Letter from the Rectory October 2018
The changing seasons are one of the blessings of living in our part of the world. However, the days drawing in and the clocks changing can affect some people negatively. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a recognised type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, particularly in the winter.
Several months ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke about episodes of depression that he suffers: ‘Black Dog’ in the phrase favoured by Winston Churchill. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Christopher Howse asked whether someone in Justin Welby’s position ‘should not be bathed in the light of hope and consoled by the Good News that he preaches?’
‘No’ was his response. To expect the Archbishop to feel happy all the time because of his faith was, wrote Howse, to misunderstand both depression and faith. Depression is not feeing sad about things such as trouble at work, the miseries depicted on the Ten O’Clock News or even bereavement; rather, more a ‘malignant sadness’.
So how does faith connect with depression? asks Howse. It is a mistake is to conceive of faith as a kind of feeling, as if bunny rabbits and daffodils and ‘all good gifts around us sent from heaven above’ were enough to instil a permanent mood of Christmas morning.
In reality, he writes, faith is a kind of knowledge. It is the same sort of knowledge as that which tells you your husband loves you – evidence-based it may be, but evidence taken on trust.
He takes, as an example of faith, Mother Theresa of Calcutta. There she was, smiling at everyone and saving babies from rubbish tips whilst living an austere life. Yet after her death, her diaries revealed that her smile was ‘a great cloak that hides a multitude of pains.’
Yet throughout her life she kept on praying to the God who was hidden by a dark cloud. Her behaviour followed the convictions that faith brought. She kept engaging with the poorest of the poor, saying, “If you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”