"Grant me, O Lord, a sunny mind,..." wrote Emily Dickinson in a poem that depicts the closing down of autumn and the freezing up of winter. During the bleak days of winter - or the bleak days of depression, whenever they might come - there's a way to find happiness.
A teacher and her husband moved to a larger apartment so that she would have room to teach classes in their home. It was only after they had moved in that she realized that very little light shined directly into the apartment. When my friend lamented about this, her husband responded, "You will just have to have more sunshine within." I took a class there, and I never noticed any lack of sunshine. Looking back on those weeks, I can still hear the teacher's and the pupils' laughter as joy permeated that home more fully and consistently than any sunshine could have.
The Bible says, "God is love" (I John 4:16), and teaches us to turn to God as the source of all truth. It makes sense that the truth that comes from divine Love would include the wonderful message that God loves and cares for everyone. Because God's love is always present, this truth can break through clouds of hopelessness and bring light to even the most depressing situations.
I have found that gratitude helps me access this Love. No matter how gloomy the day, there's always something to be grateful for. One depressing afternoon, when I had thrown myself on the bed to have a good cry, I saw some beautiful forms - shadows cast by leaves. I sat up in gratitude at the thought that even shadows hold the potential for joy. This idea not only blessed me that day, but made me more alert every day to the intrinsic beauty and usefulness of the things around me - yes, including the shadows. It takes light somewhere to make shadows.
Never underestimate the usefulness and power of joy. "Be of good cheer," Jesus said to his disciples in the middle of a frightening storm at sea (Matt. 14:27). And the Apostle Paul told his fellow passengers the same thing even when their ship was breaking apart (see Acts, chap. 27). In the first instance, the sea was calmed. In the second, the ship was wrecked, but all aboard were saved. No matter how rough the sea, the effort to be cheerful can be far more than adopting a blind optimism. It helps us reach a place of calm.
It was a bleak time in my life after our baby, pronounced incurable at birth, had died. Subsequent near-fatal complications from a miscarriage diminished our hopes of ever having a family. One day when I was deeply depressed, I read this statement by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper. In response to the often asked question "What am I?" she wrote, "I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 165).
I was feeling that I had no reason for existing, and here I was told that I could impart "truth, health, and happiness." If it were true that I could impart these wonderful things, it meant that I already had them - you can't impart what you don't have. I accepted on faith that I did include "truth, health, and happiness." And I began in little ways to impart happiness - a smile here, a word of encouragement there, a thank-you for even the smallest of favors.
Then, as I understood in more specific detail that God is present and that my real identity is the expression of this God, I was better able to live those qualities and to impart them. Also, I gave birth to and raised two healthy children.
If you're dealing with depression today, help is as near as the next thought. God is the source of all genuine feeling and thought - all life and consciousness - and depression is not natural. It can't be imposed on you, because you belong to and are controlled by God. You're not guilty of the depressed thoughts that come to you, and you have powerful ability to reject them. Grim forebodings are impositions. Whatever doesn't come from God has no legitimate place in your life.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society