DURING THIS SEEMINGLY ENDLESS WINTER, our old enemy depression may sneak up to our door and knock.
At last night's fellowship meeting, we discussed gratitude as a potent antidote to depression. When we are stuck feeling bad for ourselves or resenting our lives (or an event in our lives), we forget the many things we have to be grateful for.
1. Blessings: Love 'Em or Lose 'Em
Part of what makes us depressed is our inability (or unwillingness) to see the many things we have to be thankful for.
Peter of Damascus writes,"... he who has received a gift from God, and is ungrateful for it, is already on the way to losing it ..."(1)
2. Getting Into a Positive Cycle
Peter of Damascus continues,"... when God is thanked, He gives us still further blessings, while we, by receiving His gifts, love Him all the more and through this love attain that divine wisdom(2)
We also read in the Philokalia that it's important to get into a positive cyle:
Freedom from anxiety makes it (the heart) rejoice and give thanks; and the grateful offering of thanks augments the gifts of grace it has received. And as the blessings increase, so does the thankfulness, and so does the pure prayer offered with tears of joy. Slowly the man emerges from the tears of distress and from the passions, and enters fully into the state of spiritual joy. (3)
3. Preventative Medicine
Why wait 'til you're down? The spiritual life, at least on this side of the grave, requires labor and watchfulness. John the solitary advises:
When evening comes, collect your thoughts and ponder over the entire course of the day: observe God's providential care for you; consider the grace He has wrought in you throughout the whole span of the day; consider the rising of the moon, the joy of daylight, all the hours and moments, the divisions of time, the sight of different colors, the beautiful adornment of creation, the course of the sun, the growth of your own stature, how your own person has been protected, consider the blowing of the winds, the ripe and varied fruits, how the elements minister to your comfort, how you have been preserved from accidents, and all the other activities of grace. When you have pondered on all this, wonder of God's love toward you will well up within you, and gratitude for his acts of grace will bubble up inside you.(4)
Of course, you may have a different list of things to be grateful for. It's the principle that's important.
The Bottom Line: When you're in the dumps, think of something very small to be grateful for. Then keep going! Step-by-step-by-step...by opening a thankful heart to God, a great change and new life of joy may be around the corner!
(1)Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 187
(3)Ibid. 260 - 263
(4)The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life