Perhaps the greatest plague of our time is not COVID-19 but something that affects many more people in ways that are barely understood: depression. This is something unexpected and paradoxical in a country where all are free to enjoy “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Despite the events of the past year, Americans do still enjoy a more materially prosperous life than those in most parts of the world. Most of us are not lacking anything we truly need, and we enjoy multifarious luxuries that we don’t need. Yet many, many of us still long for something, feel we are missing something so important that we feel crippled by its absence. What is it we are missing in the abundance that surrounds us?
A short answer is that we miss God. We may think we miss something else, we can justify our depression by creating some imaginary needs, but at the end of the day, we miss God. He has created us for a purpose and that purpose is for us to enjoy communion with our creator. When we lose sight of this, we lose the story and, in our shortsightedness, we long for the thing we don’t even know we have lost. It all goes back to who we are, what are we doing here and where we are going. We need to get back to the basics.
In the midst of the information and technology boom that seems to define our age, we still yearn for the same fundamental things that humans have always yearned for: purpose and direction. Your money can’t buy that. You can’t download it from the internet. Your sexual exploits are not going to make up for its absence. Any purpose our obsessions may seem to give are illusory, and any directions we imagine to be there are so contradictory that they end up canceling themselves.
So those of us who try to make do with these substitutes are left confused, lost and at the brink of despair. We are thirsty but there is no well of life. We are hungry but there is no food for our eternal soul. We are lonely and have no one.
So what to do? I have reached the conclusion that I need to be engaged in the life of faith and the daily exercise of prayer. Faith allows us to see the world in a new way. A way that does not contradict reason, but rather enlightens our reason. The gift of faith allows us to see what is otherwise unseen in the world. Faith allows us to see the loving presence of God in nature. It is the gift that makes it possible for us to see Christ in our neighbor. Faith allows us to hear the voice of God through the Scripture. The gift of faith assures us that God is really and truly present when we turn to him.
For the gift of faith to flourish it must be cultivated through prayer, study and a disciplined spiritual life. Prayer is conversation with God. No matter what might be going on in our lives, we must not neglect to pray, and pray daily. Prayer is the air that we breathe. This life is open to anyone. No matter who they are or what they have done, everyone has the possibility of having a deep relationship with Christ. You can start today.
St. Teresa of Avila, the sixteenth century Spanish mystic, wrote: “Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Patience obtains all. Whoever has God, wants for nothing. God alone is enough.”
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