determines your depth.

  31. Here is an excerpt from a post that I made to my FB page:

    “I was watching my son sleep in the crook of my arm and thinking about how safe he must feel. When he goes to sleep at night it is in the arms of people who care more about his happiness than their own. He is safe. It overwhelmed me…every night he will take for granted that he is safe. Not everyone has that luxury.

    There are so many things in life that he will never know.

    He will never know what it’s like to stare into the darkness night after night wondering if this is the night that his father finally kills us all in our sleep. He will never have to face the fear of a man pointing a gun to his head. He will never have his face shoved in a dog’s mess because his mother brought home a stray and it messed on the back porch. He will never have to deal with whelps from a belt that broke the skin and bled. He will never have paint thinner thrown on him because his mother left her arts and crafts out on the table the night before. He will never be thrown into the shower because he pissed his pants and only the hot water gets turned on. He will never be forced to fight another neighborhood boy because his father doesn’t want his son to be a coward. He will never feel so worthless that he won’t tell anyone when other kids at school hold him down and force his mouth open and then spit in it. He will never know what it is like to plan to kill his own father in his sleep and then back out because of fear…What if it doesn’t work? I’ll only make him mad…He will never know what it’s like to hear his father rape his mother and strangle her in the next room over while he threatens to kill her.

    What am I supposed to tell my boy about me?

    When a person is subjected to this much violence, anger, and unrelenting threat then later in life everything feels life threatening—everything feels life threatening. Even simple squabbles in the marriage can feel devastating. Being married to this kind of person must be exhausting. It might take a person their entire adult life learning that most threats are just passing tensions and the person isn’t really out to kill you. Every tension feels like a threat to one’s life. To a person like this a “normal” family does NOT feel normal…it feels…unreal…fake…like a sitcom. My son will be raised in a family situation that will, in some ways, feel fake. Sometimes I feel weird and out of place among normal acting family. I just don’t know how to understand it. Even simple things can be isolating.

    My mother is homeless. Right now she is in the PCU at the hospital, but they will send her back to the homeless shelter. I want to bring my mother home to stay with me, but I can’t. She is too dangerous. I have Micah to think about. It breaks my heart because no place will take her. She doesn’t make enough money to be in the kind of place that is appropriate for her. She doesn’t have enough income for anyone to take her given her “episodes”. This is another problem he will never face…all this trouble we have had to deal with from my mother.

    Sarah does her best to empathize and understand, but she can’t. She just hasn’t been there. And that’s okay. That’s how my son will be. There will always be this side of me that he will never understand. He will never know what it’s like. He might empathize, but he’ll never understand…and I’m staggered by that. There will always be a side to me that the rest of my family (Sarah and Micah) won’t share.

    Right now I feel so…UTTERLY…alone…and ashamed.”

    I don’t know that I have any depth at all or that I am anything at all. Most of the time I feel like an exposed nerve that over-reacts to perceived slights. But…I’m glad I went through those things as a child rather than as an adult. I have had my adult life to grapple with and understand the questions those things created. Without that anguish, without that struggle…who would I have become?

  32. David,
    You failed to quote me correctly. The sentence finished with, “…but they are inescapable in this life.” Thus the question, “Are suffering and pain necessary to finding the deep heart?” is moot. There are no lives without it. It is difficult to watch your children suffer, particularly as they move through their adult life. It is, however, inevitable. The old saw, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is probably the wrong question. The right one is, “What kind of person do you want to be when you grow up?” And, of course, that’s not at all an easy thing to answer.

  33. I beg to differ the question is not moot.

    If suffering is necessary to acquire depth of heart, then what is it about the heart or the human soul than requires suffering? Was it created to suffer? If so, why? Does finite creation need suffering in order to under go theosis? That God has made suffering inescapable in order to give the human heart what it needs to find it’s depth, does not answer the question: why is the human heart so disposed that it needs suffering ?

  34. David,
    A human being without suffering would be, I think, only an “unfallen” human being. We can speak about that and theorize, but it’s a moot point since none of us are that human being. The paradox of God’s love is that, though in our fallen state (mortality), we endure suffering and pain unavoidably, in His mercy He has made suffering and pain a place and a means of the deep heart. They are not the cause of it, nor the unavoidable road to it. They have simply been turned “upside-down” in God’s mercy. He tramples down death by death – and that is mercy, not a necessity.

    It is part of our rational drive to want to reason on the basis of necessity – thinking that what is true “must” be true. But in a universe of mercy, this is simply not the case. Such reasoning sometimes leads Christian thinkers into trouble.

  35. I was beginning to think that suffering, self-emptying, sacrifice is intrinsic to being human. All the qualities that we revere–honesty in the face of loss, mercy instead of vengeance, compassion in the face of need–seem to reveal their depth and value in a fallen world. In an unfallen, perfect world who needs courage or perseverance or steadfastness?

  36. David,
    Those things are clearly intrinsic within the journey that we have in a mortal world. But that they are “intrinsic” is an act of mercy rather than one of necessity.

  37. So, God creates a mortal universe and as an act of mercy he makes the inherent struggle the means of our salvation?

  38. David,
    I’m sure you did not intentionally overlook the ending of Father Stephen’s sentence but rather highlighted the first part of the sentence which struck a chord in your soul. You then proceeded to share that part of your soul to the world. I can only imagine why you did so, but to tell you the truth, I’m glad you did.
    I am going to refrain from commenting on your words, and just merely hang my head and mutter Lord have Mercy. At your expense, David, I now have some understanding of the complexities of many of your posts. Honestly, half of them, the language I failed to grasp, and the other half I came away annoyed.
    While I am aware that the depths of our life experiences make us who we are, still unbeknownst to me what they are, I react too quickly.
    Again, I say, at your expense, I learned a valuable lesson. Thank you. Please forgive me.

  39. David,
    We do not say that God creates a mortal universe. Mortality is a consequence of freedom, even if the precise mechanics of that freedom remain somewhat opaque to us. But God has made the consequences of our freedom a means of our salvation rather than the instrument of our destruction. That is mercy.

  40. David, kenosis is intrinsic to the human heart but it is buried under the rubble of all the pain created by the autonomous acts of self-preservation.

    Suffering seems to also be intrinsic as a result of our fallenness. I have to force myself to pray and mostly, I don’t.

    Suffering is the natural result of our separation from God. It is a mercy that the suffering that Satan intended for our damnation, Jesus Christ transformed into a medium of our salvation.

    Even our love brings us pain. Even rocks cry out until all is restored and reordered. I can testify to the reality of that reordering going on even now in the midst of great insanity.

    That reordering is small by comparison, almost invisible, but it is there.

    Every time I repent, a little more is reordered. That is true for all.

    It is difficult to articulate what I am getting at because of our trained-in tendancy to think in both forensic/linear and individual categories. But in reality, my sin impacts you. Just as any repentance I do, helps everyone. My suffering in Christ is not isolated or in vain.

    Thus the Orthodox parable that our life is sustained by just a few monks who ate deep in prayerful repentance even now.

    Glory to God.

  41. David, your pain and bitterness are so deep. I felt overwhelmed by the pain and loss of your childhood.
    My parents were emotionally abusive, and my father too had a belt he hit me with, or whatever thick leather strap was handy. I was told I was worthless, useless, and would never amount to anything – so many times as a child that I grew up believing it. My parents should know – right? I was molested and terrorized at 9 by the school bus driver. I spent years in fear he would follow thru and kill me and my family. I was afraid to sleep for fear he would come thru the window at night. I was a sickly child and nearly died many times in my childhood. To this day, my mother reminds me that “I was supposed to die as a child” – the doctors had told her that. I had an abusive alcoholic husband for nearly 15 yrs, and he was very verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive. I was like a kicked dog. Our second son died at birth partially because of the attempt to kill me and our toddler son – during the early stages of the pregnancy. I saw my tiny, perfect baby boy dead – before there were pictures or even being allowed to hold him. My husband cheated on me, lied to me, and beat me in a drunken rage. After our divorce , I struggled as a single mom, trusting God to provide the next meal (Which HE always did.)- so many times. Then, I married a man with children who was lying to me all the time, wanting a woman to raise his kids and help pay the bills. He was emotionally abusive, cheated, and after his kids were raised, left for another woman.
    Six years later I was a much stronger and more self confident person. Having learned the importance of forgiving those who had harmed me, to allow myself to heal. It was then I met the man of my dreams. We had an amazing 21 months together, and were married 7 1/2 months when he died after heart surgery. I had to take him off life support and watch him thrash and gasp for over 8 hours before he died. It was unimaginable agony. Burying him was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was beyond mad at God at that point. I felt so alone and devastated. I had done the right thing thru my childhood and over 30 yrs of abuse as an adult, and I was so sure God had given me the kind of love I had never known as a gift, let me know what that could feel like, then taken it away from me all too soon. I was at the cemetery screaming at God every single day, for a long time. I could not believe God could be SO cruel to me. Why did I have to suffer so terribly for so much of my life? I know well the depth of pain a human can survive. (I had found myself and my way to the real me, by forgiving the people who had harmed and abused me. It is not easy, but it is the only way to free yourself, and be the wonderful husband and father you want to be.) (Sorry so disjointed at times, but I too have ADD.) Thru a small but loving church, I found God again, and realized He had never really left me. I had left him, because it was too unbearable, but He was caring for me, and planning for me too. A little over a year after Shawn died, God brought Michael Bauman into my life, and made us both realize something amazing was happening, and HE set us up.
    Michael lost his wife, same hospital, same floor, same date – as I lost my husband Shawn. Three years earlier. His wife died from complications of something I have and control – diabetes. Michael needed open heart surgery to live and was not going to do it until he met me. My husband had died from open heart surgery complications. Thru Michael I became Orthodox, and found where I had belonged all along. The Jesus who had come to me as a child, as I cried in the back of a closet after being hurt, was the man above the alter in our church. We were not married in the church, but were given a special blessing to our marriage later. I was never going to date again, and yet thru God’s work completely, we were engaged after our third date and married three months later. That is about 8 yrs ago now, and I have the marriage and amazing husband that GOD chose for me. The blessing is overwhelming. I never knew marriage could be as wonderful as it is now. God saved the best for last it seems. I was 61 when we married.
    Thru God, and trusting HIM to help us, all things can be forgiven and you can be free of them. Use what you have learned to raise your child better, and to be a better husband and father. You have been richly blessed with a family of your own now. Forgive the sick people who were/are your parents. Your mother needs some serious mental care, not your home. You are right, she would be a danger to your child and give him fear he does not need. She should be placed in a home on Medicaid and Social Security. There are agencies who handle mental illnesses and can place her in a supervised group home. Everyone can be forgiven, and for your sake, and the very deep pain I feel in reading your post, I want you to know it is possible, as all things are, thru God. Forgiveness does not excuse the behavior being wrong towards you, but it does free YOU from living the pain over and over any longer.
    You can move past it. I will be praying for you and your family. You can LIVE the good life that you are creating, without feeling in the least bit “fake”. You ARE an amazing man for having endured what you have, and still be so loving and compassionate towards your wife and child. God protected you from permanent harm physically, and psychologically. Your parents are not normal, not healthy, and have a great deal of psychological and mental damage. They are, and were, very sick people. You are blessed to be alive at all, and with no more harm that you have had to your body and mind. God bless you and your family.
    The depth of your pain brought tears to my eyes.

  42. Will we ever be able to say whether our faith is more than just the echos of despair in our own soul mistaken as the call of God or whether it is real?

    Maybe it better that we don’t know, that it is always a step into the darkness.

  43. Thank you for sharing this Father Freeman. I appreciate your willingness to write about a subject that can, indeed, so impact the life of a Christian, in all of life’s aspects. As one who struggles with depression and anxiety, I am very grateful for your insightful words, knowledge, and wisdom sir. Sincerely, Darrell

  44. David, our faith is real. God is real, Jesus is real, and Mary is real. I have met Jesus and Mary personally, during very hard times in my life. They actually appeared to me. Mary was holding my dead baby son at the time she appeared to me, and telling me there was a reason, but for now to trust and let go. That She had him. I cannot describe the beauty of her voice and her presence. 46 yrs later it still brings tears at the beauty and wonder of that moment. I will be 70 in a few months, so I have lived a long time, and experienced much. God speaks to us, and so do Jesus and Mary. But you need to open your heart and listen. I hope you do. There is much to doubt and mistrust in this crazy world, but our faith, and our God are rock solid and real.

  45. Merry, thank you for your testimony of faith (and for your other previous posts). I have not endured the depth of abuse that you and David have, but my own story and the posts of others here help me understand that we may be looking through eyes of grief and pain, but we can only truly see through eyes of grace and love.

  46. Merry,
    Do you believe my heart is closed off? I’m asking you sincerely, is that really how I seem?

  47. Right now my faith is in the people around me: I have faith in their faith. That will have to do for now…

  48. David,
    That you are where you are in Christ, with what you’ve written, is incredible. I second what Merry wrote to you. Faith in other people’s faith is commendable. Think of the paralytic lowered through the roof. The Lord fixed on the faith of his 4 friends who had just lowered him, and through their faith the man was made whole. In 1 John 5:16 it appears that when someone asks that a brother’s sin be forgiven (not mortal) then it will be. So yes, what you ask seems appropriate at the moment. I too will pray, my brother in Christ.

  49. I am so grateful for your comments Father.
    I think that you are very right in saying suffering is unavaoidable.Is it not through suffering that The Father chastizes His Children? If we do not go through trials we do not grow in the faith.Unless I am misquoting this..the Script i refer to says..sort of..If we are not struggling we are in a sense..not Sons.
    We overcome our suffering with Strength from God.”Consider it all Joy brothers when we face trials of many kinds…knowing the testing of our Faith brings forth endurance..it perfects our Faith”.
    I think, for me, I have found strength in Thanking God.I have found solace in prayer times. I am encouraged by answers to prayers..they give me much joy. All this causes my heart to trust God when I dont understand what is going in**which is most of the time.At times I think He maybe giving me a clue as to His Will and I attempt to agree with Him and submit myself to Him.
    He is so very kind to us.I think..even with such abundance of suffering, sadness,depression,HE is the Kindest One I know of. I, if you dont find this odd, remind myself..GOD is Kind to me, God, even in suffering, is So very Good to me, He loves me more than I myself know how to Love.
    This helps me.
    What do you think of my babblings?
    –Seraphim

  50. Helen, well said. I like the way you put that. We have spent much time looking thru the eyes of grief and pain. To truly see, we need the grace and love, of forgiveness and repentance.

    David, yes, to me it seemed so. But I also can only relate to your pain as I did mine. You have been hurt so badly and for so long that I sensed that you have done what so many of us did or have done. You have had so much hurt you closed yourself off to more. It is not a criticism, but merely an observation. If I am wrong, forgive me please. Your level of pain came thru so vivid and clearly that I could feel fear – of being hurt again, or worst of all – of hurting those you love. You are talking openly and sharing, asking for help though, and that says the door is not completely shut. You have a lot of courage and strength to do this, and I am humbly grateful if I can help in any way. I admire so much what you are doing here. It takes a good man to want to be healed, and to know you need the help of others and you have the prayers of all of us on your behalf. My healing took the prayers and help of some amazing people who took me in and gently led me back to God. I felt empty when I felt God had abandoned me. I questioned “WHY ME??” over and over so much of my life. Looking back, I can see each person and each thing that happened made me who I am today. God has a plan, and thru all the bad, there have been good moments that were awesome too. Ask God, in a conversation, what you want to know, and tell Him what you want and need from Him. You are SO on the right track here, and I know you will find your way. Michael thinks I’m a bit odd, but that is how I approach God. I just talk to Him – out loud – and like he was sitting there listening to me. He is the Father that has loved us all from the moment of our conception. How painful it must have been for Him – to see His children abused and hurt. I may be 69, but with God, I am still the five year old child who trusted her life to Him, and to Jesus as my savior. He won’t interfere in your life, but if you ask Him, he will help you.
    You are an amazing man David, and I admire you for being such a good husband and father, in spite of the parents you had. My parents taught me who I did NOT want to be as a wife and a parent. I am grateful to say my children all grew up to be wonderful successful people, who know they are loved with all my heart.
    I have every confidence yours will too. God Bless, and forgive me if I am in any way out of line or mistaken.

  51. David, no evidence to me that you have a closed heart. Thank you for sharing. We Christian men need to do that more in person with each other.
    You are man of courage in my book.

  52. I have been a reader of this this blog for years, but have commented only once, I think, a few years ago. But now I’m so moved by your willingness, Fr. Stephen, to share so much of your inner struggles, that I have to say “thank-you” and “thank-you” to all those who do comment regularly and so openly.

    The recent discussions of shame, depression, and anxiety, have really helped me see myself and my life of 60+ years more clearly.

    I want to share that as others have noted here, I have discovered – just recently – that the natural supplements, 5-HTP and GABA, have been surprisingly helpful. Also L-Tyrosine. Although I had haphazardly dabbled with these amino acid supplements at one point in my past, I really didn’t really understand them or know how to take them until I read the book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, which has been mentioned in above comments. Her book, The Diet Cure, is also quite illuminating.

    This blog is an incredible blessing. Thank you again.

  53. I appreciate the encouraging remarks. Dean, Michael and Merry I am glad to have faith in your faith. I appreciate especially Deans reference to the paralytic that was lowered through the roof. That made sense to me.
    I know that whatever my story might be there are worse stories out there. My desire is to understand my life because if I can understand my life then maybe I can say something about our lives as human beings: “Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”

    This forum has been a real blessing to me as well.

    Paula…I am annoying and offensive…I apologize if anything that I’ve said stole enjoyment from you.

    Peace, friends!

  54. Just a small thought… I have found great comfort and help by asking the Saints to pray for me and those I know who are struggling. Their prayers are devoid of my questionable (at times) intentions…they know how to pray when I am not sure how. And they can lift the burden from my shoulders. It is a great blessing to have them with us in all our struggles. Often, things have changed immediately when I ask the Theotokos or others for their prayers.

  55. David,
    Pardon me, please. It’s one thing to read someone’s post and be annoyed. It’s another thing to call you out of name and say you yourself are an offense. I don’t know you well enough to say that. I don’t know you at all. Nevertheless, I was greatly moved by your post above.
    You did not steal enjoyment from me…I stole it from myself.
    But it doesn’t seem to matter what I say, because inevitably it’ll be taken the wrong way. Granted my communication skills are not cultured in the least. That’s part of the problem.
    I’m like the new kid on the block…ignorant of an established commonality among the “popular” kids…and ignorantly assuming that I can join. After shaking off that pipe dream, I set myself up for rejection by my comments, even though I mean no ill will. I simply disagree with some things that are said. That’s when I get annoyed, David. I’m not any different than anyone else … I just am not a “fit” here.
    But I’m still going to come, as I have learned some valuable things. And I’ll comment now and then and hold my breath! Most likely, eventually you’ll never see my name here again, and, as is the reality of cyber space, never even give it a second thought.

  56. Paula,
    It is completely fine to call me out. That isn’t a problem at all. That’s just part of keeping the dialogue honest. No worries!

  57. Paula, somewhere your objections and intentions will be accepted as you try to find for yourself what is true. I’ve watched many names come and go here as they were intimidated and expressed differences. I feel for you and been there too. But take note, it will only make you stronger in your journey. Peace, and may God be with you as you go in search of acceptance and understanding of him. (I am doing myself this favor too)

  58. David,
    I have not forgotten the insightful comments you have made to my own questions of suffering and for that I thank you. I am, however, not dissuaded by your immeasurable suffering to think you are closed off even by your statement that your faith is that of the faith of others when you started your account with:

    “I was watching my son sleep in the crook of my arm and thinking about how safe he must feel. When he goes to sleep at night it is in the arms of people who care more about his happiness than their own. He is safe.”

    “He is safe” says it all. If you really believe in that, even in that short moment while he sleeps in your arm or the arms of others, then all of your questioning is a moot point. Safety is not a matter of reason or fact, but a faith in mercy. Its not even a faith in others. It has to go deeper then that–into something that “transcends” you, your circumstances, and all others. And you seem intent on giving it or believing that it exists–irregardless of the cost or the unknown. But what is safety if there isn’t something behind it’s provision–even when it is withheld? My point or anyone’s point of comprehension, if there is any at all, is in safety. And yet we continue to apprehend it’s illusiveness while asking God for it. Can we bear alittle safety? I think safety can be our real fear. And yet to seek safety is inherent in us, while mercy, in our minds, hangs on by a thin thread.

  59. Maria W…thank you for your kind and encouraging words. I trust what you say about the journey.

  60. Paula, I have a Russian adviser who will sometimes march into the lab, rattle my cage, and then turn around and leave with as little notice as he came. It doesn’t bother me in the least because you always know where you stand with that guy. So, just be yourself–Unvarnished honesty and all.
    You’ll be accepted for who you are!

  61. David…thanks. Yeah, I appreciate the same honesty in return, even though the truth sometimes hurts. It does work both ways…I give it and I receive it! As an RN in the ICU where the patient to nurse ratio was usually 1:1, the patient received our undivided attention. I would protect my patient like a hen with her chicks…and if anyone treated my patient as less than a person, they’d encounter my wrath. I was told many times by my fellow nurses “Paula, you speak the things we hold back saying”. I’d say “yeah, and I’m also the one who’s in the supervisor’s office throughout the year because of it!” So I laughed when you said your Russian supervisor “marched in” and rattled your cage! I can relate!
    Even so, I applaud how God made us all so different. I enjoy meeting people and getting to know them…and what makes them “tick”. I try not to be so “serious” all the time…that is, to have an eye to the beauty and diversity of God’s creation. Maria W. expressed this well in her first post. That line in scripture “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” reminds me to keep a balance, be thankful for the goodness of our God (as Seraphim stated so well). This is easier said than done…yet the alternative is an almost unbearable burden. Yes, I know, it is also our cross…I like the way Father puts it…the “upside down” of Christianity.

  62. Paula, I too was an onlooker in here – for a long time. My husband is a regular, and has been for years. I was intimidated by such scholastic and theological men and their discussions. Then came the time when I realized that we are ALL welcome in here, and to speak our honest feelings or questions. Father Steven is wonderful person, priest, and I admire him a lot. I have opened up in here and told more about my life than I ever dreamed possible for me to share. I did it because I felt the need to use my experiences to help others. If nothing else, to let them know there is a way thru it with God.
    Please don’t feel you should not comment. No one in here is judgmental. We are all brothers and sisters, and caring for each other. I have learned SO much in here. If I have helped anyone else, then that makes the pain I experienced have a purpose and hurt less. Hang in here with us. We welcome your voice.

  63. Father Steven, PLEASE check out the book about using the natural remedies. I had to learn it all the hard way, but it is life changing!!! God is leading you to the tools you need. 5HTP helps your body raise it’s own serotonin levels, GABA helps with anxiety because it opens up your GABA receptors to help settle the anxiety. I carry Pharma GABA with me – instead of Lorazepam any longer. Two safe chewable tablets work as well on my nervous system as the drug ever did, but with NO side effects. You can get them at a health food store, a Walgreens, or from the Swanson Catalog/online – like I do. I get a regular shipment every month. They run specials at Swansons too – very often. Natrol is a good brand at the stores. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to get these and try them. The difference is life changing. And they are natural compounds our own bodies make. Mine, as with so many people, just does not make enough.
    I use 300 mg 5HTP a day, but you can start with 100 or 200, to see what helps you. I use 500 mg of GABA at night and then carry the Pharma-GABA in case of a rare anxiety attack or panic attack. Amazing on stress too! Please just try them. I was on the strongest anti-depressants they had for 20 yrs or more, and still struggled. I have not had any problems with it since I started the natural products. If I run out – which I try to NEVER do – Michael can tell you I get much harder to live with for a while – until I have them back in my system. I will take them every day the rest of my life, but what a small price to pay for a happy, loving, and joyful life – free of the negative tapes that used to torture me – looping thru my mind. AND the terrible side effects that were horrible with the medications. Please listen to all of us who have found the way to overcome the agony of depression – thru natural supplements.

  64. Merry,
    Appreciate so very much your kind words and encouragement. It should be of no surprise that my insecurities contribute to my perception of myself as an “outsider”. I will be patient and give it time, as you say.
    You express yourself with the heart of a mother. I’d like to think that your encounter with our Mother somehow enabled you to connect with others as you do. That encounter had to be a life changer for you…anyway Merry (a name most apropos!), keep on posting, please!

  65. Paula,
    You are so kind. I am a mother. I raised five children (two steps), and many others along the way. I have eight grandchildren from 28 to 6, and four great-grandchildren 5to2. Incredibly blessed beyond my own limitations. (I was never supposed to be able to have children at all. Each was a miracle that doctors could not believe at the time.) God has entrusted many children and adults to me, to love and to nurture. My encounter with Mary was very life changing, you are so right. I like to think I am an extension of Her arms – in helping others. She is truly a wondrous mother, who loves all of us beyond belief. My husband says I am a “baby magnet”, because they all seem drawn to me. I would like to believe that it is a small reflection of our heavenly mother that they see. What I lacked from my biological parents, I found in our heavenly parents. A generous outpouring of love that exceeded anything I had ever experienced. I too was very insecure , and felt badly about myself, for a great deal of my life. Finding the love and compassion of God, Jesus, and Mary and realizing that they loved me SO much, and that to them I was a wonderful person and their child. I began to heal from the pain, as I was helped to forgive all those who hurt me. I think the term “mother” does indeed describe me well. I have had the best example to learn from. In the Orthodox faith, I discovered not only the man who had comforted me as a hurting child (The icons are the man I knew. No picture of Jesus anywhere looked like he did.), but a place that knew Mary in a way I could really relate to. I can venerate them, and absorb the wonder of being in their home every Sunday morning. The Saints are like family that are so there for you too. They are only waiting to be asked, and they will do some amazing things at times. Michael taught me how awesome they are too, when St. Herman interceded for my best friend – an Alaskan native with liver disease – and stopped his drinking cold. I never dreamed it was possible, but St. Herman did it. In our faith, I have found the full expression of the love I have been given, and a place to share it with others. In here, I have opened up perhaps too much of my life, in the hope of helping someone else. Each voice in here shares of themselves, and they are all so valuable. We find a sense of community and caring for each other that is a rare treat these days. We learn a lot about theology too. Please never feel insecure or inferior here! Here you are a sister. And as such always welcome.

  66. Merry,
    Well Praise God! I’m saying…if one who doubts (I have in mind an atheist nephew I’ve been in contact with) would just read of your witness, your words so real they’re almost tangible, and it doesn’t spark some kind of belief or wonder in their soul, then Jesus Christ appearing before them in the flesh wouldn’t either! You’d either have to be delusional, or have been touched by the awesome hand of the Almighty, and not only by Him but through His Mother, His Saints, the Eucharist, His people the Church…No, you have not opened up too much here Merry! Too much glory given to God?…never! If anyone should tire of it, they’re just jealous!
    Yes, I see you also as “an extension” of our Mother’s arms. I can’t help but be amazed at how you suffered, how He was with you, and how you were blessed a hundredfold in return. Do you ever wonder why you and not others?…I’m sure it’s the suffering part, but there has to be more. Really, we shouldn’t wonder such things…it’s like asking why did He pick Mary to be the God-bearer, or the Prophets, or the Apostles, etc! He did…and we honor them for their great faith and forbearance. Likewise, I praise God for His blessings…exceedingly abundant blessings, toward you!! You couldn’t so much as hold back that outflow of love from Him than you could stop a raging forest fire with a cup of water!
    You hit on something, where you said the Saints, our family, are here for us…”just waiting to be asked”. I remember Father telling someone here to pray for a “visit” from a Saint, that you just may be surprised at what occurs (something like that). I am just beginning to understand the reality of our “great cloud of witnesses”, and realizing that, I tear up when I pray to them…to them for “us” the Body…never for myself personally. Interestingly, my Priest, after our first private meeting, suggested I read about St. Mary of Egypt…I did…I also took this as a suggestion to go to her in prayer…and that I never did. Foolish!
    My insecurities present more of a problem than I’d like to admit. I have built that proverbial wall…that line that I won’t let anyone past. It’s crippling…even so far as to stave off the immeasurable love of God…I tell Him I don’t know what to do about this. (I do all the “Orthodox” things we’re supposed to do, but I have this wrong idea that doing these things brings His love, and not doing them, punishment (taught such in childhood)…now I know that is incredibly wrong, but have a great deal of trouble believing the opposite. It’s the “pleasing” thing. I’m amazed how messed up our minds get.) A lot of anger…rage, though diminished, still can pop up if the right buttons are pushed. Never married, no kids, moved as far from my family as I could, very “independently” took care of myself. When the bottom fell out is when I finally heard God’s voice…that was my life changer…still in the process of healing. The best thing in my life, next to falling in love with our Lord Jesus Christ, was becoming Orthodox. Wow…so many questions answered…a lot of complexities too…but good in their challenges. I too have been incredibly blessed!
    Girl…thank you again for reaching out to me…you really touched my heart. Again I say…please keep posting! God wants people to hear our witness to Him! He will continue to use your words here to bless others (or convict, if necessary!)…for His Glory!

  67. God has given us a physical very effective treatment for depression. It is sunshine. In the winter when the sun is at a low angle and the body makes less vitamin D many get the “winter blues.” If they were to take Vitamin D (the D3 variant) daily the problem would be alleviated. It seems to work wonders for all sorts of depression including some diagnosed bi-polar and manic depressive. I have taken it for 9 years to prevent viruses and have got many other people on it. As a biproduct of that my “drama queen” daughter became steady. A friend who had been manic depressive and anorexic since puberty has evened out. I have half a dozen more of these and none that did not beat their depression.

  68. Dear Priest Freeman and good ppl,
    Please pray for me. My emotions are almost too much too bear. I’ve been told for years not to listen to negative self talk….but I know there is some truth in what I tell myself. I’ve struggled with depression since I was a little girl…..but now I’m experiencing anxiety as well. It’s almost too much.
    I know God hears your prayers. Please pray for Gods mercy on me.
    Thank you.

  69. Hi Lily Jo (what a beautiful name!),

    You are in my prayers. Earlier this month I discovered the Economissa Icon of the Mother of God, it is under Feasts and Saints on OCA.org for July 5th.

    I was very touched by the theme of the Mother of God as personally tending to practical realities in a non-abstract way. I have been asking her to be the Stewardess of my relationships and emotions and, truly, have found comfort from her. Please remember she is your mother as well.

    To share two other gentle thoughts, only recently have I realized that Christ’s teaching us not to call anyone names such as fool or stupid may well apply also to how we speak to ourselves.

    Our beautiful friend St. Phanourios is the patron of finding lost things. After searching for $200 in a bank envelope missing for two weeks and likely recycled in stacks of paper I prayed for St. Phanourios’ help. I found the money so quickly, if not within the hour then by the end of the day. More relevant though, I have asked him to help me find more peaceful ways of interacting with people. It has been an amazing experiment and he has proven willing to help bring God’s grace into situations in amazing ways. Please let him be part of your journey too.

    With much love in Christ,
    N.

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