How to Overcome Despondency? – Practical Advice from a Priest

Archpriest Peter Guryanov | 14 August 2020

Archpriest Peter Guryanov, Rector of the church dedicated to the “All-Tsaritsa” Icon of the Mother of God in Dimitrovgrad, answered a reader’s question on how to cope with despondency.

Archpriest Peter Guryanov

First of all, if thoughts that the Lord does not love you or that you are unworthy of Holy Communion come to your mind, you should push them away immediately. You should not just go to a church, but run there and you should always remember: the Lord has accepted all kinds of sinners!

I can also give some advice based on my personal experience. I am also an ordinary person, and despondency is not an empty word for me. Sport or any physical work helps me a lot. Our Nizhny Novgorod seminary, where I studied, is attached to a monastery, and its abbot always told us: “Do you want to overcome despondency? Here you go, take shovels, pitchforks, or rakes!” And it helped. Physical labor beats despondency, and, paradoxically, a lasting feeling of fatigue. But this option is more suitable for rural residents. Citizens can find a different type of physical activity. It could be any handicraft, such as embroidery or knitting. Most importantly that your hands should be busy.

Some books also help me to get rid of despondency. For example, you can read “Letters to St. Olympia” by St. John Chrysostom. His words, addressed to his faithful assistant, are relevant now more than ever. I also advise you to read the Optina Elders, who more than once spoke about the importance of labor on the way to overcoming the sin of despondency.

I have another tip from personal experience. Our church, which is currently under construction, is located on the premises of a hospital, where cancer patients are treated. I take spiritual care of its patients. Sometimes it happens that I visit a child there, learn his story, and find out that he was taken twice in intensive care and went through a coma at the age of fifteen… After that I lose any despondency or grumble. During such meetings, I realize clearly that we are incredibly rich people and that we have everything. When you fall into despair, go and help the suffering, communicate with them, and if this is not possible, then at least remember these boys and girls who would like to lead an ordinary life, but are forced to fight for it. Pray for them, even if you don’t know their names, just pray in your own words, and the Lord will certainly send you consolation.

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