Thanks For All the Fleas

Well, dear readers, I have been in a funk. I like the word “funk” because it doesn’t allow me to take it too seriously. DEPRESSION is something medical and serious, it’s a CONDITION. A funk, on the other hand, passes and then you go about your business. Just something that happens, like a summer cold.

Here’s a snippet from George MacDonald1 that sums things up:

They had a feeling, or a feeling had them, till another feeling came and took its place. When a feeling was there, they felt as if it would never go; when it was gone they felt as if it had never been; when it returned, they felt as if it had never gone.2

That’s the way, isn’t it? Moods come and go, and it’s foolish to take any one of them for the way life is. This is true of happy moods as well as sad ones.

Not that all joy is temporary; but all states of mind are temporary. The trick is having a solid foundation, something that lets you hold on to peace even in the middle of an emotional storm; so that, no matter how bad it gets, the bottom never drops out. That’s why the Psalmist is always calling God a rock: something solid, something that isn’t dislodged even when the sea is angry.

I was about to quote St. Paul about “the peace which surpasses all understanding”, but when I looked it up I found that the passage is even more relevant than I remembered:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.3

Rejoice! All the time! St. Paul isn’t saying “be in a happy mood all the time.” If he were, he would be asking the impossible. Telling a depressed person, “Cut it out and be happy!” is about as helpful as telling a poor person, “Be warm! Get fed!”4

But he isn’t doing that. There’s a kind of rejoicing which can be done in the middle of depression, and a kind of peace that lasts through storms.

It has something to do with “prayer and petition, with thanksgiving” — maybe especially the last part. Giving thanks for all of it: the good and the bad, the puppies and the fleas, the light and the shadow. If you can’t think of anything else, give thanks that you have toes and that the sky is blue. Once you get rolling, it gets easier.

Well. Easy enough to say. I’m working on it. Time for my evening prayers.

1 Do you know about George MacDonald?? My parents read me The Golden Key when I was very young, and it left a bigger impression on my imagination than any other 30 pages I can think of. It’s in the public domain, and the full text is here if you want it.
2 From George MacDonald: An Anthology, edited by my other hero, C. S. Lewis. It’s on Google Books here.
3 Philippians 4:4-7.
4 I’m thinking of James 2:16.

18 Comments on “Thanks For All the Fleas”

  1. Sarah says:

    Corrie Ten Boom, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald…what a great “cloud of witnesses” in this post! Thanks for the constant encouragement–both your written words, and the faithfulness you’re striving for in your daily life.

  2. albert says:

    Thank you steve,ii’ll come back to this whenever ii’n in a funk

  3. Perpetua says:

    Great post, Steve…I will try to remember this the next time a funk passes over me!

  4. Beauly says:

    I loved GM’s “Back of the North Wind.” Changed me forever. Sorry about your funk. It must be a full moon; I was funky this weekend too.

  5. Dante says:

    Ok this post just forces me to share with you one of the best Catholic gals I have ever met in my so-called christian life. She is awesome and SO awesome the Church for centuries has made her the special lady and patroness of those struggling with emotional or nervous disorders (which included a whole lot of people these days). Go to this link to meet my special lady (and you wont often hear a gay guy introducing you to his special lady!)

  6. Sarah says:

    George MacDonald’s Lilith is one of my favorite books, but I’ve never read anything else by him.

  7. Jerome Baybayan says:

    I too, feel that funk. Your posts are always on point whenever I come to read you feeling as though I need support. Knowing you feel almost the exact same way that i am feeling really gives me hope. Just know you’re not alone brother. Let’s carry our crosses together. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jerome — that’s really encouraging.

  8. Patric says:

    Thank you!

  9. The Sheepcat says:

    Ah, the ten Booms’ fleas! I love that story.
    Glad your friend Rivka has lightened your burden.
    Keep up the good work. Your blog is refreshing.

  10. Justin says:

    I still don’t understand the concept of joy. I have bipolar disorder so I struggle with depression often. I’ve adopted Blessed Pier-Giorgio Frassati as a patron because he would say that there is no reason to be sad as a Catholic, and there is this awesome photo of him laughing with friends that is just so inspiring. (It doesn’t hurt that he died frozen in time at around age 24 as a very fine specimen of a man if you catch my drift.) I have photos of him all around the house to remind me to be joyful.

    But still, I have trouble comprehending joy. I think someone said that joy has hope as a reference point. I can deal with that. I’ve worked out that joy is not incompatible with depression. So that’s good. But it’s hard to tell when I have joy. Is it joy when all I want to do is die so I can declare victory and be united with my Lord (however painful that may be), and oh by the way, escape this vale of tears? Can I pine for the life to come and hate this life and still have joy? Is joy that quiet conviction that Jesus is always near, calls you lovingly to himself, and “works all things for good” for those who love him? Thoughts anyone?

    1. Lori says:

      Justin, I think that our ache to be with Him is something Paul felt as well – this world is not our home and sometimes we just don’t feel we fit here. That’s probably a good thing; we aren’t getting too comfortable with what this world has to offer, and have set our hearts and minds on something greater.

      I had a long journey through depression and I did learn that the joy of the Lord is our strength. It is not necessarily “happiness.” Rather, I think that it’s understanding that even when circumstances in our lives make us “unhappy” and uncomfortable, we are also being made holy through them – that we are walking hand-in-hand with our LORD and will get through “this.” Truly understanding and believing that brings strength, resolve to persevere, and joy. I think your observation that “joy has hope as a reference point” is absolutely correct.

      I don’t know if any of that made sense, but I just want to let you know I understand your struggle and I’m praying for you.

  11. Lori says:

    This morning I read a passage that reminded me of this post, when you wrote: “Rejoice! All the time! St. Paul isn’t saying “be in a happy mood all the time.”

    In Nehemia 8:10 “…it is the holy day of the Lord, and be not sad: for the joy of the Lord is our strength.”

    I just thought that was beautiful and very true. God bless you brother!

  12. Ron says:

    Thank you, Steve. Everybody has their “funks” now and then. Heck, I could write a book on funk. With the help of God and supportive friends (who have their own funks) we can make it through. The same applies to other difficulties, including SSA.

  13. Christopher says:

    Thanks for the link to the Golden Key. I love George MacDonald. My favorite work by him is probably “The Highlander’s Last Song”, but I lost my copy and it’s really difficult to find these days. The Golden Key has that same quality that you find in The Princess and the Goblin and the Princess and Curdie, which I loved so much. has a number of MacDonald’s works recorded for podcasts. Great if you want to listen to them in the car.

    1. Ooh, never heard of The Highlander’s. Love the Curdie books, though. I’ll check him out on Librivox. GM is like strong drink.

  14. Lacy says:

    Another amazing post and another amazing quote! St. Paul knows his stuff!!

  15. Christopher says:

    Just saw your reply. Check out this link for “Highlander’s last song” – apparently there are more out there than I thought.

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