Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Good Side of Suffering with Depression

{Ohio Sunset}
Even in the midst of immense suffering, your life is still good.

God only allows us to suffer because a greater good will come from it. He only allows us to suffer because, ultimately, it is our path to salvation. If we knew how important suffering was for our soul, then we would not be so inclined to flee from it.

Often times, when we are suffering, we immediately look for ways to avoid it.

When I first started seeking solace for my depression, I wanted it fixed, and I wanted it fixed now.  I wanted to try to avoid the pain of suffering because I thought it was a pointless suffering.

If I had an x-ray or a CT-Scan, I would not be able to see the problem.  I couldn’t tell you where it hurt or what it felt like.  So, I couldn’t admit that the pain was real.  However, mental suffering is just as real as physical suffering even though you can’t see it.

If we were only bodies, than suffering would make absolutely no sense at all.  However, we are body and soul.  As Catholics, we believe that our soul will live forever.  Suffering, if you think about it, is the only way to have this opportunity.  In order to have eternal life in Heaven, you must suffer death.

Suffering allows us to relate to Christ in a metaphysical way (beyond the physical).  Suffering allows us to deepen our relationship with Christ.  We can only get into Heaven if God knows us by name; if He knows us in a personal relationship.  "And the LORD said to Moses, 'I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name'." (Exodus 33:17)

God allows suffering because only in suffering is the relationship with Him made possible.  One cannot have great love without great sacrifice.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has some enlightening quotes about suffering.  (The quotes below were published in St. Remy’s Sunday bulletin several weeks ago.)

“It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater.”

“It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.”

Jesus went through all of this terrible torment and suffering not only to save us from the fires of Hell, but also so that we can relate to Him and enter into a personal relationship with Him.  It elevates our own suffering to be able to unite it with His.  It gives it purpose and meaning and allows us to get through it.

For me, Holy Thursday is a very reflective time.  In a particular way, I can relate to Christ’s Agony in the Garden more than I can relate to the Crucifixion.  I have never had such intense physical suffering that could even come close to what Jesus experience on Good Friday.

Do you remember the Gospel reading when the disciples fall asleep while Jesus is praying? (Luke 22:39-46)  Reading that passage breaks my heart.  He just wants someone to stay up with Him.  He doesn’t need them to do anything.  He doesn’t need them to fix the problem.  He doesn’t need them to take away the suffering.  He just needs them to be with Him and stay awake by His side for one hour.

It is so hard for us to do that for each other.  We want to fix the problems.  We want to have the answers.  We want to save the lost.

If you cannot do anything, would you just leave?  Would you fall asleep?

If you are personally struggling with a mental illness, reflecting on the Garden at Gethsemane can be a unique time for you to relate to Our Savior.  He is the only one who knows how much you are suffering.  He is the only one who will stay awake with you through the night when everyone else has fallen asleep.  You are not alone.  You are never alone.

If you are a loved one of someone struggling with depression and anxiety, I urge you, as well, to read and reflect on Jesus on the Mount of Olives.  Do unto others as you would do to Christ.  Will you not stay up one hour with Our Lord?  Remember, you don’t have to fix the problems, you don’t have to have all the answers, and you don’t have to save them from suffering.  You just have to be there for them and let God do the rest.


  1. Nicely said, Mary! Peter Kreeft's book called "Making Sense Out of Suffering" is amazing on this topic

    1. Wonderful book...wonderful! Thanks for recommending it!