As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. (Genesis 15:12)

Abram is frustrated and feels let down by life. He doubts God, even after he has apparently heard the voice of God directly address the circumstances that have led to his sadness and frustration.

Feelings of “terrifying darkness” are not unfamiliar to many people.

Michael John Gerson is the 54-year-old op-ed columnist for The Washington Post. He suffers from what he identifies as the “insidious, chronic disease” called “depression”.

On 17 February 17 in a sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, Gerson spoke about his experience with depression. Here is part of Gerson’s remarkable sermon. The whole thing should be watched here:

All of us – whatever our natural serotonin level – look around us and see plenty of reason for doubt, anger and sadness. A child dies, a woman is abused, a schoolyard becomes a killing field, a Typhoon sweeps away the innocent. [Ethiopian Ari fl 302] If we knew or felt the whole of human suffering, we would drown in despair. By all objective evidence, we are arrogant animals, headed for the extinction that is the way of all things. We imagine that we are like gods, and still drop dead like flies on the windowsill.

The answer to the temptation of nihilism is not an argument – though philosophy can clear away a lot of intellectual foolishness. It is the experience of transcendence we cannot explain, or explain away. It is the fragments of love and meaning that arrive out of the blue – in beauty that leaves a lump in your throat… in the peace and ordered complexity of nature… in the shadow and shimmer of a cathedral… in the unexplained wonder of existence itself.

I have one friend, John, who finds God’s hidden hand in the habits and coloring of birds. My friend Catherine, when her first child was born, discovered what she calls “a love much greater than evolution requires.” I like that. “A love much greater than evolution requires.”


At some point, willed cheerfulness fails. Or we skim along the surface of our lives, afraid of what lies in the depths below. It is a way to cope, but no way to live.

I’d urge anyone with undiagnosed depression to seek out professional help. There is no way to will yourself out of this disease, any more than to will yourself out of tuberculosis.

There are, however, other forms of comfort. Those who hold to the wild hope of a living God can say certain things: In our right minds – as our most sane and solid selves – we know that the appearance of a universe ruled by cruel chaos is a lie and that the cold void is actually a sheltering sky.

In our right minds, we know that life is not a farce but a pilgrimage – or maybe a farce and a pilgrimage, depending on the day.

In our right minds, we know that hope can grow within us – like a seed, like a child.

In our right minds, we know that transcendence sparks and crackles around us – in a blinding light, and a child’s voice, and fire, and tears, and a warmed heart, … if we open ourselves to seeing it.

Fate may do what it wants. But this much is settled. In our right minds, we know that love is at the heart of all things.

Many, understandably, pray for a strength they do not possess. But God’s promise is somewhat different: That even when strength fails, there is perseverance. And even when perseverance fails, there is hope. And even when hope fails, there is love. And love never fails.

So how do we know this? How can anyone be so confident?

Because we are Lazarus, and we live.