Thursday, October 5, 2017

For all the Christians suffering with depression

Depression is not "your" cross to "offer up".

Depression is not "yours" in the sense that it is not "yours alone". God is not commanding that you get through it by yourself or without help from other people. If you think it is "your" job to deal with your mental illness, then you are being prideful. Not recognizing that you have depression is one thing, but rejecting treatment on the account of your faith is quite another.

Depression is not something you should just "offer up", keep hidden, or try to mask with work or busyness. Offering up your suffering and uniting it with Christ's on the Cross is a very holy thing. But let's figure out what that really means.

Suffering is a part of daily life. It looks different now than it did even 50 years ago. But despite our smartphones, air conditioning, and microwaves, suffering keeps popping up in different forms! We just can't get rid of the darn thing.

Depression is excruciating suffering. First hand experience. Every task is an impossible mountain to climb. You can try and try to get through life and offer up the suffering, but eventually you will run out of reserves and are in danger of giving up. I think every healthy minded person can agree that suicide is not God's option for you.

When I had depression, I thought it was my cross, mine, to offer up. I kept trying and trying to offer up this suffering, but it was leading me further and further away from God. I didn't realize I had depression at first - it was just this suffering that I couldn't explain. I truly believed I had to work through it, offer it up, and be content with "God alone suffices".

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

-- St. Teresa of Avila


Does God alone suffice? Heck yes. Remember, He created us. He is our Divine Master. We are His. He created us. He created us as human beings with a soul .........and a body.

Is our body in the way? Sometimes it sure does feel like it.

God is not asking us to have a contest to see who can torture themselves the most. He is asking us to accept the suffering that has been given to us, not to go out and purposefully seek suffering for it's own sake in and of itself. Suffering is only good because it can lead us closer to God.

God alone suffices because......

......when the kids are hungry and crying at my feet and I'm also starving because it's an hour past lunch time, I serve them first because I know God alone suffices. I can sacrifice my needs in order to take care of them first. After they are ok, I can make lunch for myself. God alone suffices for me to delay my immediate needs to take care of others and serve Him through it.

God doesn't intend for me to give up eating entirely.

God alone suffices, because we are utterly dependent on HIM. Even though God alone suffices, I have to humbly eat to keep myself alive. I have to take showers and order more contacts...humbly. I am not a robot nor above human requirements.

Can you serve God when you have depression? Sure thing. But you can serve Him better when you are treating the depression. Can you serve God with a broken leg? Most definitely! But you can serve Him better when you are healthy. It would be ridiculous to reject a cast or disregard the advice to stay off your feet for a while in order to let your leg heal. When you get a broken leg, you are still offering up the suffering even if you humbly accept healing. We have to humble ourselves. It's all about humility. Humility through the suffering and the healing He give us. ...realize that He made us as human beings with a human body and He asks us to take care of it.

Humility.

Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Sometimes, the suffering we have in this life is not related to whether or not we "earned it". Depression is not the result of something you did or did not do. You do NOT deserve depression.

Theologically speaking, we "deserve" far worse. Because of our sins, our perfectly just God has the power to send us all to eternal suffering. But in His Mercy, He sent His Son to suffer for us. Any suffering we have, any sacrifices we make, can NEVER make us worthy of Heaven!! We can only get to Heaven because Jesus died on the cross FOR us.

So let's humbly accept our measly little suffering God gives us in order to let us be a part of His eternal plan.

It's like when I let my son, Dominic, help me make cookies. The whole time I'm thinking, "patience, patience, patience". Is Dominic helping? Well, yes, but my two year old couldn't do it on his own.

We know this life on earth is not our end goal. That's what makes us different. That's what makes us unique from the rest of the Godless society. It is easier to live through the suffering now, because, when we've done everything we can to take care of ourselves and still experience suffering, we can take comfort in the fact that it is only temporary.

Living in the world but not of the world -- Not that we reject our humanity and try to live as Gods.

We have to live in this world until God says our time is up. Because it's all about His timing, He requires us to take care ourselves until He calls us home.

Treat your depression. Don't reject the medicine or counseling because you think God is asking you to get through it on your own. He's not. He's asking you to humble yourself and ask for help so that you may serve Him to your fullest potential and help other people along the way.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Why do bad things happen to good people?

I've always thought that I deserved my suffering. Depression made my life a living hell. Every daily task was torture. However, I thought I brought this judgement upon myself from my past sins. I couldn't forgive myself, and I felt like I earned every bad thing that that happened to me.

But now, since healing from depression and rejoicing in the Mercy of God, I am able to receive His forgiveness. I can move on and no longer dwell in the past or cringe over my faults and failures.

This new perspective on life has lead me to ponder a different question. ...A perplexing question from almost the beginning of time. I never really understood it before as applied to my personal life because I always felt like I deserved my suffering. I even rejected good things because of my perceived unworthiness. But now I sit here wondering...

Why do bad things happen to good people?

If a person loves and serves Our Lord, why would He seemingly punish them with things like: natural disasters, cancer, unemployment, mental illness, tragic deaths, poverty, infertility? You name it...

If God was God, why would He allow His people to suffer, even if they didn't deserve it?

Because this world is not our home.

Everything we do now has a consequence later. We can't ever just check out and put our lives in cruise control. We are either moving toward our goal or slipping away from our goal.

Bear with me for a moment...I have an interesting analogy that kind of came from reading the Book of Job the other day.

Food that tastes bad is still food.

If all I had to eat were things that didn't taste good to me, like Brussel sprouts and fish, I would eat them so I wouldn't die. I might even eat some crazier things than that if I was starving on a deserted island and in danger of death. I don't know if I could ever eat a snake or a rat or a spider, but starvation is desperate. I wouldn't like eating a snake, but it would keep me alive.

In order to understand suffering, you must first understand that this life is a journey. If life on earth was the end goal, then success, money, popularity, comfort, etc. would be appropriate to pursue. But, life on earth is not the end.

What we do in life, echoes in eternity. And I'm not just talking about how you are remembered by the people in the world. Heaven is eternally living the choice to love and serve God. Hell is the choice to eternally live without Love, as far away as possible from Love.


In allowing us to suffer, God is giving us food for the journey. We may not like what He has to offer, but that doesn't mean it won't nourish our soul in the very way that we need.

As a kid, I didn't like certain foods, but as I grew and matured, I learned to appreciate different foods. As we grow and mature in our spiritual lives, we learn to appreciate the food God gives us. Sometimes, we don't like the taste -- suffering is bitter, like being forced to eat from a garbage dump, but suffering is not garbage, nor sewage, nor bugs -- it is the filet minion of life. We just haven't grown up enough to recognize that yet. Our taste buds are not mature enough to appreciate it's splendidness.

If we cooperate with God's grace, suffering can nourish our souls in a way that nothing else can. It is food for this journey here on earth. If we let it, it will sustain us until we reach our final resting place.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Am I cheating God by taking Prozac?

Life is supposed to be hard...............right?

I was living in despair for such a long time that I really don't know what life is suppose to feel like. I don't remember.

Am I allowed to be happy?

Because of or in spite of my Catholic faith, I can sometimes get all tangled up in thought of what is right and what is wrong. I can get turned around inside my brain and think my way into some bizarre notions. So.....life is hard, bad things happen, work, study, work, mental suffering, physical suffering, natural disasters, tragic death, work, sickness, work, work, work....suffering is a part of daily life. Bad or worse, it's always present. These things happen so often that I've just come to accept them as normal.

Sure, I know Coldplay told us that "nobody said it was easy". But did God tell us it has to be ridiculously, wicked hard?

We wandered back out to the desert, with Moses and the sons of Israel. We went out to get something, got lost, spend so much time away that, even when we found the door back in, we could not remember if we were allow back in. So we lingered by the entrance, thirsting, starving, dying. We were wandering around for so long that we forgot that God already brought us into the Promised Land.

I believe, along with the tradition of the Church, that God allows evil things to happen only so that He can make a greater good come from it. In that way, suffering can help us get closer to Heaven if we cooperate with grace.

I struggled mightily when I had depression. Wow, life was Hell. Am I supposed to deal with hell on earth in order to get to Heaven? Is that the only way?

I used to think that.

Before I started healing, I thought that I had to "offer up" my suffering. I thought I had to embrace it, "embrace my cross", as Jesus did. "Am I running away?" I often feared. Am I taking away my "path to holiness" by mitigating my suffering by taking an anti-depressant? I thought it was my burden to carry until the bitter end.

While suffering from depression, I was on the path to killing myself. The suffering was pulling me farther away from God. No matter how hard I tried or how many prayers I prayed, I wasn't able to grow closer to God through the pain.

But since getting help for depression, going to counseling, and taking medication, I am thriving in my faith. Grace is overflowing from my life. I am waking up early to pray and read the Bible. (The Bible, by the way, is coming alive! I used to go to bed looking forward to my cup of coffee in the morning. Now, I look forward to walking with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.)

I know there are Saints who have sought out suffering or kept their suffering to themselves in order to offer it up in union with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The hair shirts, the fasting, the torture, etc. However, they did none of it in spite of God, instead they did it to get closer to God. God blessed their efforts and gave them the graces to get through it. The Saints succeeded because God was with them, they depended on Him for everything, owing nothing to their personal efforts.

The fruit of my life before getting help for depression was death. The fruit of my life now is actual life. And I'm not talking about my physical body.

My family is doing great. My boys are a joy. They get to play with their mom all day. They are learning and growing and, most every day, ---happily living life. My marriage is thriving. I am able to show love and receive love. Friendship and family abound. I am surrounded by LIFE.

How can all these good thing reflect a wrong choice? Am I cheat by taking an anti-depressant? No.

I am not shrinking from suffering. Daily life is still filled with plenty of pain and sacrifice. But I have given it all over to God. The things that I cannot do, He does with LOVE. It is no longer my burden to carry alone. It is God carrying me through the burden.