Here is the real story of one of our contemporaries. He is 35. He is quite a successful businessman. He has a beautiful and modest wife and a little daughter, there is a big apartment in Moscow, a dacha, two cars, lots of friends … He has something that very many people strive for and dream of. But none of this pleases him. He forgot what joy is. Every day he is oppressed by longing, from which he is trying to hide in business, but without success. He considers himself an unhappy person, but cannot say why. There is money. Health, youth – is. But there is no happiness.
He is trying to fight, to find a way out. She regularly visits a psychologist, several times a year she goes to special seminars. After them, for a short time, relieved, but then everything returns to normal. He says to his wife: "Let this not make me feel any better, but at least they understand me there." He tells friends and family that he suffers from depression.
In his position there is one special circumstance, which we will talk about later. And now I have to admit that, unfortunately, this is not an isolated example. There are many such people. Of course, not all of them are in such a seemingly advantageous position, so they often say: I’m sad because I don’t have enough money, I don’t have my apartment, or the work is wrong, my wife is ill-tempered, my husband is a drunkard, or the car is broken, or there is no health and so on and so forth. It seems to them that if there was a little something to change and improve, then the longing would pass. They spend a lot of energy on achieving what they think they are lacking, but they barely manage to achieve what they want, as again, after a brief joy, longing comes. You can sort out apartments, workplaces, women, cars, friends, hobbies, but nothing can satisfy this devouring hopeless grief once and for all. And the better off a person is, the more tormented he is, as a rule, as a rule.
Psychologists define this condition as depression. They describe it as a mental disorder, usually arising after negative events in a person’s life, but often developing without any apparent reason. Currently, depression is the most common mental illness.
The main symptoms of depression: depressed mood, independent of the circumstances; loss of interest or pleasure from a previously enjoyable activity; fatigue, “breakdown”.
Additional symptoms: pessimism, guilt, futility, anxiety and fear, inability to concentrate and make decisions, thoughts of death and suicide; unstable appetite, disturbed sleep – insomnia or sleep.
In order to be diagnosed with depression, the presence of two main and two additional symptoms is sufficient.
If a person has found these symptoms in himself – what should he do? Many go to psychologists. And what do they get? Firstly, self-smoking talk, and secondly, antidepressant pills, of which there are a great many. Psychologists say that depression in most cases is successfully treated. But at the same time recognize that this is the most common mental illness. Here we see a contradiction: for if the disease is successfully treated, then why does it not disappear, and the number of patients even increases with time? For example, smallpox has been successfully completed, and for a long time there are no people who would get sick of it. And with depression, the opposite is true. Why?
Is it not because only the manifestations of the disease are cured, and its original bases are still preserved in the souls of people, like the roots of weeds, which again and again release harmful growths?
Psychology is a young science. It received official registration only 130 years ago, when in 1879 V. Wundtokryl in the city of Leipzig was the first laboratory of experimental psychology.
Orthodoxy is 2,000 years old. And it has its own view on the phenomenon, which psychology calls "depression." And with this view it would not be superfluous to familiarize those who are really interested in the possibility of successfully getting rid of depression.
In Orthodoxy, to refer to this state of the soul, the word "despondency" is used. This is a painful condition in which a melancholy mood penetrates into the soul, becoming permanent over time, comes a feeling of loneliness, abandonment by relatives, friends, all people in general, and even God. Two main kinds of despondency are distinguished: despondency with complete depression of the spirit, without feeling any anger, and despondency with an admixture of anger, irritability.
This is how the ancient holy fathers of the Church speak of despondency.
“Despondency is the relaxation of the soul and exhaustion of the mind, the slanderer of God is as if He is merciless and inhuman,” (Rev. John of the Ladder).
“Despondency is a heavy torture of the soul, an unspeakable agony and punishment more bitter than any punishment and torment” (St. John Chrysostom).
This state is also found in believers, and among non-believers it is even more common. About them the elder Paissy the Holy Trinity said: “A person who does not believe in God and in the next life exposes his immortal soul to eternal condemnation and lives without consolation in this life. Nothing can comfort him. He is afraid of losing his life, he suffers, he goes to psychiatrists who give him pills and advise him to have some fun. He takes pills, makes a fool, and then walks back and forth to see the sights and forget the pain. ”
And this is how St. Innocent of Kherson wrote about this: “Do sinners who are not joyful about the salvation of their souls suffer from despondency? Yes, and more often than anyone, although, apparently, their life consists mostly of amusements and pleasures. Even in all fairness, it can be said that internal discontent and secret melancholy are a constant share of sinners. For conscience, no matter how drowned it, as the worm sharpens the heart. The involuntary, deep presentiment of the future judgment and retribution also disturbs the sinful soul and grieves for her the insane pleasures of sensuality. The most inveterate sinner at times feels that within him is emptiness, darkness, ulcer and death. Hence the irrepressible inclination of the unbelievers to incessant entertainment, to forgetting and being beside themselves.
What can an unbeliever say about their despondency? It is good for them; for it is a calling and a motive to repentance. And let them not think that there is any means for them to free themselves from this spirit of despondency, until they turn to the path of truth and correct themselves and their morals. The vain pleasures and pleasures of the earth will never fill the emptiness of the heart: our soul is more spacious than the whole world. On the contrary, with the continuation of time, the carnal joys will lose the power to entertain and charm the soul and turn into a source of mental and boredom. ”
Someone may argue: is it that every sad state is despondency? No, not all. Sadness and grief, if they are not rooted in a person, are not a disease. They are inevitable on the arduous earthly path, as the Lord warned: “In the world you will have tribulation; But recklessly: I have overcome the world ”(John 16: 33).
The Monk John Cassian teaches that “only in one case sorrow should be considered useful to us when it arises from repentance of sins, or from the desire for perfection, or from contemplating future bliss. The holy apostle says of her: “Grief for the sake of God produces unchanging repentance to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death ”(2 Cor. 7: 10). But this sadness, which produces repentance to salvation, is obedient, affable, humble, gentle, pleasant, patient, like that derived from the love of God, and in some way cheerful, encouraging with the hope of its perfection. And demonic sadness can be very harsh, impatient, cruel, combined with barren sadness and painful despair. Loosening the victim, she distracts from zeal and salvation grief, as reckless … So, besides the above good sorrow, which comes from saving repentance, or from jealousy to perfection, or from the desire for future goods, every sadness, like worldly and causing death, must be rejected, driven out of our hearts. "
The first consequence of gloom
As St. Tikhon of Zadonsky rightly notes, from a practical point of view, this “worldly sorrow is useless, because it cannot return or give a person anything of what he grieves.”
But from the spiritual side, it also bears great harm. “Avoid despondency, for it destroys all the fruits of asceticism,” said the Reverend Isaiah the Hermit.
Rev. Isaiah wrote for monks, that is, for those who already know the basic principles of spiritual life, in particular, that the patient endurance of sorrows and self-restraint for the sake of God brings rich fruit in the form of cleansing the heart from sinful dirt.
How can despondency deprive a person of this fetus?
You can take a comparison from the world of sports. Any athlete is forced to endure hard work during training. And in wrestling sports, you still have to experience real blows. And outside of training an athlete seriously limits himself to food.
So, he cannot eat what he wants, cannot go where he wants, and must do what brings him to exhaustion and causes real pain. However, with all this, if an athlete does not lose the goal for which he endures all this, then his stubbornness is rewarded: the body becomes stronger and more enduring, patience hardens it and makes it stronger, more skillful, and as a result it reaches its goal.
It happens to the body, but the same thing happens to the soul when it suffers falling out of suffering or limitations for the sake of God.
An athlete who has lost a goal, stopped believing that he can achieve a result, becomes disheartened, training for him becomes meaningless torture, and even if you force him to continue them, he will no longer become a champion, which means that he will lose fruit from all his labors who voluntarily or involuntarily underwent.
It can be assumed that this happens with the soul of a person who has become disheartened, and this will be true, since this depression is the result of a loss of faith, lack of faith. But this is only one side of the matter.
Another is that despondency often causes and is accompanied by grumbling. The murmur is manifested in the fact that a person shifts all responsibility for his suffering to others, and ultimately to God, considers himself innocently suffering and complains all the time, and scolds those who, in his opinion, are to blame for his suffering – and the “guilty ones” become more and more as the person mumbles the murmur and becomes embittered deeper into sin.
This is the gravest sin and the greatest folly.
The essence of grumbling can be represented by a simple example. Here a person comes up to the outlet, reads the inscription above it: “Do not stick your fingers – it will hit you with a shock”, then pops your fingers into the outlet – a blow! – he flies off to the opposite wall and begins to cry: “Oh, what a bad God! Why did He let a current strike me ?! For what?! What is it for me ?! Ah, this God is to blame for everything! ”
A person, of course, can start with swearing at the electrician, the outlet, the one who discovered the electricity and so on, but he will end up by all means accusing God. This is the essence of grumbling. This is a sin against God. And the one who grumbles at circumstances implies that the One Who sent these circumstances is guilty, although he could have made them different. Therefore, among the grumblers, there are so many “offended at God”, and vice versa, “those offended at God” constantly complain.
But, I ask, what are you, did God force his fingers to poke into the socket?
In grumbling, spiritual and psychological infantilism is manifested: a person refuses to take responsibility for his actions, refuses to see that what is happening with him is a natural consequence of his actions, his choice, his whim. And instead of admitting the obvious, he begins to look for the guilty, and the most patient, naturally, turns out to be the most extreme.
And it is precisely with this sin that the stagnation of humanity began. How was it? The Lord said: Eat of any tree, only do not eat of it. Just one commandment, and how simple. But the man went and ate. God asked him: “Adam, why did you eat?” The Holy Fathers say that if at this moment our progenitor said: “I have sinned, Lord, forgive me, my fault, it will not happen again”, then there would be no exile and the whole history of mankind would be different. But instead, Adam says, “What am I? I am nothing, this is all the wife you gave me … "Here it is! Here is the first who began to shift the responsibility for their own actions to God!
Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise not for sin, but for their unwillingness to repent, which manifested itself in grumbling – at the neighbor and at God.
This is a great danger to the soul.
As St. Theophan the Recluse says, “shaky health can shake and salvation, when from the mouth of the sick one can hear murderous speeches.” Likewise, the poor, if they indignantly indulge and beg from poverty, will not receive forgiveness.
After all, grumbling does not relieve from trouble, but only makes it heavier, and the humble obedience to the definitions of the Providence of God and complacency take away the troubles. Therefore, if a person, having met with difficulties, does not grumble, but glorifies God, then the devil bursts with anger and goes to another – to the one who grumbles to cause him even greater trouble. After all, the more a person grumbles, the more he destroys himself.
Revelation John of the Ladder, who composed such a spiritual portrait of the grumbler, testifies how exactly these destructions are manifested: “A grumbler, when they give him orders, contradicts the matter is unfit; in such a person there is not even a good disposition, because he is lazy, and laziness is inseparable from grumbling. He is quirky and multi-resourceful; and no one will surpass him in verbosity; he always slanders one another. The grumbler in matters of charity is sullen, he is not capable of receiving strangers, is hypocritical in love. ”
It would not be superfluous to give one example here. This story happened in the early 40s of the XIX century in one of the southern provinces of Russia.
One widow, a woman from the upper class, with two young daughters, suffered great need and grief, began to grumble first at people, and then at God. In such a mood, she fell ill and died. After the death of the mother, the position of two orphans became even harder. The eldest of them also could not resist the grumbling and also fell ill and died. The younger sister grieved excessively both about the death of the mother and sister, and about her extremely helpless position. Finally, she became seriously ill. And this girl saw in the spiritual vision filled with unspeakable beauty and joy paradise villages. Then she was shown the terrible places of torment, and here she saw her sister and mother, and then she heard a voice: “I sent them sorrow in their earthly lives to save them; if they had endured everything with patience, humility and thanksgiving, they would have been granted eternal delight in the blessed villages you saw. But with their grumbling they have spoiled everything, and now they suffer for it. If you want to be with them, go and you and the murmurs ”. After that, the girl came to her senses and told about the vision of those present.
Here, just as in the example of an athlete: who sees the goal ahead, believes that it is achievable, and hopes that he will be able to achieve it personally – he can bear the burden, limitations, work and pain. A Christian, who tolerates all those sorrows that an unbeliever or a little believer exposes as reasons for discouragement, has a higher and saintly goal than any athlete.
It is known how great the saints are. Even many unbelievers recognize and respect their exploits. There are various orders of holiness, but among them the highest are martyrs, that is, those who have died for confessing Christ. The next rank after them is confessors. It was those who suffered for Christ who endured torture, but remained faithful to God. Many of the confessors were thrown into prisons, like St. Theophanes the Confessor; others have their hands and tongues cut off, like to St. Maxim the Confessor, or have their eyes plucked out, like to St. Paphnutius the Confessor; others were tortured, like St. Theodore the Outlined … And they endured all this for the sake of Christ. Great deal!
Many will say that they, ordinary people, can hardly afford it. But in Orthodoxy, there is one important principle that allows each person to become holy and reckoned among confessors: if someone praises and thanks God for his misfortune, he bears the feat of the confessor. Here is how the elder Paisius the Holy Trinity speaks about this:
“Let’s imagine that I was born crippled, without arms, without legs. Completely relaxed and unable to move. If I accept it with joy and thanksgiving, God will count me among the confessors. So little must be done for God to count me among the confessors! When I myself bump into my rock in my car and accept with joy what happened, God will count me among the confessors. Well, what more could I want? Even the result of my own carelessness, if I gladly accept it, God will recognize. "
But such a great opportunity and purpose is deprived of a person who has become despondent; it closes his spiritual eyes and plunges him into a murmur, which cannot help a person with anything, and brings a lot of harm.
Second consequence of gloom
That is the first consequence of gloom – grumbling. And if anything could be worse and more dangerous, then this is the second consequence, because of which Reverend Seraphim of Sarov said: “There is no worse sin, and there is nothing worse and more pernicious than the spirit of despondency.”
“Despondency and persistent anxiety can crush the power of the soul and bring it to the point of utter exhaustion,” says St. John Chrysostom.
This extreme exhaustion of the soul is called despair, and this is the second consequence of despondency, if only a person fails to cope with this sin in time.
Here is how the holy fathers speak about this stage:
“Despair is called the gravest sin of all sins in the world, because this sin rejects the omnipotence of our Lord Jesus Christ, rejects the salvation given by Him – shows that pride and pride prevailed in this soul, that faith and humility were alien to it” (St. Ignatius (Ignatius) Bryanchaninov)).
“Satan maliciously tries to grieve many in order to plunge them into hell with despair” (Rev. Ephraim the Syrian). “The spirit of despair brings the most painful torment. Despair is the absolute joy of the devil ”(Rev. Mark the Ascetic).
“Not so sin destroys as despair” (St. John Chrysostom). “To sin is a human matter, but to despair is satanic and destructive; and the devil himself is thrown into desolation by despair, for he did not want to repent ”(Rev. Nil Sinai).
“For this the devil plunges us into the thoughts of despair, to destroy hope in God, this safe anchor, this support of our life, this leader on the way to Heaven, this salvation of perishing souls … Evil takes everything to instill in us thoughts of despair. He will no longer need the efforts and efforts for our defeat, when the fallen and lying themselves will not want to resist him … and the soul, once desperate for its salvation, no longer feels like it seeks into the abyss ”(St. John Chrysostom).
Despair already leads directly to death. It precedes suicide, the most terrible sin that immediately sends a person to hell – a place remote from God, where there is no God’s light, and there is no joy, one gloom and eternal despair. Suicide is the only sin that cannot be forgiven, because a suicide cannot repent.
“During the free suffering of the Lord, two fell away from the Lord — Jude and Peter: one sold and the other rejected three times. Both had an equal sin, both sinned gravely, but Peter escaped, and Judas died. Why aren’t both saved and both killed? Someone will say that Peter was saved by repenting. But the Holy Gospel says that Judas also repented: “… repenting, he returned thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying: I have sinned, betraying innocent blood” (Matt. 27: 3–4); however, his repentance is not accepted, but Petrovo is accepted; Peter was saved, and Judas died. Why so? But because Peter repented with hope and hope in the mercy of God, Judah repented with despair. This abyss is terrible! No doubt, it is necessary to fill it with hope for God’s mercy ”(Saint Demetrius of Rostov).
“Judas the traitor, having come to despair,“ hanged himself ”(Matt. 27: 5). He knew the power of sin, but he did not know the greatness of God’s mercy. So many people do now and follow Judas. They know many of their sins, but they do not know many of God’s bounty and so despair of their salvation. Christian! heavy and last devilish blow – despair. He, before sin, represents God to the merciful, and after sin to the righteous. Such is his cunning ”(St. Tikhon of Zadonsky).
So, tempting a person to sin, Satan inspires him with the thought: “God is good, He will forgive”, and after sin he tries to plunge into despair, inspiring completely different thoughts: “God is just, and He will punish you for what you have done” . The devil inspires man that he will never be able to get out of the pit of sin, will not be pardoned by God, will not be able to receive forgiveness and correct.
Despair is the death of hope. If it comes, then only a miracle can save a person from suicide.
How does the despondency and its generations
Despondency manifests itself even in facial expressions and human behavior: facial expression, which is called so – sad, lowered shoulders, bowed head, lack of interest in the environment and its condition. There may be a permanent decrease in blood pressure. Also characterized by lethargy, inertia of the soul. The mood of others is puzzling, annoying and overt or hidden protest.
St. John Chrysostom said that "the soul, embraced by sadness, cannot speak or listen to anything sound," and the Monk Nil Sinai testified: "As the patient does not bear the heavy burden, so despondent cannot carefully accomplish God’s work; for the body is in disorder, but it does not have the strength of the soul. ”
According to the Reverend John Kassian, such a state of a person “does not allow either to perform prayers with the usual zeal of the heart, nor to use the sacred reading with use, does not allow to be calm and meek with the brothers; to all duties of labor or worship makes him impatient and incapable, intoxicates feeling, crushes and suppresses with painful despair. Like a mole to a dress and a worm to a tree, so sadness hurts a person’s heart. ”
Further, the holy father lists the manifestations of this sinful, sickly state: “Discontent, faint-heartedness, irritability, idleness, drowsiness, anxiety, vagrancy, inconstancy of mind and body, talkativeness are born out of despondency … Whatever it starts to overcome, will make it lazy, carefree, without any spiritual success; then he will make impermanent, idle, careless to every work. ”
These are manifestations of gloom. And despair has even more severe manifestations. A despairing person, that is, who has lost hope, often indulges in drug addiction, drunkenness, fornication, and many other obvious sins, believing himself still dead. The extreme manifestation of despair, as already mentioned, is suicide.
Every year on the globe a million people commit suicide. It is terrible to think about this number, which exceeds the population of many countries.
In our country, the highest number of suicides was in 1995. Compared to this indicator, by 2008 it has decreased by one and a half times, but still Russia remains among the countries with the highest suicide rate.
Indeed, there are more suicides in poor and dysfunctional countries than in rich and economically stable ones. This is not surprising, since in the first people have more reasons for despondency. But even the richest countries and the richest people are not free from this misfortune. Because under the external well-being, the soul of an unbeliever often feels even sharper than the emptiness and constant dissatisfaction, as was the case with the successful businessman, which we remembered at the beginning of the article.
But his from the terrible fate, which annually catches up with a million people, can save the special circumstance which he has and which many of those unfortunates are deprived of, that they bring themselves to the suicide by despair.
What makes despondency and its creatures grow
Despondency arises from distrust of God, so it can be said that this is the fruit of little faith.
But what is, in turn, distrust of God and lack of trust? It does not arise by itself, out of nowhere. It is a consequence of the fact that a person trusts himself too much, because of too high an opinion about himself. And the more a person trusts himself, the less he trusts God. And trusting yourself more than God is the clearest sign of pride.
The first root of gloom is pride
Therefore, according to Rev. Anatoly Optina, “despair is a product of pride. If you expect everything bad from yourself, you will never get discouraged, but only reconcile yourself and you will repent peacefully. ” “Despair is the accuser of those who were in the heart of unbelief and selfhood: he who believes in himself and relies on himself will not rise from repentance from sin” (St. Theophan the Recluse).
As soon as something happens in the life of a proud man that exposes his powerlessness and the groundlessness of trust in himself, he immediately becomes despondent and despair.
And this can happen from a variety of reasons: from offended pride or from what is not done in our own way; also from vanity, when a person sees that his peers enjoy greater advantages than he does; or from the constraints of life, as indicated by Rev. Ambrose of Optina.
A humble man who believes in God knows that with these unpleasant circumstances his faith is tested and strengthened, as the muscles of the athlete strengthen in training; He knows that God is near and that He will not put tests to the test more than can be borne. Such a person who hopes in God never becomes discouraged even in difficult circumstances.
The proud man, hoping for himself, as soon as he finds himself in difficult circumstances, which he himself cannot change, immediately becomes disheartened, thinking that if he cannot fix what happened, then no one can fix it; and at the same time he pines and is irritated because these circumstances have shown him his own weakness, which the proud man cannot bear calmly.
It is precisely because despondency and despair is a consequence and, in a certain sense, a demonstration of disbelief in God, one of the saints said: “In a moment of despair, know that it’s not the Lord who leaves you, but the Lord!”
So, pride and lack of faith are one of the main causes of despondency and despair, but still not the only ones.
St. John of the Ladder speaks of two main types of despair, originating from different causes: “There is despair resulting from a multitude of sins and aggravation of conscience and unbearable sadness, when the soul, because of so many ulcers, sinks and is immersed in the depths of hopelessness. But there is despair of another kind, which comes from pride and sacrifice, when the fallen ones think that they did not deserve their fall … From the first one heal abstinence and trustworthiness; and from the latter, humility and not judging anyone. ”
The second root of gloom is dissatisfaction of passions.
So, as for the second kind of despair that comes from pride, we have already shown above what its mechanism is. And what is meant by the first kind, “derived from a multitude of sins”?
This kind of discouragement, according to the holy fathers, comes when any passion has not found satisfaction. As Reverend John Cassian writes, despondency is “born out of dissatisfaction with the desire for some self-interest, when someone sees that he has lost the hope born in the mind to get some things”.
For example, a glutton, suffering from a peptic ulcer or diabetes, will be discouraged because he cannot enjoy the desired amount of food or the variety of its taste; a stingy person – because he cannot avoid wasting money, and so on. Despondency is accompanied by almost any unsatisfied sinful desires, unless a person refuses them for one reason or another.
Therefore, Rev. Neil Sinaisky says: “He who is bound by sorrow, is defeated by passions, because sorrow is the consequence of failure in carnal desire, and desire is conjugated with all passion. Those who conquer passions do not own sorrow. As the patient is visible in complexion, so passionate exposes sadness. He who loves the world will grieve a lot. And whoever cares about what is in the world will always have fun. ”
As the despondency in a person grows, concrete desires lose their meaning, and the state of mind remains, which finds precisely those desires whose fulfillment is impossible to achieve — this is to feed the despondency itself.
Then, according to the testimony of Rev. John Cassian, “we are subjected to such grief that we cannot accept even our kind faces and our relatives with ordinary friendliness, and whatever they said in a decent conversation, everything seems to us untimely and superfluous, and we don’t give they have a pleasant answer when all the bends of our heart are filled with bile bitterness. ”
Because despondency is like a swamp: the longer a person dives into it, the harder it is to get out of it.
Other roots of gloom
The reasons that excite despondency in unbelievers and in unlikely people have been described above. However, despondency attacks, though less successfully, on believers. But for other reasons. Saint Innocent of Kherson writes in detail about these reasons:
“There are many sources of despondency, both external and internal.
First, in souls pure and close to perfection, despondency can result from leaving them temporarily by the grace of God. The state of grace is the most blissful. But in order that he who is in this state does not think that it comes from his own perfections, grace is sometimes removed, leaving his pet to himself. Then it is the same with the holy soul, as if midnight came in the middle of the day: in the soul there is darkness, coldness, death, and at the same time despondency.
Secondly, despondency, as evidenced by people experienced in the spiritual life, is caused by the action of the spirit of darkness. Not able to seduce the soul on the way to heaven with the benefits and pleasures of the world, the enemy of salvation turns to the oppressive means and leads to despondency. In this state, the soul is like a traveler, suddenly caught in mist and mist: he does not see what is ahead or what is behind; does not know what to do; loses vigor, falls into indecision.
The third source of despondency is our fallen, unclean, exhausted nature, which has become dead from sin. As long as we act according to pride, we are filled with the spirit of the world and passions, so far this nature in us is cheerful and alive. But change the direction of life, get out of the wide path of the world to the narrow path of Christian self-denial, take up repentance and self-correction — emptiness will immediately open up inside you, spiritual helplessness will be revealed, heart deadness will be felt. As long as the soul does not have time to be filled with a new spirit of love for God and neighbor, so far the spirit of despondency, to a greater or lesser extent, is inevitable for it. This kind of gloom is most experienced by sinners after their conversion.
The fourth, ordinary source of spiritual despondency, is a drawback, much less the cessation of activity. Having ceased to use his strengths and abilities, the soul loses its vitality and vigor, becoming sluggish; former occupations themselves oppose it: discontent and boredom.
Despondency can also occur from various sad events in life, such as: the death of relatives and loved ones, loss of honor, wealth and other unfortunate adventures. All this, according to the law of our nature, is associated with trouble and sorrow for us; but, according to the law of nature itself, sadness must diminish with time and disappear when a person does not surrender to sadness. Otherwise, a spirit of gloom is formed.
There can be despondency from some thoughts, especially dark and heavy, when the soul is too indulged in such a thought and looks at things not in the light of faith and the Gospel. Thus, for example, a person can easily become discouraged from frequent thoughts about the untruth that dominates the world, about how the righteous here grieve and suffer, and the wicked rise and bliss.
Finally, various painful conditions of the body, especially some of its members, can be a source of despondency. ”
How to deal with despondency and its creatures
The great Russian holy saint Reverend Seraphim of Sarov said: “It is necessary to remove despondency from oneself and try to have a joyful spirit, and not a sad one. According to Sirach, “the sorrow of many has killed, but there is no use in it (Sir. 31: 25)” ”.
But how exactly can you remove despondency from yourself?
Let us recall the unfortunate young businessman mentioned at the beginning of the article, who for many years could do nothing with the despondency that gripped him. He was convinced in his experience of the words of St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov): “Earthly entertainment only drowns the grief, but does not destroy it: they are silent, and again the grief, rested and, as it were, strengthened by rest, begins to act with greater force.”
Now it’s time to tell more about that particular circumstance in the life of this businessman, which we mentioned earlier.
His wife is a deeply religious person, and she is free from that gloomy, impenetrable longing, which envelops the life of her husband. He knows that she is a believer, that she goes to church and reads Orthodox books, as well as the fact that she does not have “depression”. But for all those years that they were together, it never occurred to him to tie these facts together and try to go to the temple himself, read the Gospel … He still regularly goes to the psychologist, getting a short-term relief, but not healing.
How many people suffer from this mental illness, not wanting to believe that healing is very near. And this businessman, unfortunately, is one of them. We would like to write that one day he became interested in faith, which gives his wife the strength not to succumb to despondency and preserve the pure joy of life. But, alas, so far this has not happened. And until then, he will remain among those unfortunates of whom Saint Dimitry of Rostov said: “The righteous do not have sorrow, which would not be transformed into joy, as there is no joy among sinners, which would not turn into sadness.”
But if suddenly this businessman turned to the treasury of the Orthodox faith, what would he know about his condition and what methods of healing would he receive?
He would have learned, among other things, that there is a spiritual reality in the world and that there are spiritual beings: good – angels and evil – demons. The latter, in their malice, seek to cause as much harm as possible to the soul of man, turning him away from God and from the path to salvation. These are enemies seeking to kill a person both spiritually and physically. For their purposes, they use different methods, among them the most common is the suggestion to people of certain thoughts and feelings. Including the thoughts of gloom and despair.
The trick is that demons try to convince a person that they are his own thoughts. An unbelieving or unbelieving person is completely unprepared for such temptation and does not know how to treat such thoughts; he really takes them for his own. And, following them, closer and closer to death — in the same way, the traveler in the desert, having taken the mirage as a true vision, begins to chase after him and goes farther and deeper into the lifeless desert.
A believing and spiritually experienced person knows about the existence of an enemy and about his cunning, knows how to recognize his thoughts and cut them off, thereby successfully confronting demons and defeating them.
A dull person is not one who has desires of despondency at times, but one who is defeated by them and does not fight. And on the contrary, it is not the one who has never experienced such thoughts that is free from despondency — there are no such people on earth, but the one who fights with them and defeats them.
St. John Chrysostom said: "Excessive despondency is more harmful than any demonic action, because the demons, if they are in power, then rule in despondency."
But if a person was deeply struck by the spirit of despondency, if the demons got such power in him, then the person himself did something that gave them such power over him.
It has already been said above that one of the reasons for disbelief among unbelievers is the lack of faith in God and, accordingly, the lack of a living connection with Him, the source of all joy and goodness. But the lack of faith is rarely something for man.
Faith in man is killed by unrepentant sin. If a person sins and does not want to repent and refuse to sin, then sooner or later he inevitably loses faith.
Conversely, faith is resurrected in sincere repentance and confession of sins.
Unbelievers themselves deprive themselves of the two most effective ways of dealing with depression — repentance and prayer. “The extermination of despondency is served by prayer and incessant meditation on God,” writes the Monk Ephraim Sirin.
It is necessary to give a list of the main means of dealing with despondency that a Christian has. Saint Innocent of Kherson speaks about them:
“From whatever despair comes, prayer is always the first and last means against it. In prayer, a person becomes directly the face of God: but if, standing against the sun, it is impossible not to light up the light and not feel the warmth, the more light and spiritual warmth are the immediate consequences of the prayer. Besides this, prayer attracts grace and help from above, from the Holy Spirit, and where the Spirit Comforter is, there is no place for despondency, there the grief itself will be in sweetness.
Reading or listening to the word of God, especially the New Testament, is also a powerful remedy against despondency. It is not in vain that the Savior called to Him all who were toil and burdened, promising them peace and joy. He did not take this joy with him to heaven, but wholly left him in the gospel for all those who mourn and are despondent in spirit. He who is imbued with the spirit of the Gospel, ceases to mourn dismally: for the spirit of the Gospel is the spirit of peace, tranquility and consolation.
Divine services, and especially the holy sacraments of the Church, are also great healers against the spirit of discouragement, for in the church, like the house of God, there is no place for it; the sacraments are all directed against the spirit of darkness and the weaknesses of our nature, especially the sacrament of confession and communion. Removing the burden of sins from themselves through confession, the soul feels light and cheerful, and accepting the brush of the body and blood of the Lord in the Eucharist, feels revival and joy.
Interviewing people rich in Christian spirit is also a remedy for discouragement. In the interview we generally emerge more or less from the gloomy depth of the inner, into which the soul plunges from despondency; besides this, by exchanging thoughts and feelings in the interview, we borrow from talking with us some kind of strength and vitality, which is so necessary in a state of despondency.
Thinking about comforting things. For the thought in a sad state either does not work at all, or whirls around sad objects. To get rid of gloom, you must force yourself to think about otherwise.
Self-employment with bodily labor also drives away despondency. Let him begin to work, even reluctantly; let him continue to work, although without success: from the movement, first the body comes to life, and then the spirit also feels cheerful; thought among labor will turn invisibly away from objects that were depressing, and this already means a lot in a state of despondency. ”
Why is prayer the most effective remedy against discouragement? For many reasons.
First, when we pray during despondency, we are fighting against the devil who is trying to plunge us into this despondency. He does this so that we despair and depart from God, this is his plan; when we turn to God with a prayer, we destroy the enemy’s tricks, showing that we did not fall into his trap, did not surrender to him, but on the contrary, we use his machinations as a reason to strengthen the connection with God that the dev tried to cut off .
Secondly, since despondency is in most cases a consequence of our pride, prayer helps to heal from this passion, that is, it pulls the root of despondency from the earth. After all, every humble prayer asking God for help — even as short as “Lord, have mercy!” Means that we recognize our weakness and limitations and begin to trust God more than ourselves. Therefore, each such prayer, even uttered through force, is a blow to pride, like the blow of a huge weight that destroys the walls of dilapidated houses.
And finally, thirdly, the most important thing: prayer helps because it is an appeal to God, who alone can really help in any, even the most hopeless situation; the only one who is able to give real consolation and joy and freedom from despondency. "
In sorrows and temptations the Lord helps us. He does not free us from them, but gives us the power to carry easily, not even to notice them.
If we are with Christ and in Christ, then no sorrow will embarrass us, and joy will fill our hearts so that we will rejoice in sorrows and temptations ”(Rev. Nikon Optina).
What exactly prayers are advised to read against discouragement?
Some advise praying to the guardian angel who is always invisible next to us, ready to support us. Others advise that the akathist be read to Jesus the Sweet. There is also advice many times in a row to read the prayer “Virgin to the Virgin, rejoice,” with the hope that the Lord will certainly give peace to our soul for the sake of the prayers of the Mother of God.
But the advice of St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov), who recommended repeating such words and prayers as often as possible, deserves special attention.
"Thank God for everything".
“Lord! I surrender to Your Holy will! Be with me your will. ”
“Lord! I thank you for all that you are pleased to send to me. ”
“I accept the worthy of my deeds; Remember me, O Lord, in your kingdom. "
The Holy Fathers noted that in despondency, it is especially hard for a person to pray. Therefore, not everyone will be able to fulfill the big prayer rules at once, but everyone can say the short prayers that St. Ignatius pointed out, it is not difficult.
As for the reluctance to pray in despondency and despair, we need to understand that this is not our feeling, but the universe infused in us by a demon with the intention of depriving us of the weapons with which we can defeat it.
Prelate Tikhon of Zadonsk says so about this unwillingness to pray with discouragement: “I advise you the following: convince yourself and force yourself to pray and to every good work, although you do not want to. Like a lazy horse, people are driven away with a whip so that it can walk or run, so we need to force ourselves to do any business, and especially to prayer. Seeing such work and diligence, the Lord will give hunt and zeal. "
Of the four phrases proposed by St. Ignatius, two are thankful phrases. He explains himself why they are given: “In particular, thanks to God, sorrowful thoughts are driven away; in the invasion of such thoughts, thanksgiving is pronounced in simple words, with attention and often – until peace is brought to the heart. There is no sense in mournful thoughts: they do not save from grief, they do not bring any help, they only upset the body and soul. So, they are from demons and need to be driven away from them … Thanksgiving soothes the heart first, then brings comfort to it, and later brings heavenly joy – a pledge, an anticipation of everlasting joy. ”
During despair, demons inspire a person to think that there is no salvation for him and his sins cannot be forgiven. This is the greatest demonic lie!
“Let no one say:“ I have sinned a lot, I have no forgiveness. ” He who says this, forgets about Him, who came to earth for the sake of suffering and said: “… there is joy in the angels of God and of one sinner repentant” (Luke 15: 10) and also: “I came to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance ”(Luke 5:32),” says the Monk Ephraim the Syrian. As long as a person is alive, it is indeed possible for him to repent and receive the forgiveness of sins, however grave they may be, and, having received forgiveness, transform his life, fill it with joy and light. And just this opportunity demons are trying to deprive a person, inspiring him with thoughts of despair and suicide, because after death it is impossible to repent.
So "none of the people, even those who have reached the extreme degree of evil, should not despair, even if they have acquired the skill and entered the nature of evil itself" (St. John Chrysostom).
Prelate Tikhon Zadonsky explains that the test of despondency and despair makes the Christian more cautious and experienced in the spiritual life. And "the more this temptation continues," the more it will bring benefit to the soul. "
The Orthodox Christian knows that the sorrow of all other temptations is as much heavier as the reward that will be borne with patience and sorrow. And in the struggle with discouragement is given the biggest crown. Therefore, “let’s not be disheartened when grief and sorrow happen to us, but, on the contrary, we will be more glad that we are on the path of the saints,” advises the Monk Ephraim of Sirin.
God is always with each of us, and He does not allow demons to hit a man with despondency as much as they would like. He gave us freedom, and He cares that no one takes away from us this gift. So at any moment a person can turn to God for help and bring about repentance.
If a person does not do this – this is his choice, the demons themselves are not able to force him.
In conclusion, I would like to cite a prayer compiled by St. Dimitry of Rostov just for people suffering from despondency:
God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of bounty and God of all comfort, comforting us in all our sorrows! Consolate each grieving, saddened, desperate, overwhelmed by the spirit of despondency. After all, each person was created by your hands, wise by wisdom, exalted by your right hand, glorified by your goodness … But now we have visited your fatherly punishment, short-term sorrows! “You are compassionately punishing those you love and pardon generously and cast a tear on their tears!” So, punish, have mercy and satisfy our sorrow; exalt sorrow in gladness and joy dissolve our sorrow; surprise your mercy upon us, wondrous in the counsel of Vladyka, Incomprehensible in the destinies of the Lord and blessed in your deeds forever, amen.