by Fr. Dimitry Shishkin –
Whatever may happen, we must not succumb to melancholy, but on the contrary, we must resist it with faith, courage and patience
According to statistics, about seventy-five percent of our compatriots [in Russia] were baptized in the Orthodox Church. But the spirit that many of us possess, alas, is far from Christian. This is the spirit of this world with its lack of faith, relaxation and pride.
Now, succumbing to the influence of this spirit, Christians are gradually losing courage, the sense of belonging to the spirit of Christ; and when faced with inevitable problems of life, they begin to grumble, complain and plunge headlong into the abyss of their sufferings. This is also facilitated by the ideology of extreme individualism (which has spread recently), when a person considers himself, his moods and feelings to be the most important thing in life. Hence, a relaxed self-pity and even painful relishing of one’s suffering.
Of course, we are living in a special time. Sometimes it seems that it is really apocalyptic. We are living in a global crisis—not only economic, but also spiritual, the consequences of which are still unclear. And if one’s faith is not strong, this only adds anxiety and concern.
But firstly, no one knows about the times or the seasons (Acts 1:7), and perhaps after the current global crisis, years and decades of a more or less calm and peaceful life await us. And, secondly, whatever may happen, we must remember that we are Christians and must endure all our misfortunes and troubles in a Christian way—that is, endure everything with faith and gratitude with readiness and determination.
The Apostle Paul said amazing words in one of his epistles (2 Cor. 1:8-11). He talked about how he went through an extremely hard period, so he despaired even of life, but he considered himself worthy of death and accepted all troubles (just think about it!) as God’s mercy in comparison with what he “deserved”. And, having the sentence of death in himself, the apostle trusted not in himself, but in God, Which raises the dead. Here is the courage, determination and genuine example of Christian perseverance, which we all must imitate!
As for the current trials and tribulations, such as the pandemic, inflation and other things, we have an answer from the Lord Himself. It refers to the revolts and turmoil of the end times, but it applies to our circumstances as well. The Lord says that it is not sorrows themselves that are terrible for a person, but the harm that they can cause to a relaxed and careless soul.
That is why the Lord addresses us: Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life (Lk. 21:34). And then He calls on us: Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass (Lk. 21:36). That is, it is not difficulties and sorrows themselves that should be avoided, but their destructive consequences for the soul.
Of course, there are painful and inexplicable states of despondency, sadness and melancholy, when it seems that demons have taken up arms against the soul, inspiring blues and gloom. Well, so what? Why should we be surprised? After all, we are all soldiers of Christ, which means that despondency, sorrow and anguish must be repulsed by the full armor of strong hope for God’s help with patience and prayer, and even by gratitude to God, which, according to St. John Chrysostom is the surest remedy against the demons.
Whatever may happen, we must not succumb to melancholy, but on the contrary, we must resist it with faith, courage and patience, and then, after a time, consolation, relief, and joy will certainly come from the Lord—as an earnest of future joy that awaits all that shall endure unto the end (Mt. 24:13). And even while speaking about the most distressing end times of human history, the Lord calls on us: Look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws nigh (Lk. 21:28).