Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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I have been going through some depression and anxiety lately. I had quite a few things happen in the past year or so. I got into a wrong relationship with a boy and I had a couple challenges with my childhood best friend. After trouble with my relationships, I feel that I learned that I should not praise people. People make mistakes and they can hurt you. In addition, I do not want people to praise me or compliment me because I, too, am a sinner. However, I feel that there is a void in my heart. I do not really feel love toward others around me. I feel that my heart has grown cold, maybe as a coping mechanism to get through the hurt. Throughout this process, I have grown closer to a God to help me get through this. However, I feel that my relationship with God has been making me feel depressed. I feel that if I am not using my time wisely or praising God, I am doing something wrong and that I am losing the kingdom of heaven. Not only that, but I feel guilty listening to secular music or watching secular movies or reading secular writings. I feel depressed and unable to do anything. I do not know what to do and I feel so confused.

Hardships and challenges in life can make us bitter, better, or indifferent. The choice is ultimately yours. Some people who have endured hardships in relationships or health or financial circumstances chose to channel their energies into spite, complaints, hate, anger, and/or apathy. These attributes will hold you hostage more than the persons whom you feel inflicted the pain on you. You have the ability to turn these experiences around to your favor and ascribe positive meanings. The negative experiences you described were learning moments in your life. By ascribing a more spiritual meaning to these experiences, you can reach the conclusion that even the hardest lessons in life have had good and beneficial purposes in your life, to build character, teach perseverance, strengthen faith, experience forgiveness, and offer love. There are no coincidences. All these help us to grow into spiritual maturity. It is not easy being Christian. We are expected to be loving, forgiving, merciful, compassionate, generous, wise, chaste, and joyful. When we do all these and the other reciprocates with unkindness, it is normal to feel hurt. However, unless Christ is at the center of your life, you will always experience a void, spiritual, emotional, psychological, and even physical. Christ's presence in our lives fills us with Him, and with His beautiful and serene love. Thus, St. Paul clearly spells out the motto of Christianity.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35-39).

If the depression and anxiety increase, consider talking with a professional therapist, preferably a Christian therapist that can relate to your spiritual struggles and integrate your spiritual needs in therapy without encouraging you to abandon your Christian faith and principles.

From a spiritual perspective, try to focus on one psalm each day. Let that be the daily spiritual nourishment for your soul. As you feed your body with various foods, feed also your soul. With time, you will reject secular distractions in favor of more spiritual fulfillment. You can find a myriad of spiritual Christian literature, hymns, lectures, and homilies on every subject. Take it one day at a time. God furnished the world for us in six days to ensure it can provide for all our needs. Be patient with yourself. God is patient, ready, and willing to walk beside you when you are strong and lift you up when you tire: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).
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