Grief, A Humble Angel

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” (Isaiah 53:4)

I thought this quote from Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression was worth sharing.

“Highly politicized rhetoric has blurred the distinction between depression and its consequences — the distinction between how you feel and how you act in response. This is in part a social and medical phenomenon, but it is also the result of linguistic vagary attached to emotional vagary. Perhaps depression can best be described as emotional pain that forces itself on us against our will, and then breaks free of its externals. Depression is not just a lot of pain; but too much pain can compost itself into depression. Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance. It is tumbleweed distress that thrives on thin air, growing despite its detachment from the nourishing earth. It can be described only in metaphor and allegory. Saint Anthony in the desert, asked how he could differentiate between angels who came to him humble and devils who came in rich disguise, said you could tell by how you felt after they had departed. When an angel left you, you felt strengthened by his presence; when a devil left, you felt horror. Grief is a humble angel who leaves you with strong, clear thoughts and a sense of your own depth. Depression is a demon who leaves you appalled.”

Of course, moving beyond physical states, the Christian will understand that visiting spirits are neither metaphor nor allegory. And our response to them, whether Holy or unholy, is to be based upon Covenantal truth, a truth which cuts us down to size but also cuts the devil’s deceit to pieces.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1)

Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:11)

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