Why are so many people depressed?
This is the third of “20 Questions for Spiritual Seekers” on Matador. Since I’m in no way qualified to speak about depression medically, I choose to answer this question philosophically. As a young adult in my 20’s, I wrestled with the question of whether there is a God. Do we have a purpose for being here, or are we simply a random outcome of physics? This is a question many try to answer scientifically and theologically, but which can never be answered conclusively. Each of us must answer it for ourselves. Some would say that the very fact that we can ask it is a clue to the answer itself. We are alone among the creatures on Earth who can ponder our own existence. Or as William Lobdell said, “We are the only species that knows we’re going to die”. Though there are infinite layers of potential answers, the fundamental question is straightforward: are we the intentional outcome of a Creator, or are we an accident?
This is the question I pondered in my 20’s. After years of reflection, exploration in various churches, and observations of others and the world around me, the answer for me came very simply – I chose to believe in God because I needed to. The suffering of the innocent, particularly children, presented me with a difficult dilemma in my search for belief: if there is no God, their suffering is without purpose. Through no fault of their own, they are born in the wrong place at the wrong time, will suffer unspeakably, and then will die. I, on the other hand, also due to no cause of my own, was born lucky. I can accept that life isn’t fair, but I couldn’t accept that a child’s soul could disappear into oblivion, in a life cut short, without ever knowing love or even a moment without suffering. That isn’t unfair, that’s unbearably tragic. I decided I simply couldn’t live in a reality where that is possible. That world, that life, would be depressing beyond my ability to endure it.
So I chose to have faith. Faith that our lives are not pointless. Faith that suffering will be comforted. Faith that wrongs will be righted. Faith that love endures. And this faith, though it is only that, has given me peace.
“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” —Saint Augustine