Life is hard when we’re sad. Yet, even Jesus had moment of sadness. He wept over the death of Lazarus. He certainly was in anguish in the Garden of Olives before his suffering and death on the cross. While Jesus had moments of sadness, he was never depressed.
What’s the difference? Well, “Everyone experiences moments of sadness. If sadness is a cold, depression is a serious flu. They might look similar from a distance, but they’re actually quite different up close. We feel sad when something happens that we wish didn’t… we might feel upset, flat, teary, or even in pain depending on what’s caused it. When you’re sad about one thing, you can usually still feel happy about other things. Like the weather, sad feelings come and go as a part of life…. it reminds us that we care about stuff. Depression is very different…. it throws itself over every situation…. it hangs around longer than sadness and impacts more areas of your life. It’s a pair of glasses that makes everything look negative – yourself, others, the world and the future.” (ref.beyondblue.org)
St. Francis de Sales lends a spiritual perspective to this topic. He says that “sadness is the worst thing in the world, sin alone excepted…. sadness is the work of the spirit of darkness”. I think Francis was referring to depression more than sadness. While moments of sadness are clearly part of being human and even appropriate, depression is debilitating. It confuses and colors everything with a blanket of doom. We need to fight depression.
The saints give us some remedies to counteract depression (prolonged sadness). “Always be as happy as you can in well doing, for it gives a double value to good works …. to be done well and to be done cheerfully. Even when you fail, persevere in the wish to do well… live joyfully and be generous, for this is the will of God. (Imitations of Christ, B.III.Ch.47)
St. Thomas Aquinas advises us to have some diversions in our life… ”one may even incur sin by refusing all innocent amusement…recreation and amusements are to the life of the soul what seasoning is to food. When you find your heart growing sad, divert yourself without a moment’s delay; make a visit, enter into conversation with those around you, read some amusing book, take a walk, sing a song, do something, it matters not what provided you close the door of your heart against this terrible enemy.” (Light & Peace, Quadrupani, Ch. XV)
Well, I guess it’s naïve to think we can just read a few sentences and rid the world of depression and its drastic effects; nevertheless, the truth can set us free. While momentary sadness is part of life and every human experiences it, depression is not God’s plan for us. May the truth of God’s love and provision for us, keep us on the right path. If we fail, Christ is there to forgive us and help us to get up and begin anew. Also if you’re worried about the future, turn to the back of the Book (Bible) … God wins.
And finally remember to have a good laugh every day. With that in mind, let me end with THE SENILITY PRAYER :
“Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, The good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference. “