A Reader’s Question:
Two years ago, I became very seriously ill, and then it began to seem to me that I was losing my mind. I cannot say that I was an exemplary Christian before that, but prayer and reading the Gospel were essential to me (I’ve been living in Europe for some time, and there are no Orthodox churches here, but I attended one at home).
When I got sick, I gradually stopped reading and praying. On the one hand, it was too hard for me, and I also seemed to have ceased to understand the meaning of this.
When I finally went to the doctor, I was diagnosed with recurrent depression of moderate severity, that is, depression recurring at regular intervals. I am still taking medications and see a psychotherapist, and of course I am much better than I was. I am almost back to normal, but I cannot get my faith back. I still have trouble praying sincerely and reading the Gospel carefully. Even worse: I very often feel anger and resentment against God for this test. I can’t understand why it happened to me, what I did wrong; I’m sure prayers won’t help me anymore, so why should I try?
When I go to church, I always start crying from hard memories, resentment, confidence that everything will always be so bad. I can’t say that now I don’t believe in God, but I don’t find any consolation, support or strength in faith. I am often convinced that He left me, that I will continue to suffer, and then I start to get angry.
How can I get rid of such sinful thoughts? How can I find faith again and love the Lord?
Archpriest Andrei Efanov replies:
Dear Yana, when there are so many circumstances in a situation, and there is even depression, a letter is hardly sufficient. Therefore, I will write to you what could be done, based on your message, and will immediately advise you to somehow find an opportunity to personally talk with a priest. You did not write in which country you live, but there are a lot of Orthodox churches in Europe, and they are also on the territory of those countries, the majority of whose population is Catholic or Protestant. Therefore, please see where the nearest Orthodox church is located and try to contact it. Maybe you live near the border and will be able to come to a neighboring European country to visit a church? Think about it.
Perhaps a fairly common situation has happened to you. When a person is just beginning his spiritual life, the Lord bestows upon him special grace. That is why people who take their first steps in the church are so inspired, full of enthusiasm, so happy to attend services, to pray, and to study the Holy Scriptures. And then the moment comes when it’s time to grow up. As in life, parents gradually let the child go so that he can stand on his own feet – first in the literal sense, then in the sense of moral, financial, etc. So does the Lord, as if departing, gives a person an opportunity to feel his strength. He continues to love the person, He is ready to help him, but He knows: the time has come for this person to walk on his own, otherwise he will remain a child in the spiritual sense, but he must grow up.
And now it turns out that the person is not so enthusiastic about prayer and reading Scripture by himself. He is too lazy to get up and go to take part in the congregational prayer in the church, he stops attending the all-night vigils, and then the liturgy, he does not take Holy Communion for a long time. It all becomes so difficult, and it gets more and more difficult to go to church. He leaves reading Scripture and prayer: there are always things that are more important, more interesting for him, there is something else to spend his time on. And soon this person begins to think that all this is not necessary, that there is no point in all of this. This person seems to forget that until recently he saw this meaning, he did everything and knew why. Where does this change come from? It is just the person found himself in a situation when the time has come to rely on his own strength, but he does not want to rely on it, he wants to be taken and carried further in His arms. What should he do? Cry out to God for help and do what he needs to do, even if he has to make himself. If you need to pray, say ‘Lord, help me!’ and start reading prayers. If it is essential to read the Gospel (at least a chapter a day), say ‘Lord, help me! It’s hard, I can’t do it…’ and then open the book and start reading. If you need to look for a church, say ‘Lord, help me!’ and get into a car, bus or train and go there. At first it is very difficult, but gradually you will begin to get up on your feet, you will begin to mature spiritually, your confessions will become more meaningful and deep. Just do not leave the Church and do not stop crying to God for help!
Because at that moment when it would be normal to grow up, the enemy of the human race throws up the thoughts that you listed: everything is meaningless, it is not necessary, God has completely left me… This is a lie! The Lord is here! But one “age” period of inner life is replaced by another. A crisis is inevitable, and we must not give up, but, on the contrary, act!
Perhaps you live in the same model in other areas of life. Depression, which is accompanied by a general decline in the mood, the feeling of meaninglessness, powerlessness, and so on is often the result of the fact that at some key moment a person did not take into his own hands what he had to. For example, taking care of your health, financial well-being, improvement in the profession, and so on. And the recipe here is the same – to understand where you missed your life, and not wait for the outside help, but do what you have to do, because no one will do it for you.
Changing your model of behavior is not easy, but it is a very good thing, and may God grant you good fruits along the way!
God bless you!
Translated by pravmir.com