Our Clouded Eyes

The main problem with depression, or with fear, is how we are forced into thinking that our current situation will always be as it is right now. Nothing will ever change. Or, life may get even worse, so why even try? One problem after another, struggle upon struggle, one more time being wronged by someone, yet another bill is due and the funds are not available, one seemingly bad luck scenario after another and we begin to think that ending life is the answer.

The late spiritual writer Henri Nouwen writes: "One of life's great questions centers not on what happens to us, but rather, how we will live in and through whatever happens."1 We're so concerned with how to survive what is coming at us that we don't think through how we shall live after it passes. Then we become overwhelmed with the consequences and think that giving up is the only answer. More importantly, we forget what (or who) is worth living for.

Our problems, or the demands on our lives, have this uncanny ability to blind us to a better tomorrow. Like an overcast day, we tend to think that the clouds will never go away, forgetting that the sun is actually still shining. Our perspective becomes so distorted, our forecast so gloomy, that we think no one cares, we aren't worth the air we breathe, and we'd be better off dead. Fear and depression have a way of leading us to self-hating and self-destruction.

I know because I've been there. I may not have taken my life; but I sure wouldn't have protested if anyone else wanted to. Sure, there is much in this world that I cannot change, even though I want to. But I am forced into this reality. Nouwen writes: "Our choice, then, often revolves around not what has happened or will happen to us, but how we will relate to life's turns and circumstances."2 How we choose to respond to our circumstances makes the difference between feeling despair, wanting to give up, and feeling hopeful for a better outcome.

I don't mind admitting to you that I haven't yet mastered responding to negative circumstances with an air of hope for a better outcome. But it's what I want -- it's what I'm aiming for from now on. I may not like my circumstances, I may even hate them, but I don't have to give them power over my emotions, my thinking process, and ultimately my (re)actions.



Since we are powerless over so many circumstances in our lives, why can we not just acknowledge that powerlessness, and then turn our gaze toward the One with all power? Henri Nouwen explains that our desire for power really represents a need for control. He writes:
The more you relinquish your stubborn need to maintain power, the more you will get in touch with the One who has the power to heal and guide you. And the more you get in touch with that divine power [through prayer, study of the scriptures, and meditation], the easier it will be to confess to yourself and to others your basic powerlessness.3
How will that help? It will relieve us of the false burden that we always have to fix everything and everyone. We can't control the universe; we can't control what people think or how they react; but what we can control is what we think and how we react. We need to admit this powerlessness, humble ourselves and then turn toward Christ, asking for strength. Even if our circumstance doesn't improve, or even if it momentarily gets worse, we have to embrace the reality of our powerlessness and rely on the only One capable of giving us hope.

__________

1 Henri Nouwen, Turn My Mourning into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001), 12.

2 Ibid.

3 ________, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom (New York: Image Books, 1998), 30-31.

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ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.