Extract from “Darkness is my only companion”

In the midst of an impenetrable depression, one is often unable to sense the presence of God at all. Sometimes all one can feel is the complete absence of God, one’s utter abandonment by God, the ridiculousness of the very notion of a loving and merciful God. This cuts to the heart of the Christian and challenges everything she believe about the world and about herself. But if one is depressed, one should not expect to feel otherwise. In fact, feeling is not really that important for the life of faith. 
Ever since Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) defined religion as the feeling of absolute dependence, Christians in the Protestant West have tended to follow suit. Religion is often framed in terms of feeling or experience. And so G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) quipped that if Christianity were the feeling of absolute dependence, his dog would be the best Christian he ever knew. If we really thought that feeling is the essence of the Christian faith, the depressed Christian would be given all the more ammunition for self-destruction. Since she cannot by definition feel anything but violence toward and hatred of the self, and if that “feeling” were to be validated as religiously significant, why should she bother pushing away the desire for self-annihilation? Often we simply cannot change the way we feel. Despair, abandonment, isolation, and meaninglessness are sometimes unavoidable, and sheer endurance is the only way to deal with them. It is a good thing, then, that God does not look upon us according to our feelings but according to the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. 
Of course, feelings and their examination are key in the work of psychotherapy. I am not denying the importance of being honest with one’s feelings in psychotherapy for the health of the mind, and maybe also even the soul. I am simply questioning the religious significance of feelings, especially for the Christian religion, in the economy of salvation. Our salvation is something Jesus wrought in the cross, not in the interiority of our personality. When our personality frays under the strain of mental illness, this does not mean that God regards our soul any differently from when we are mentally healthy. 
Extract from pages 90-91 of  Darkness is my Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness by Kathryn Greene-McCreight


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