Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Grief Will be Turned to Joy"

Current predictions by the World Health Organization foresee that by 2030, melancholia will be the leading cause of illness. Korea presently is a leader in the number of cases of melancholia, so  begins the article by a Salesian priest writing in the Bible and Life magazine. Widespread is a structure of excessive competition, materialism, inhumanity, the sudden appearance of the nuclear family, making us islands, and disposing us to feelings of depression. Melancholia  has many forms, he says, the young person's depression, those taking exams, after giving birth, buying on credit, seasonal depression, after success...  nobody is far from depression.

The Sewol ferry tragedy has exposed us to  these feelings. The families of  the dead, those who survived, those who witnessed the tragedy, the citizens have experienced great sadness.  The families of the victims have lost an important meaning for life. We have to cry with these families.

In Scripture, we have prominent examples of those who suffered from this malady: David, Jonah, Elijah. David in psalm 31:10 cries: Have pity on me, O Lord, for I am in distress; with sorrow, my eye is consumed; my soul also, and my body."

The priest mentions as a youth having to fight against sickness for a number of years. During this period, he suffered from depression. In the morning when he opened his eyes it was not how he was to live happily that day, but was he going to make it through the day. Everything seemed insignificant, meaning for life disappeared and all he wanted to do was to avoid  the gaze of others. It was, he said,  a frightful experience.

In the beginning, melancholia is like a cold of the spirit and can be handled by the person's efforts. With exercise, walks, mountain climbing, emptying ourselves and the like does work. When it gets too much for us, we can go to the specialists for help.  Christians have a primary physician in Jesus, and he will free us from our depression. There is nothing like a positive and active life of faith as a treatment for depression.

The reason for melancholia he suggests is despair. A loss of hope and the despair comes from too much of a trust in oneself and others. We are all disposed to despair. As Christians, we can always get up with the help of Jesus.We are not  discouraged or frustrated, and we don't want the melancholia to increase so we get up and continue to hope.

He gives us the example of a prisoner of war in a concentration camp. Never sure if there would be another day. One of the prisoners died of sorrow, and he decided to do something. In the same cell were citizens of other nations who spoke different languages, and he suggested they learn each other's language.The cell block from a place of great boredom became a high-class language school.  He learned during the two years that remained: English, Spanish,  Portuguese and Polish enabling him to converse in these different languages with a certain amount of ease. After he was released, he began his own Trade Company and did well.

For a Christian, difficulties are only the  prelude to happiness, Even at times when we do not see any meaning to life God is there and when we realize this, all becomes possible.The priest  finished the article  with the passage from  John 16:20:   "I tell you truly: you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices; you will grieve for a time, but  your grief  will be turned to joy."

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