Friday, February 23, 2018 - Updated: 1:32 pm
QUESTION: Do you think it is possible to have a kind of spiritual depression? I am not even sure I know what regular depression is, but it just seems like I am stuck and spinning my wheels in terms of prayer and any kind of spiritual life.
ANSWER: It is important to realize that we humans are composed of both body and soul. So what we describe as “spiritual issues” in our lives can never be totally separated from our physical reality. That means that as we address the spiritual questions, it is important to ask what is going on in our physical health as well. At times, physical health issues can drain us to the point that we cannot even pray or act in the ways we should. Attempting to deal with the spiritual reality without addressing the physical reality seems unwise and may prove unhelpful.
Assured that our physical health is fine or at least that issues of health are being addressed, we can then think about what is going on in our spiritual lives.
Spiritual life is fundamentally rooted in relationships, with God and our neighbors. In our human relationships we set standards. We sometimes set the bar rather high for our family and friends. Relationships have dry periods when contact diminishes and time spent together is minimal. There are lots of reasons for that. There are also a variety of reactions we might have. Sometimes we doubt ourselves or another, sometimes we make judgments, sometimes we pull away thinking that the other person doesn’t care.
That happens with our relationship with God as well. When God does not seem to meet a certain standard we have set, we panic, get stubborn or pull away. All this can seem like what we believe to be a form of spiritual depression.
Someone once told me that our most satisfying relationships with God are when we are really happy or really sad. If that is true, then we have to admit that our relationship with God takes place most often in that “middle” because that is our lives most of the time. That ordinary middle ground is where we live most of our lives. It is there that we have to meet God (and others).
When our relationship with God seems troubled, it is likely not because of God. Therefore, whatever change is necessary has to begin with us.
Barriers to a vibrant relationship with God include lethargy, sin, guilt and anger. Clearly, the challenge is that we cannot give up. That’s the beauty of traditional devotional prayer and reading the Scriptures. When we are low and not spontaneous in our prayer, these prayer forms take over. In reading the Scriptures no matter what, we can again hear God speaking to us. The recitation of familiar prayers provides comfort and hope.
When we are struggling with our relationship with God it may be that we have placed an unrealistic expectation on what it should be like. It is also helpful at that point to realize that it could be much worse. We are at least saying to God and ourselves that the relationship matters.
Father Bober is pastor of St. Kilian Parish in Adams and Cranberry townships.