Chapter 91

  1. Despondency

“The darkest day,

Live till to-morrow, will have passed away.”

There are dark hours that mark the history of the brightest years. For not a whole month in any one of the thousand of the past, perhaps, has the sun shone brilliantly all the time. And there have been cold and stormy days in every year, and yet the mists and shadows of the darkest hours were dissipated and flitted heedlessly away. In the wide world also we have the overshadowing of dark hours. There were hours of despondency when Shakespeare thought himself no poet and Raphael no painter, when the greatest wits doubted the excellence of their happiest efforts.

But we have also bright days to offset the sad ones. Though there are the dark ones, when the fire will neither burn on our hearths nor our hearts, and all without and within is dismal and dark, there come days when we rejoice in the brightness of hope and prosperity. It is human nature to look upon only the bright and cheery scenes of life, to forget its trials and storms in the light of the present. But let us not forget that there will come other moments, when the eye will be less calm, the cheek less bright, and the tongue less silent; the brain will be full of imaginings, pensive and sad, its inmost springs less elastic and buoyant.

Despondency too long continued gives place to despair. No calamity can produce such a paralysis of the mind. It is the capstone of the climax of human misery. The mental powers are frozen with indifference, the heart becomes ossified with melancholy, the soul is shrouded in a cloud of gloom. No words of consolation, no cheerful repartee can break the death-like calm; no love can warm the pent-up heart, no sunbeam dispel the dark cloud. Time may effect a change; death will break the monotony. We can extend our kindness, but can not relieve the victim. We may trace the cause of this awful disease; God only can effect a cure. We may speculate upon its nature, but can not feel its force until its iron hand is laid upon us. We may call it weakness, but can not prove or demonstrate the proposition. We may call it folly, but can point to no frivolity to sustain our position. We may call it madness, but can discover no maniac action. We may call it stubborness, but can see no exhibition of indocility. We may call it lunacy, but can not perceive the incoherence of that unfortunate condition. We can properly call it nothing but dark, gloomy despair, an inexpressible numbness of all the sensibilities rendering a man happy.

It is, indeed, a happy providence that has given to mankind the bright, shining sun of hope to dispel the gloom of despondency. We have all seen the sun burst from behind the clouds and light up a storm-swept landscape. Even so, when the hand of misfortune has darkened our brightest prospects and swept away our sunlit dreams of future happiness, has some unseen monitor inspired our drooping spirit with hope and bid us struggle on; and as we look forward into the future fancy points us to a brighter day’s dawning. When the soul is often bowed down with the weight of its own sorrows and the heart is well-nigh crushed, even then some faint glimmering of a happier future steals upon it like a rainbow of light.

It is to be feared that many do not as resolutely fight against fits of despondency as they might. Many fits of the blues need but to be resolutely contended against, and they will disappear; harbored, they will grow into despondency and despair. It is worth while to remember that fortune is like the skies in April, sometimes clouded and sometimes clear and favorable, and it would be folly to despair of again seeing the sun because to-day is stormy. So it is equally unwise to sink into despondency when fortune frowns, since in the common course of things she may be surely expected to smile again.

Life is a warfare, and he who easily desponds deserts a double duty—he betrays the noblest property of man, his dauntless resolution, and he, rejects the providence of God, who guides and rules the universe. There is but one way of looking at fate—whatever that may be, whether blessings or afflictions—to behave with dignity under both. We must not lose heart, or it will be the worse, both for ourselves and for those whom we love. To struggle, and again and again to renew the conflict—this is life’s inheritance.

Do not, then, allow yourself to sink into despondency. Man is born a hero, and it is only by darkness and storms that heroism gains its greatest and best development and illustrations; then it kindles the black cloud into a blaze of glory, and the storm bears it to its destiny. Despair not, then. Mortifying failures may attend this effort and that one, but only be honest and struggle on, and it will all work out right in the end. Do not make the mistake, either, of supposing that despondency is a state of humility; on the contrary, it is the vexation and despair of a cowardly pride; nothing is worse; whether we stumble or whether we fall, we must only think of rising again, and going on in our course.

Do your work, then; only let it be a noble one. Be faithful to your trust. If you have but one talent improve it; do not bury it in the earth because you have not ten. Toil steadily and hopefully on, for life is too short to admit of delay or despondency. Let those who are in sorrow remember that deliverance may be coming, though they see it not. Your days may wear more gold in the morning, and more at night, though the midday be full of snow. God may be gracious, though he comes to us robed in darkness and clothed in storms. It is a journey of release towards the Spring when Winter is coldest and darkest. Despondency is but the shadow of too much happiness thrown by our spirits upon the sunshiny side of life. Look up, and God will give you a song in your heart instead of a tear in your eye.

Causeless depression of spirits is not to be reasoned with, nor can even David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings. As well fight with the mists as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding, hopelessness. Yet we are familiar with many such instances in practical, every-day life. Many who have much to be thankful for are full of complaint. Such disposition is no less unfortunate than it is reprehensible. They make miserable not only their own life, but also the lives of those with whom they are in daily contact. No doubt the one given over to causeless melancholy feels a full weight of sorrow, and those who laugh at his grief, could they but experience it, would quickly be sobered into compassion. What is wanted is a firm reliance on Providence, and a determination to do your duty; then go forward bravely and cheerfully, resolutely fight against this disposition. Your life will be much happier.

The trouble is, that many of us, when we are under any affliction, are troubled with a certain malicious melancholy. We only dwell and pore upon the sad and dark occurrences of Providence, but never take notice of the more benign and bright ones. Our way in this world is, like a walk under a row of trees, checkered with light and shade, and, because we can not all along walk in the sunshine, we, therefore, perversely fix upon the darker passages, and so lose all the comfort of the cheering ones. We are like froward children, who, if you take one of their playthings from them, throw away all the rest in spite. What a pitiable confession is this of human weakness! Let us, then, strive against such a spirit of despondency. Even when the way before us is both dark and dreary it still is worse than useless to give way to despondency. Think not that you are forsaken; you have much still to make life enjoyable. Energy and proper application may recover what you have lost; take heart; pluck up courage; give not over to despondency; by resolutely confronting the evils of life they will lose their force.

, In, pager

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