20 Christian resources on sadness, sorrows, afflictions, depression, melancholy and despair

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Gregory Nazianzen, 329-390, the 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople, and theologian, aka Cappadocian father.
They depress my soul and abase my mind… (Gregory Nazianzen, In defence of his flight to Pontus, 71:219)

Is the undertaking then so serious and laborious to a sensitive and sad heart, a very rottenness to the bones of a sensible man… (Gregory Nazianzen, In defence of his flight to Pontus, 57:217)

…whose bruises stink through wickedness, and who goeth mourning and of a sad countenance… (Gregory Nazianzen, Orations on the Holy Lights, XVII:358)

361-390

296-373

Athanasius of Alexandria, 296-373, Online text. Search: despair 2, sorrows 3.

370-379

Basil the Great, 329-379, the bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia, Asia Minor, one of the Cappadocian fathers. (In that book despair is used 16 times, depression 4 times)

Let not the sinner then despair of himself, when he thinks that agriculture can change the juices of plants, the efforts of the soul to arrive at virtue, can certainly triumph over all infirmities. (Basil the Great, Hexaemeron, Homily V, p.80)

There stands the devil, inflaming the fury of the players with the dotted bones, transporting the same sums of money from one side of the table to the other, now exalting one with victory and throwing the other into despair… (Basil the Great, Hexaemeron, Homily VIII, p.101)

…that sinners be not plunged into despair… (Basil the Great, Letter VIII, To the Caesareans, 6:118)

Remember the mercies of God and how he cures with oil and wine. Do not despair of salvation. Recall your recollection of how it is written in the Scriptures that he who is falling rises and he who turns away returns, the wounded is healed, the bird of beasts escapes, he who owns his sin is not rejected. The Lord willeth not the death of sinner, but rather that he should turn and live…be of good cheer; do not despair. (Basil the Great, Letter XLIV, To a lapsed monk, p.147)

We can escape now. While we can let us lift ourselves from the fall: let us never despair of ourselves, if only we depart from evil. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. (Basil the Great, Letter XLVI, To a fallen virgin, 6:151)

Put a stop to my depression… (Basil the Great, Letter, LIX, p.160)

…I am brought to despair of myself. But then I direct my gaze in the direction of your reverence; I remember that our Lord has appointed you to be the physician of the diseases of the Churches; and I recover my spirits, and rise from the depression of despair to the hope of better things. (Basil the Great, Letter LXXXII, To Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, p.172)

Let us, therefore, not flinch from fighting a good fight on behalf of the truth, nor, in despair, fling away the labours we have already achieved. For the strength of the soul is not shewn by one brave deed, not yet by effort only for a short time; but He Who tests our hearts wishes us to win crowns of righteousness after long and protracted trial. Only let our spirit be kept unbroken, the firmness of our faith in Christ be maintained unshaken and ere long our Champion will appear; He will come and will not tarry. Expect tribulation after tribulation, hope upon hope. Yet a little while, yet a little while. Thus the Holy Ghost knows how to comfort his nurselings by a promise of the future. After tribulations comes hope, and what we are hoping for is not far off, for let a man name a whole of human life, it is but a tiny interval compared with the endless age which is laid up in our hopes.
(Basil the Great, Letter CXXXXVIII, To Eusebus bishop of Samosata, 2:204)

There is also sustained self-control, industry in prayer, sympathy ion brotherly love, generosity to the poor, lowliness of temper, contrition of heart, soundness of faith, calmness in depression, while we never forget the terrible and inevitable tribunal. (Basil the Great, CLXXIII, To Theodora the Canoness, p.219)

Truly blessed is the soul which by night and by day has no other anxiety, than how when the great day comes when the whole creation shall stand before the Judge and shall give an account for its deeds, she too may be able easily to get quit of the reckoning of life…Anxiety is a good thing; but on the other hand despondency, dejection and despair of our salvation are injurious to the soul. Trust therefore in God and look for his succour, knowing that if we turn to HIm rightly and sincerely, not only will he not cast us off forever, but will say to us even when we are in the act of uttering the words of our prayer, “Lo! I am with you!” (Basil the Great, Letter CLXXIV, To a Widow, p.220)

Do not despair because your trouble follow so close one upon another. The crowns are near; the help of the Lord is near. (Basil the Great, Letter CLXXIV, To the Bereans, p.220)

On the contrary, we are still holding out with al possible earnestness, remembering how even he who was swallowed by the sea monster, because he did not despair of his life, but cried to the Lord, was saved. Thus too we, though we have reached the last pitch of peril, do not give up our hope in God. (Basil the Great, Letter CCXLII, To the Westerns, p.282)

372-395

Gregory of Nyssa, 335-395, bishop of Nyssa, aka Cappadocian father.
…depression naturally chooses loneliness and solitude. (Gregory of Nyssa, On the Baptism of Christ, p.518)

There are others again who after a long battle with pleasures, yield themselves easily on another field, where feelings of an opposite kind come in; and in the intense exactitude of their lives fall a ready pray to melancholy and irritation, and to brooding over injuries and to everything that is the direct opposite of the pleasurable feelings….(Gregory of Nyssa, On Virginity, Ch.XVI, p.362)

What could we conceive to be abhorred more than this for profanity or melancholy as an occasion for lamentation? (Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, p.223)

Unless someone is out of his senses or melancholy mad… (Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and the Resurrection, footnotes, p.448)

…facts themselves proclaim…the melancholy truth… (Gregory of Nyssa, Letter XVII, p.542)

390-422

Augustine of Hippo, 354-430, bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa, one of the Latin Church Fathers. Short intro into Augustine and Psalms.

Augustine’s Commentaries on Psalms from New Advent: Ps.3, Ps.5, Ps.6, Ps.7, Ps.9, Ps.10, Ps.12, Ps.13, Ps.14, Ps.17, Ps.22, Ps.25, Ps.26, Ps.27, Ps.28, Ps.31, Ps.35, Ps.36, Ps.38, Ps.39, Ps.41, Ps.42, Ps.43, Ps.44, Ps.51, Ps.52, Ps.53, Ps.54, Ps.55, Ps.56, Ps.57, Ps.58, Ps.59, Ps.60, Ps.61, Ps.64, Ps.69, Ps.70, Ps.71, Ps.74, Ps.76, Ps.77, Ps.79, Ps.80, Ps.82, Ps.83, Ps.85, Ps.86, Ps.88, Ps.90, Ps.94, Ps.102, Ps.109, Ps.137, Ps.139, Ps.140, Ps.141, Ps.142, Ps.143

1395

Julian of Norwich, 1342-1416, anchoress
Revelations of Divine Love, 1395, 1st published English book written by a woman. Online text. Search: despair (11 times)

Hell is another pain: for there is despair. But of all pains that lead to salvation this is the most pain, to see thy Lord suffer. (ch.17)

The beholding of this (in the context it is Passion) will save us from murmuring and despair in the feeling of our pains. (ch.28)

But our courteous Lord willeth not that His servants despair, for often nor for grievous falling: for our falling hindereth not Him to love us. (ch.39)

And if we by our blindness and our wretchedness any time fall, we should readily rise, knowing the sweet touching of grace, and with all our will amend us upon the teaching of Holy Church, according as the sin is grievous, and go forthwith to God in love; and neither, on the one side, fall over low, inclining to despair, nor, on the other side, be over-reckless, as if we made no matter of it; but nakedly acknowledge our feebleness, finding that we may not stand a twinkling of an eye but by Keeping of grace, and reverently cleave to God, on Him only trusting. (ch.52)

For of nature the Child despaireth not of the Mother’s love…(ch.63)

AFTER this the Fiend came again with his heat and with his stench, and gave me much ado, the stench was so vile and so painful, and also dreadful and travailous. Also I heard a bodily jangling, as if it had been of two persons; and both, to my thinking, jangled at one time as if they had holden a parliament with a great busy-ness; and all was soft muttering, so that I understood nought that they said. And all this was to stir me to despair, as me thought,—seeming to me as [though] they mocked at praying of prayers which are said boisterously with [the] mouth, failing [of] devout attending and wise diligence: the which we owe to God in our prayers. (ch.69)

“Two manners of sickness that we have: impatience, or sloth;— despair, or mistrustful dread” (ch.73)

Doubtful dread in as much as it draweth to despair, God will have it turned in us into love by the knowing of love: that is to say, that the bitterness of doubt be turned into the sweetness of natural love by grace. For it may never please our Lord that His servants doubt in His Goodness. The fourth is reverent dread: for there is no dread that fully pleaseth God in us but reverent dread. And that is full soft, for the more it is had, the less it is felt for sweetness of love. (ch.74)

And thus by this gracious knowing we may see our sin profitably without despair. For truly we need to see it, and by the sight we shall be made ashamed of our self and brought down as anent our pride and presumption; for it behoveth us verily to see that of ourselves we are right nought but sin and wretchedness. And thus by the sight of the less that our Lord sheweth us, the more is reckoned which we see not. For He of His courtesy measureth the sight to us; for it is so vile and so horrible that we should not endure to see it as it is. And by this meek knowing after this manner, through contrition and grace we shall be broken from all that is not our Lord. And then shall our blessed Saviour perfectly heal us, and one us to Him. (ch.78)

And thus in this dread I have matter of meekness that saveth me from presumption, and in the blessed Shewing of Love I have matter of true comfort and of joy that saveth me from despair. (ch.79)

Then belongeth it to us for reverence and kindness to turn us hastily to our Lord and leave Him not alone. He is here alone with us all: that is to say, only for us He is here. And what time I am strange to Him by sin, despair or sloth, then I let my Lord stand alone, in as much as it is in me. And thus it fareth with us all which be sinners. But though it be so that we do thus oftentimes, His Goodness suffereth us never to be alone, but lastingly He is with us, and tenderly He excuseth us, and ever shieldeth us from blame in His sight. (ch.80)

1427

Thomas à Kempis, was a German-Dutch canon regular (priest) of the late medieval period and the author of The Imitation of Christ, one of the most popular and best known Christian devotional books.

Thomas A Kempis, Imitatio Christi, 1427. Search: depression, despair. Online text.

We should not despair, therefore, when we are tempted, but pray to God the more fervently that He may see fit to help us, for according to the word of Paul, He will make issue with temptation that we may be able to bear it. Let us humble our souls under the hand of God in every trial and temptation for He will save and exalt the humble in spirit. (p.19)

When the grace of God comes to a man he can do all things, but when it leaves him he becomes poor and weak, abandoned, as it were, to affliction. Yet, in this condition he should not become dejected or despair. On the contrary, he should calmly await the will of God and bear whatever befalls him in praise of Jesus Christ, for after winter comes summer, after night, the day, and after the storm, a great calm. (p.51)

When consolation is taken away, do not at once despair but wait humbly and patiently for the heavenly visit, since God can restore to you more abundant solace. (p.52)

This is neither new nor strange to one who knows God’s ways, for such change of fortune often visited the great saints and prophets of old. Thus there was one who, when grace was with him, declared: “In my prosperity I said: ‘I shall never be moved.’” But when grace was taken away, he adds what he experienced in himself: “Thou didst hide Thy face, and I was troubled.” Meanwhile he does not despair; rather he prays more earnestly to the Lord, saying: “To Thee, O Lord, will I cry; and I will make supplication to my God.” At length, he receives the fruit of his prayer, and testifying that he was heard, says “The Lord hath heard, and hath had mercy on me: the Lord became my helper.” And how was he helped? “Thou hast turned,” he says, “my mourning into joy, and hast surrounded me with gladness.” (p.52)

If this is the case with great saints, we who are weak and poor ought not to despair because we are fervent at times and at other times cold, for the spirit comes and goes according to His will. Of this the blessed Job declared: “Thou visitest him early in the morning, and Thou provest him suddenly.” (p.53)

1515-1572

Theresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun, Spanish mystic, religious reformer, theologian, an expert in the contemplative life and mental prayer.

Theresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, 1577. Online text. Search: depression (once), sad (once)

If this depression is a temptation, you will be unable to do even this or to calm your mind and fix it on any other subject except that which wearies you still more. It will be much if you even recognise that is a temptation.

The Interior Castle or The Mansions, 1588. Online text. Search: melancholy (6 times)
1) people who suffer from melancholy and other infirmities…(p.74)
2) they compare of interior trials, become melancholy…(p.94)
3) he at once ascribes everything to the devil and melancholy…(p.160)
4) no ground exists for thinking this comes from any natural cause or from melancholy or that it is an illusion of the devil or imagination…(p.168)
5) it is impossible for these experiences to proceed from melancholy, whose whims arise and exist only in the imagination, whereas this emotion comes from the interior of the soul…(p.169)
6) especially of persons with lively imagination who are afflicted with melancholy to any marked extent…(p.175)

1578-1579

St John of the Cross, 1542-1591, The Dark Night of the Soul, 1578-1579 Online text. Carmelite friar and priest of Marrano origin, part of the Spanish Counter-Reformation, a mystic, Roman Catholic saint.

1673

Richard Baxter, 1615-1691, Christian Directory, 1673 Online text in PDF, 1039 pages, 117.6Mb. In his magnum opus, Christian Directory Richard Baxter talks about ‘melancholy’ in Ch.5, Tit.5, melancholy 97 times, despair 152 times, lament 50, lamentable 40, lamenting 12, lamented 11, lamentation 10, sadness 6 times. I believe that this is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) reference book on Christian pastoral theology and cases of conscience. E-book.

Cure for Melancholy and Overmuch Sorrow, by Faith and Physic, Online text.

1678

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come, 1678, Search: Giant Despair,

1691

Timothy Rogers, 1658-1728, Trouble of Mind and the Disease of Melancholy, 1691. didn’t find the online version of this book. English nonconformist minister, author on depression as a sufferer.

1706

Mathew Henry, Nonconformist minister, 1662-1714

Commentaries on Psalms: Ps.3, Ps.5, Ps.6, Ps.7, Ps.9, Ps.10, Ps.12, Ps.13, Ps.14, Ps.17, Ps.22, Ps.25, Ps.26, Ps.27, Ps.28, Ps.31, Ps.35, Ps.36, Ps.38, Ps.39, Ps.41, Ps.42, Ps.43, Ps.44, Ps.51, Ps.52, Ps.53, Ps.54, Ps.55, Ps.56, Ps.57, Ps.58, Ps.59, Ps.60, Ps.61, Ps.64, Ps.69, Ps.70, Ps.71, Ps.74, Ps.76, Ps.77, Ps.79, Ps.80, Ps.82, Ps.83, Ps.85, Ps.86, Ps.88, Ps.90, Ps.94, Ps.102, Ps.109, Ps.137, Ps.139, Ps.140, Ps.141, Ps.142, Ps.143

1864

Keil & Delitzsch, lutheran theologians, Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), Carl Friedrich Keil (1807-1888)

Commentaries on Psalms: Ps.3, Ps.5, Ps.6, Ps.7, Ps.9, Ps.10, Ps.12, Ps.13, Ps.14, Ps.17, Ps.22, Ps.25, Ps.26, Ps.27, Ps.28, Ps.31, Ps.35, Ps.36, Ps.38, Ps.39, Ps.41, Ps.42, Ps.43, Ps.44, Ps.51, Ps.52, Ps.53, Ps.54, Ps.55, Ps.56, Ps.57, Ps.58, Ps.59, Ps.60, Ps.61, Ps.64, Ps.69, Ps.70, Ps.71, Ps.74, Ps.76, Ps.77, Ps.79, Ps.80, Ps.82, Ps.83, Ps.85, Ps.86, Ps.88, Ps.90, Ps.94, Ps.102, Ps.109, Ps.137, Ps.139, Ps.140, Ps.141, Ps.142, Ps.143

1855-1883

Charles H. Spurgeon, 1834-1892, baptist preacher
Sermon 3422. A Call to the Depressed, 1914. Online text.
Sermon 3489. Encouragement For The Depressed, 1871. Online text.
Sermon 1872. My Comfort in Affliction, 1881. Online text.
Sermon 1656. My Solace in My Affliction, 1882(?). Online text.
Sermon 1701. Gladness for Sadness, 1883. Online Text.
Sermon 498. The Gladness of the Man of Sorrows, 1863. Online text.
Sermon 853. A Sermon for the Most Miserable of Men, 1869. Online text.
Sermon 53. Healing for the Wounded, 1855. Online text.

1885

Psalms of Lament (59):
Psalms of Lament
Charles H. Spurgeon, 1834-1892, baptist preacher, Treasury of David, 1885: Ps.3, Ps.5, Ps.6, Ps.7, Ps.9, Ps.10, Ps.12, Ps.13, Ps.14, Ps.17, Ps.22, Ps.25, Ps.26, Ps.27, Ps.28, Ps.31, Ps.35, Ps.36, Ps.38, Ps.39, Ps.41, Ps.42, Ps.43, Ps.44, Ps.51, Ps.52, Ps.53, Ps.54, Ps.55, Ps.56, Ps.57, Ps.58, Ps.59, Ps.60, Ps.61, Ps.64, Ps.69, Ps.70, Ps.71, Ps.74, Ps.76, Ps.77, Ps.79, Ps.80, Ps.82, Ps.83, Ps.85, Ps.86, Ps.88, Ps.90, Ps.94, Ps.102, Ps.109, Ps.137, Ps.139, Ps.140, Ps.141, Ps.142, Ps.143

1965

D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, 1965. Amazon book. Amazon e-book. Audio. 24 sermons. All files in one file.

2008

Michael Phillips, Spiritual Depression #8: Stubbornness, 2008, Audio sermon. Main thought: Confession of sins is a key to getting out of depression

Ian Osborn, Can Christianity Cure Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?: A Psychiatrist Explores the Role of Faith in Treatment, 2008 Amazon book. Amazon e-book.

2008

John Piper, Spiritual Depression in the Psalms, 2008. Online text.
John Piper, God’s work in Your Depression, 2008. Online text.
Some more articles.

2016

Zack Eswine, Realistic Hopes for those who suffer from Depresion, 2016, Amazon book.