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Depression and Spiritual Healing
Depression and Spiritual Healing

Finding Hope in the Depths of Depression 

Friday, May 26, 2023

Diana Gruver writes of finding solace and hope through others who share their experiences:   

As I slogged through seasons of depression … I have found the stories and presence of others who have experienced depression to be invaluable. I hear a hint of something I recognize—an aside, a metaphor, a clue that points to those marks left by the darkness—and I zero in on them. There is someone who knows, I think, someone who understands. They, too, have walked through the valley of the shadow of depression….  

They remind me I am not the only one to walk this road, that this experience is not an alien one. The lie that “surely no one has felt this” is cut down by the truth that others, in fact, have, and their presence makes me feel less isolated. These fellow travelers are my companions in the darkness of night.…  

They give me hope—hope that this is not the end of my story, that I, too, will survive this. Hope that depression will not have the last say. [1] 

Theologian and minister Monica Coleman finds comfort and healing in the spirituals of the Black church: 

The further I’m away from Southern black churches, and the more I understand depression, the more I need spirituals. Created by enslaved Africans in the United States, spirituals express both suffering and dependence on faith…. Like the Psalms of the ancient Hebrew community, the slaves took their emotions to God, putting them to music….  

The spirituals give me a way to be sad without being alone. Because they are sung in community, they say: It’s okay to suffer. We know how you feel. We are suffering too. We all are.  

They aren’t afraid to linger in the painful places. They have no need to rush to praise. They can be slow … drawing out one syllable over tens of seconds … taking their time … waiting.… They knew how to take moans, make them hums, and then turn them into words. They knew how to give voice to pain and how to do it together. 

Thus I’m convinced that when Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” from the cross (Matthew 27:45–46), he wasn’t making a profound theological statement about the hidden God. Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, the spirituals of his people. He was in pain, and he began to sing. In my sanctified imagination, I see the people at the foot of the cross joining him as we do today in my faith community: slowly at first, one voice, then another, humming, then forming words. It sounds like this:  

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.  

sometimes I feel like a motherless child.  

sometimes I feel like a motherless child.  

a long way from home…. 

They remind me that if you stay in a spiritual long enough, you’ll hear God, you’ll feel hope. In the depths of depression, I can think of no greater spiritual gift.  

Reference:  

[1] Diana Gruver, Companions in the Darkness: Seven Saints Who Struggled with Depression and Doubt (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 13. 

[2] Monica A. Coleman, Not Alone: Reflections on Faith and Depression—A 40-Day Devotional (Culver City, CA: Inner Prizes, 2012), 17, 18–19. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—CAC Staff Exercise in Grief and Lamentation credits from left to right: Jennifer Tompos, Jenna Keiper, Jenna Keiper. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

On retreat, the CAC staff used watercolors to connect to our collective grief. This is one of the watercolor paintings that came from that exercise.

Story from Our Community:  

I’ve struggled my whole life with depression, anxiety, complex trauma and many years of addiction. My therapist introduced me to Richard Rohr and his teachings have been monumental in my healing. Although recovery has been long and hard work—and always will be—I am now better able to find peace and love with God and slowly with myself. A very heartfelt thank you to Fr. Richard, the CAC, and the whole community. You truly inspire me to find meaning from my suffering and help others with a loving heart. —Erika C. 

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