Faith can help fight depression during the holiday season

Published 8:49 am Monday, December 12, 2016

steve stricker 2122You can take the boy out of the country but can’t take the faith out of the boy … something like that. My columns are laced with references to my faith because my faith has largely shaped who I am, drives me, and one can’t be separated from the other.

Advent, “coming” (referencing our Lord’s birth) really snuck up on me. On the first Sunday of Advent (Nov. 27), I watched in disbelief as the altar server lit the first candle on the Advent Wreath before the 8:30 a.m. Mass at St. John’s Catholic Church.

Although not fond of winter or holidays, Thanksgiving was bearable because of my three sons from a distance and adopted family here in Oxford. Christmas now loom’s like a cracked engine block on the horizon because of all the “noise” surrounding it, but it is our Lord’s birthday, it is beautiful with all the decorations, high energy, lightheartedness, giving aura, and is the “season of miracles.”

It is common for anyone (especially me) to feel less than jolly at this time of year for a vast number of reasons (fill in the blank). With a Ph.D. in counseling from Ole Miss, many years of professional experience, miles of onerous life events accumulated on my brain, body, and heart (baggage), accompanied with physical nicks and dings, I know full well that it is normal to have an ominous dark cloud hanging perilously over my head during these “joyous” occasions.

Nonetheless, this is a tough time of year for me and I would rather adjust the valves, choke linkage, and synchronize the twin SU carburetors on my 1971 MGB/GT than slug through this “gloriously happy” holiday. Meeting the challenge head-on, I suck it up, paradigm shift my brain, modestly decorate my house with Christmas stuff, stock my cabinet with good bourbon, and buy myself something I’ve been wanting — and, it sort of works! “Tis best to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.” After my Scottish fiancé ended our engagement shortly before moving to Scotland in 2011, I was devastated as I was also dealing with major health issues.

But instead of running from God, I ran to him and in time it became crystal clear that he truly saved me from a huge mistake, my faith deepened, as did my resolve to never again be “unevenly yoked.” Bishop Sheen said, “It takes three to make love, not two: you, your spouse, and God. Without God, people only succeed in bringing out the worst in one another. Lovers who have nothing else to do but love each other soon find there is nothing else. Without a central loyalty life is unfinished.”

Our Lord came to Earth as a meager baby (not king) in a crude manger (not castle) to give us a means of salvation, to heal the brokenhearted, and give hope to all. God always forgives. “It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! ‘I am a great sinner!’ Go to Jesus: He likes you to tell him these things! He has a very special capacity for forgetting. He kisses you, He embraces you and He simply says to you: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.” – Pope Francis

To help myself, I attend daily Mass, receive the Eucharist, and read on Wednesdays; say my Rosary every day; confession once a month; Minister to my hero Brookdale residents; visit a dear Oxford Rehab friend; serve on Parish Council; assist with tasks at Mass; pray each day for God to help me help at least three people; pray for those who hurt me; exercise daily; work on my project cars (a pain but therapeutic); dump my guts out in these things (cathartic); love my neighbor animal buddies (wild and domestic); have a ton of hobbies; and dear friends like you who inspire and encourage me.

“With the shepherds, let us bow down before the Lamb, let us worship God’s goodness made flesh, and let us allow tears of repentance to fill our eyes and cleanse our hearts. This is something we all need!” Pope Francis

Merry Christmas.

STEVE STRICKER can be reached at sstricker@olemiss.edu