A book that I’ve found practically helpful on the theme of contemplative prayer is Martin Laird’s A Sunlit Absence. At one point, he mentions a man who wrestled with depression for some time, and finally found help in contemplative prayer. I have found myself struggling at times with seasons of depression. I’ve discovered that many Christian leaders have and do.
Now, by contemplative prayer, I do not mean some esoteric, out-of-bounds, “them” category practice. I mean a Christ-focused, Spirit-empowered, word-rooted engagement in holy silence before the holy presence of God.
So, here are a few lines from p. 119 of that book:
“His depression remained for some time; however, his practice of contemplation continued to deepen and allowed him to see the thoughts and thought-clusters that maintained low mood and low energy. Being able to see the thoughts and thought-clusters in turn helped loosen the grip of depression. Even while depression remained present to a certain extent, its grip loosened considerably.”
It’s through uncluttering and focusing my mind on Jesus through this prayer of quiet that I’m able to notice and take captive those thoughts (2 Co 10:3-4) that arise from places other than the truth and reality of God in Jesus.
That said, I can feel the resistance within me arise when I think to engage this practice. This, too, is a thought. It has its roots, I think, in those immature emotions still at work within me. I am my own worst counselor, but I must recognize that this resistance itself is not something to be followed, but resisted. Irony. Resist resistance.
It is this awareness that contemplative prayer—the prayer of quietly abiding in the presence of God through the name of Jesus—does not always have directly positive results, but bears good fruit over time. I’m able to see depression as a feeling. I am not my depression. I am simply feeling depressed. There is a me hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3) that is truer and deeper than these surface emotions.
What negative emotions have proven challenging to you in your life and leadership lately?
How might allowing your heart and mind to become quietly and simply focused on God, in a sense setting your heart and mind on things above rather than being engrossed in all these earthly concerns (Col 3:1-2) become helpful to you?