Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Drawing Strength from the Psalms I

Prologue: I think we can all agree that Scripture contains immeasurable treasures in theology, spirituality, philosophy, and wisdom for daily life. The Book of Psalms is a huge book (literally; it contains more verses than any other book in the Bible) for those times when one is in throes of a spiritual, mental, or emotional struggle.

Part I: Excerpts of Psalm 62

My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation. God alone is my rock and salvation, my fortress; never shall I fall. 

One of the biggest battles for me in depression and anxiety has been the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. The depression, which IMHO springs at least partly from learned helplessness, drained me of any type of physical motivation to get up and go, because: "what's the point?" Then, my mind notices that I'm not doing what I need to be doing--schoolwork, keeping up with friends and family, organizations, and most importantly my life with God--and so it kicks me into over-drive. I start tensing up; a knot forms in my stomach; I start breathing more shallowly; I start losing perspective on what is important because when I'm falling behind DEAR GOD EVERYTHING IS IMPORTANT I HAVE TO DO IT ALL RIGHT NOW!!! And so, now, I'm all wound-up and my level of arousal is way above anything that actually allows me to get anything "real" done.

So it's a vicious cycle. But then, this beautiful verse pops up. "My soul rests..." What a strange idea in this frenetic world in which we live. Rest? No, we can't slow down; gotta keep moving forward, to that prestigious degree, that cushy job, that six-figure salary, suburban home, trophy wife, two angelic children...all material things. All so utterly passing. All so eminently tiresome. How often we forget to simply let our souls rest in God. "From whom comes my salvation." The most important thing--salvation. Eternal. So much more than anything we can achieve with our own puny little minds or bodies. 

"My fortress." The storms can seem so frightening. Loneliness, despair, temptation, depression, anxiety, loss... They can blot out entirely our sight of "the glory that is revealed to us" (Romans 8:18). But we must take refuge in God, our rock, our fortress. He will be "deliverance" from all these storms. Sometimes our deliverance is temporary, like when the eye of a hurricane passes over, and we re-enter the storm. But He is the shelter that cannot be battered down, no matter how loud the winds howl or how high the storm waters rise. He will always take care of us and guide us carefully, for we are "of more value than many sparrows" (Matt 10:31).

Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!

Unfortunately, I tend to bottle my emotions up, because doing that seems so much easier compared to actually dealing with them. What I didn't think about until recently is that when you bottle something up, it becomes more and more pressurized, and that pressure needs to escape somehow. In the long run, it is simply so much easier to let my emotions be. To pour out my troubles to Him. To realize that, more often than not, emotional extremes are out of our control. For a person who always tries to be in a state of self-control, that is a very difficult thing to understand. All I can do, then, with those feelings of loneliness, fear, etc. if I can't control them, is to to place them before the Lord and unite myself to His redemptive suffering on the Holy Cross.

Strength belongs to God; so too, my Lord, does mercy.

Strength and mercy. Strength to protect us from evil. Mercy to forgive us when we succumb to it. God has strength, not me; "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:13). The strength I have, rather than being mine, is His grace freely given. His mercy, too, is freely given. I love Divine Mercy Sunday: how fitting that the flood of Mercy pouring forth from Christ's pierc├ęd side should be celebrated with a novena starting on the day of His Passion and ending a week after His Glorious Resurrection. And what an important reminder it is for me. He died for me even though I sin. He loves me even though I sin. The only return I can make for that immense, unsurpassable gift is to try--to try, because it is inevitable that I will fall--to love Him with all my heart, all my mind and all my strength.

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