Ancient wisdom from the East tells of a man who, seeking help for depression and for knowledge of life's meaning, sought out a famous guru living high on a nearly inaccessible mountain. For his efforts no advice was received, but for each misery-laden complaint, the guru responded with, "Yes, I've been there too," and then shared from his own history. The seeker, angry that he had so little for his long trek, nevertheless was heard whistling as he returned home.
That story came to mind as the result of a request for some 'inspirational' Bible verses to help another in the difficult days she was facing. I gladly compiled a list of upbeat and affirmative passages.
Later, I thought about the passages I turn to when needing some support. In low periods of a sagging spirit, it is not the inspirational, but what many would consider 'the downer' passages, which feed my soul.
Loneliness becomes bearable, not in the promise "You will fill my heart" of Psalm 22, but in its previous plaintive cry, "My God, my God, why have you deserted me? I cry out day and night, but you don't answer." Spending time with the writer who walked "through the valley of the shadow of death" in Psalm 23 is of more comfort than the affirmation, "my cup runneth over." Reading out loud the weary and sonorous words of Ecclesiastes--"Vanity of vanities. All is vanity," or as another translation puts it, "Nothing makes sense! Everything is nonsense."--resonates with my own spirit. The more 'positive' verses are expressions for sunny days.
Rather than dismal words increasing depression, I find in the shared experiences and feelings of others a strangely wrought, and deeply felt knowledge of 'human companionship.' The 17th century John Ray who wrote, "Misery loves company," understood this well and is a spiritual kin.
But, not for all people. Some need a star
to pull them out of their troubles. Others a dismal cheer.
--Robert H. Tucker
16 March 1998