Monday, July 20, 2009

Lying in the hands of God
A guest post by DANIEL T. LUKASIK, Esq.

Growing up in a Polish-Catholic home, I was more of a cultural Catholic than a church going sort. But, my alcoholic father would make us go with him sometimes. I think it gave him a sense of normalcy; a feeling that he could be with other people without throwing down shots of Jack Daniels at a local watering hole. Only later did I develop any real sense of my own spiritual search. I’m still on that journey. I often don’t know “where” I am going, but I am still walking.

All religions have a lot to say on the topic of suffering, but not so much on the topic of depression. I guess you could say that depression is a “form” of suffering. Personally, I think that doesn’t cut it. When someone says to me, “Well, everyone suffers,” I walk away misunderstood and feeling the worse for the encounter. Maybe there’s not much dialogue about depression in our churches because of the raw fear that faith can’t fix everything.

When I first became sick, I didn’t know I had “depression.” I just thought I was having one of life’s many existential emergencies. I would kneel and pray that God would take away my pain. But, it simply didn’t happen that way. Sometimes, I would God an ultimatum: “You either take away this damn pain, or I’m turning my back on you fella.”

I demanded “a” solution, an answer. One wasn’t forthcoming.

As time went on, something happened. I stopped trying to dictate so many of the terms of my recovery from depression. Instead, I just began to surrender myself. I began to see that God was bigger than my depression. It didn’t mean that I wouldn’t suffer now or in the future from it. But a light appeared in the cracks in depression’s armor. There’s a sense of joyous relief that comes when we stop the war against depression. We lay our burden down.

In the new album by the Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, there’s a beautiful song [listen now] called "Lying in the Hands of God." In one part, Dave sings: “If you feel the angels in your head. Teardrop of Joy runs down your face. You will rise.”

At my best, when I feel “the angels in my head,” I weep with joy knowing that depression doesn’t have the final say in my life. Yes, there will be times when I suffer from it. But it doesn’t last.

In her article written for my Web site, Sister Kathryn James Hermes (who suffers from depression), author of A Contemplative Approach to Depression, wrote that prayer leads us to “. . . vulnerability – the learned powerlessness of the truly powerful who can simply be: simply wait, simply be present, simply wonder, simply trust, that much larger hands are holding us and knows for whom we work in view of a much larger plan that we cannot as yet understand.”

Depression is often a jumble of disjointed thoughts. We don’t know what we want or desire and even if we did, we don’t have the will or energy to take that first step towards these goals. But just as our thoughts are jumbled, so is our will –the precious spark of spirit that God blew into us the day we were conceived. It is still there beneath the rumble of our melancholy. We need to turn away from the voice of depression and towards the desire within us that seeks God mercy and direction. Thomas Merton, that great voice of contemplative monasticism, captures better than I can this aspiration in his prayer:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

"But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from this desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I know nothing about it.

"Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Tune out the drumbeat of depression today. We don’t have to understand or control it all. Try lying in the hands of God awhile and rise.

Visit Daniel T. Lukasik's and his blog.