Note: Occasionally, as below, I lift a post from an email to a reader. I never do this without the reader’s explicit permission. Thank you for writing, B., and for being willing to share this.
I know what you mean about depression. I think we always expect suffering to be different from the way it actually is, whether that suffering is interior (like depression) or exterior (like betrayal, or physical disease, or somebody’s death). When we’re inside it, it’s no longer obvious that it’s a Trial, or a Test, or a Purging, or whatever: it’s just something that hurts, and all of our usual defenses seem to be gone.
There was a point during one of my darkest times — a time when I went through an intense 9-month depression — when I had what I think is a very important realization: that if God is allowing me to pass through something, then I don’t have to understand it in order for his purpose to be accomplished by it.
To be clearer: I used to feel like I always had to be looking for the “meaning” behind my depression, or looking really hard to see what “lesson” God was trying to teach me through it. And I felt like, if I didn’t find that “lesson”, then the depression would be wasted and I wouldn’t learn anything.
But I don’t think that’s how it works. If I was capable of understanding what the lesson was trying to teach me, then I wouldn’t need the lesson at all. And if God allowed me to go through the pain, but didn’t allow me to see what I was supposed to be getting out of it, it’s because he knew that the pain itself would be a kind of teacher for me.
The crucial thing in all of this is to maintain contact with God in whatever ways you can. This means being faithful to daily prayer, weekly Mass, and confession as often as you can (within reason). This way, we keep the lines open, even if we don’t understand why, and even if we no longer feel that we’re “doing it right” or “getting something out of it” or any of that stuff. The important thing is to stay the course. My spiritual director has frequently told me that some of the time, or maybe most of the time, the only thing God asks of us is that we keep showing up — even when our heart isn’t in it.
Peace & prayers,