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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

1160: slow down and hold this moment as an opportunity to express and strengthen spiritual desire

1160: Monday, May 22, 2023: slow down and hold this moment as an opportunity to express and strengthen spiritual desire

Depression and Spiritual Healing: Longing for Consolation

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When shall I come and behold the face of God? —Psalm 42:1–2

We begin today’s refelction with author Brian McLaren’s reflection on Psalm 42 and the sense of spiritual abandonment and grief that the psalmist expresses:

The psalmist’s thirst, it turns out, has been mockingly quenched—not with “flowing streams,” but with his constant flow of salty tears. Just as his tears mock his thirst, so others mock him for his spiritual depression: Shouldn’t his God be meeting his needs? Their words, he says later, are like a mortal wound to his body (Psalm 42:10).

My tears have been my food day and night,

while people say to me continually, “Where is your God? (42:3)

One senses the bitter contrast between the delayed presence of comfort and the constant presence of unfulfillment. Meanwhile, each good memory of joyful times—those bright days when he felt spiritual fulfillment together with his peers—now only darkens his long nights of alienation and pain.

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:

how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. (42:4)

Then comes the refrain:

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. (42:5–6)

The “why” of this refrain—addressed to his own soul—is mirrored by another even more disturbing “why” question, addressed to God: “Why have you forgotten me?” (42:9).

All these questions go unanswered: “When?” “How long?” “Where?” “Why?” Yet above the prayer of aspiration [and desperation] a tattered flag of faith and hope still flies: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him.” That simple word “again”—vague and undefined, but real—seeks to answer the painful question “When?” It doesn’t dare claim “soon”; instead, it more modestly claims “someday.”

McLaren counsels us to create room to bring our desperate feelings before God:

You ask, “When? How long?” because you know—or at least you believe—or at least you hope—that your panting, gasping, famished feelings of unfulfilled longing, abandonment, and confusion won’t go on forever. A sense of peace and fullness will come again, someday….

Hold your when or how long or where before God. Make space for your disappointment, frustration, and unfulfillment to come out of hiding and present themselves in the light. Don’t rush, even though you’ll be tempted to see these times of spiritual dryness and aspiration as a mistake, a sign of failure you want to put behind you. Instead, slow down and hold this moment as an opportunity to express and strengthen spiritual desire.

Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

From the Center for Action and Contemplation

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