Monday, September 27, 2010

On Combating Despair


A monk asked an elder:

“Father, to what does the Prophet refer when he says, ‘There is no salvation for him in his God’ (Psalm 3:3)?”

The elder gave the following response to the brother’s inquiry:

“He is referring to thoughts of despair, which the demons place before the sinner, saying: ‘Neither now nor hereafter is it possible for God to save you.’ With such counsel they try to cast the sinner into despair. But a person must contrast these thoughts with the words of the Holy Scriptures: ‘Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare’ (Psalm 24:15).”

Evergetinos, Hypothesis 1(E)

The passage below is from Way of the Ascetics, by Tito Colliander. This selection is the chapter titled, "On Times of Darkness," those times of spiritual depression and abandonment that we all experience from time to time.

The weather shifts from cloudy to clear and then back to rain; thus it is with human nature. One must always expect clouds to hide the sun sometimes. Even the saints have had their dark hours, days and weeks. They say then that "God has left them" in order that they may know truly how utterly wretched they are of themselves, without His support. These times of darkness, when all seems meaningless, ridiculous and vain, when one is beset by doubt and temptations, are inevitable. But even these times can be harvested for good.

The dark days can best be conquered by following the example of St. Mary of Egypt. For forty-eight years she dwelt in the desert beyond Jordan, and when temptations befell her and memories of her former sinful life in Alexandria beckoned her to leave her voluntary sojourn in the desert, she lay on the ground, cried to God for help and did not get up until her heart was humbled. The first years were hard; she sometimes had to lie this way for many days; but after seventeen years came the time of rest.

On such days stay quiet. Do not be persuaded to go out into social life or entertainment. Do not pity yourself, seek comfort in nothing but your cry to the Lord: "Hasten, O God, to deliver me! Makes haste to help me, O Lord (Psalm 70:1)! I am so deep in prison that I cannot get out (Psalm 88:8)," and other such appeals. You cannot expect real help from any other source. For the sake of chance relief do not throw away all your winnings. Pull the covers over your head; now your patience and steadfastness are being tried. If you endure the trial, thank God who gave you the strength. If you do not, rise up promptly, pray for mercy and think: "I got what I deserved! For the fall itself was your punishment. You had relied too much on yourself, and now you see what it led to. You have had an experience; do not forget to give thanks."
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