I have been suffering from depression and anxiety most of my life. I don’t know if the Lord will remove it in this life or the next life. It has been a struggle for me as well as for my marriage. I love Elder Holland’s talk a few conferences ago. It is so hard to deal with. I love the Lord and try to do what is expected of me such as scriptures prayer etc. but I feel at times my prayers hit the ceiling.
Let me give you a bit of comfort here. But first, you should know that I am not a psychologist or an expert on depression. So I’m not really going to talk too much about that. You should seek the best help possible in this regard, both medical and spiritual.
No, here’s the part I hope will be comforting: I do not suffer from depression, and yet I also often feel that my prays are hitting the ceiling.
I hope that’s comforting. I hope you know and understand that although you may have some severe struggles that might seem particularly unique to you, the struggle to develop a close relationship with our Father in Heaven is UNIVERSAL! We all, who are working to do so, struggle in this way.
We live behind a veil. Our Father in Heaven set it up this way on purpose. That is part of our trial here. Part of the trial, as you intimately know, is physical, emotion, and mental trials that we face from being mortal. We have disease and death in this life. But the other part of our trial is another kind of death, that which is referred to as spiritual death. That is the separation from our Heavenly Father.
As we know, to help us through this time of separation and blindness, the Lord has given us some wonderful things. One of them is the Holy Ghost. It is through the Holy Ghost that we feel any of the closeness to God that we do in this life. So it seems reasonable to presume that when we don’t feel close to God, it is because we are not successfully receiving communication from His Spirit.
So, we have to ask ourselves one more “why”?
Well, let’s look at the criteria given for feeling the Holy Ghost. I am presuming you are a baptized member of the Church, and if so, you have been given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This is a precious thing. It promises us that His Spirit, as reiterated each week in the sacramental prayer, will always be with us. And yet, as we have established, we often do not feel the Spirit when praying or going about our daily lives. Partially, in answer, we can look at the rest of the sacramental prayer for why this might be. Having the Gift of the Holy Ghost is conditional. The Spirit will be with us IF. If what? Well, if we take His name upon us, always remember Him, and keep His commandments.
So there is that. How successful are we at this? We know, as a matter of declared doctrine, that the only perfect man who ever lived was Jesus Christ. In that regard, only Jesus perfectly qualified to have the Spirit always be with him. The rest of us need to consistently repent for the privilege.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I do not think we must be perfect to qualify for the companionship of the Spirit. I hope not. That would eliminate us all and render the gift moot. But I do think that we need to be trying our best, and be fairly consistently mindful of it. When we fall into the trap of apathy, it’s pretty easy to get away from where we need to be for the Spirit to be a consistent part of our lives. And it is ever so easy to do this.
Keep in mind, we’re not talking major sin. If you have any major sins, obviously, you would need to get on top of repenting of them immediately. But even when free of major sins, all of us fall victim constantly to the natural man. We are irreverent, lazy, unkind, snarky, loud, unclean, etc., etc…. None of these things make us horrible people. But they are all imperfections to one degree or another that we all work on.
Notice that I keep saying ALL. I don’t want you to fall further into depression by feeling that any of these weaknesses you may have set you apart as someone worse than others. We ALL have these things in our life. Whatever things I’m good at, you may be struggling with, and almost just as assuredly, the things you’re good at, I’m struggling with, etc. I’m sure we also share strengths and weaknesses. This is life. We are mortal.
Do not despair. It’s supposed to be a struggle. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Keep praying. Keep working to improve. Keep struggling to set your life in order so that you may be worthy of the constant and clear guidance of the Spirit. It is a lifelong process. It’s part of why we are here on the earth. As you do so, bit by bit, you’ll see greater spiritual strength through the years. Hang on!
Long-suffering is a virture for a reason.
Another point to review in your life. How’s your scripture study? Can it improve? If it can, do it! (I know it can, because it always can.) Nothing, in my experience, has brought me closer to the Spirit of God than consistent, diligent, faithful scripture study.
Next point. How are you doing on serving others? Can it improve? Don’t feel like you need to bite off more than you can chew. Line upon line, right? But take another step. Serve someone a bit more. Work to lengthen your stride in this regard. As you do so, you will feel the Spirit come into your life in greater abundance.
Another point. What are you praying for? Is is all for you? Do you pray for others more, or can your prayers get a bit self-centered. I know mine do. But I have found that when I start letting go of my needs a bit and start focusing more on what I can be doing for others, and my prayers reflect that, the Spirit just comes coursing into my soul. It’s actually kind of amazing. That doesn’t mean we cannot pray for ourselves, of course. We are commanded to. But I think there are always ways to improve our praying.
Finally, are you taking time and effort to truly listen? I remember it being recommended once by a Stake President that we should set aside a healthy amount of time for prayer, find a quite place, get on our knees and just listen. Ponder and listen for a good time before we even start to pray, reaching out to our feelings and the Spirit. Then, as we begin to feel at peace, we pray. And take time to pause and really listen to your feelings as you pray too. Give it time and effort. This is part of the challenge of being behind the veil. And, I’ll say it again. We ALL have this challenge.
I hope these thoughts are helpful to you. As I said at the beginning, I’m not a depression expert. I’ve known close family members and friends who struggle with it. It can be debilitating. Seek the help you need. Get on medication if appropriate, etc. And definitely get spiritual counsel from your bishop, friends, family, and…well…me. I hope my counsel is useful at least.
I wish you the very best as you continue to press forward steadfastly, long-suffering with your mortal weaknesses as you learn to reach out to and listen to God and His Holy Spirit.