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Formulary Friday: Comfortable Words

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Posted by Aled Seago, 3 Feb 2017

Aled Seago reflects on the role of the Anglican liturgy in the context of depression.

There are lots of reasons to love the Book of Common Prayer - not least for the clear Reformed theology that runs throughout its pages.

But I’ve come to appreciate the Prayer Book’s wisdom from a different, more personal angle. 

I suffer from depression.

As a Christian, that means I am battling with objective reality and subjective feeling. I am being fed lies in my own head, about myself and about God. I am being told I am out of reach of God’s love. I am being told only I can solve this. Ultimately, I am being sold the Satanic lie that my life is my own to take away.

But as a Christian, I am united with Christ. My life is the Father’s, bought by the blood of His Son, indwelt by His Spirit. I belong to God.

So in light of this, I have been drawn to three ways to help the fight. They’re not cure-alls, and they run alongside the crucial support of my church family, as well as medicine - but here are three things that I’ve found have helped me.

(1) Look to the Cross
Look to the Man of Sorrows, Jesus Christ. Look to the one who bought me, and who knows what suffering is.

(2) Cry out to God
Instead of just crying on my bed, I turn to cry to my God. For me, the Psalms allow organised, objective truth to battle my swimming head. The BCP is a goldmine for this.

(3) Keep Going.
The Book of Common Prayer contains liturgy to be used when visiting the sick. I wonder how many of us would use it by the hospital bed, or in the lounge of our housebound congregant? At the end of this liturgy, there is a prayer “for persons troubled in mind or in conscience.” It’s well applied for this sort of thing:

“O merciful God, who hast written thy holy Word for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of thy holy Scriptures, might have hope; give [them] a right understanding of [themselves], and of thy threats and promises; that [they] may neither cast away [their] confidence in thee, nor place it anywhere but in thee.”

The prayer goes on to use the vocabulary of bruised reeds and smoking flaxes, taken from Isaiah and applied well by the Puritan Richard Sibbes in his work The Bruised Reed.

So when counselling someone, even people like me that battle with depression, the Book of Common Prayer lends us great wisdom.

To hear more of my thoughts on Depression, you can listen to my talk: http://www.stjohnover.org.uk/sjo/talk/depression-a-christian-perspective/

Aled Seago is an ordinand from Chester Diocese, studying at Oak Hill Theological College.

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