Overcoming Despondency and Discouragement (part 1)

Despondency and discouragement are a disease; they do not proceed from God, and they do us no good whatsoever. Let us follow, then, the example of Bl. Mary of Jesus Crucified, who, after having succumbed to despair, renewed her faith and confidence in her loving Saviour, Who wishes only to bestow on us His grace and blessings. Below are some quotes and ‘maxims’ that will help you to stand strong against this pernicious temptation. The key to understanding these insights will be supplied in the next post (‘Overcoming Despondency… part 2).

“Everything comes from love; all is ordained for the salvation of man. God does nothing without this goal in mind.” – St. Catherine of Siena

“Don’t let temptations frighten you; they are the trials of the souls whom God wants to test when he sees they have the necessary strength to sustain the struggle, thus weaving the crown of glory with their own hands.” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina

“Bear in mind that the more the enemy assaults you, the closer God is to your soul. Think about, and penetrate this great and comforting truth.” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina

“Without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. The gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase.” – St. Rose of Lima

“Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.” – St. Leo the Great

“When God intends to grant a man any particular virtue, it is His way to let him be tempted to the opposite vice.” – St. Philip Neri (The same saint says that, when tempted, we must immediately have recourse to prayer).

“Jesus offers you the cross, a very heavy cross, and you are afraid of not being able to carry it without giving way. Why? Our Beloved Himself fell three times on the way to Calvary, and why should we not imitate Him?” – St. Therese

“It is by battle against temptations that we give God fruits of our love.” -St. John Vianney

“Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing; God never changes. Patience obtains all things. He who possesses God lacks nothing: God alone suffices.” – St. Teresa of Avila

“It is the nature of our enemy to become powerless, lose courage, and take to flight as soon as a person who is following the spiritual life stands courageously against his temptations and does exactly the opposite of what he suggests.” – Saint Ignatius of Loyola

“When tempted, invoke your angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped! Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him; He trembles and flees at the sight of your guardian angel.” – St. John Bosco

“I do not reward for good results but for the patience and hardship undergone for My sake.” – Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez

“You have wounded Me both by word and deed; still I wish to do you good and to let you share all My treasures… They [souls] have not understood My Heart. For it is their very destitution and failings that incline My goodness toward them. And when acknowledging their helplessness and weakness, they humble themselves and have recourse to Me trustfully, then indeed they give me more glory than before their fault.” – Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Believe Me, it is with trials that I send My greatest graces.” – Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity

“It is not when everything is going well that you love Me. It is when everything is going wrong, and in spite of it your soul remains united to Me, peaceful, occupied only in diffusing a good spirit.” – Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity

“One opportunity of forgiving, of overcoming evil by good, is a great present on My part.” – Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity

“A little effort and pain, then such a great reward- and already her below the reward of seeing love, generosity, and the Faith spread irresistibly, like a spot of oil.” – Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity

“See, My little daughter, I really have to send trials to those whom I love in order to wrench them out of the network of habits or errors wherein you run the risk of burying yourself. ‘The disciples are not above the Master’: it is by the Cross that I saved the world.” – Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity

“If you invoke the Blessed Virgin when you are tempted, she will come at once to your help, and Satan will leave you.” – St. John Vianney

“There is no more evident sign that anyone is a saint and of the number of the elect, than to see him leading a good life and at the same time a prey to desolation, suffering, and trials.” – Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

“The more you are tempted, the more I will love you.” – St. Francis of Assisi to one of his Brothers

“Although we do not feel confidence in God, we must not fail to make acts of hope. Distrust of ourselves and of our own strength should be accompanied by humility and faith, which obtain the grace of confidence in God. The more unfortunate we are, the more we should have confidence in Him who sees our state, and who can come to our assistance. No one trusts in God without reaping the fruits of his hope. The soul should remain tranquil and rely on Him who can give the increase to what has been sown and planted. We must not cease to labour, but in toiling we must trust in God for the success of our works.” – St. Francis de Sales

“Be grateful for trials and tribulations! When all is going well, we forget God; only in adversity do we seek Him for comfort.” – St. Francis de Sales

“It is not new to fall; what is wrong is to lie down after you have fallen. Remember where you stood before you fell. The devil once mocked you, but now he will know that you can rise stronger than ever before… Do not draw back from the mercy of God.” – St. Abraham Kidunaia

“The trials that seem to defy our hope and ruin the very foundations of all patience are meant, by the Spirit of God, to make our hope more and more perfect, basing it entirely in God, removing every visible support that can be found in this world. For a hope that rests on temporal power or temporal happiness is not theological. It is merely human, and has no supernatural strength to give us.” – Father Thomas Merton, OCSO

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world.” – 1 Peter 4:12-13

“The longer the trial to which God subjects you, the greater the goodness in comforting you during the time of the trial and in the exaltation after the combat.” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina

“There is always a great temptation to discouragement and distrust even after our sins have been forgiven. We feel that God still holds our sins against us, that His providence will be less favourable to us in the future, that He no longer trusts us not to offend Him again, and He will be reserved and sparing in His graces. We feel too that no matter how great our progress in the future, the ultimate result will always be spoiled by that unfortunate past. The phantom of what might have been had we always been faithful mocks our efforts, lessens our hopes, and disheartens us. There is a certain height, we imagine, which we might have reached, but which is now impossible.

All that, natural though it may be, is quite wrong. It is based upon a wrong notion of God and is the result of a failure to understand His power and goodness. God can always give us the means to make up for lost time. To them that love God, all things work together unto good, writes St. Paul, and St. Augustine would include in “all things” even their sins. It follows then that God can use all things for the good of those who love Him. Even if we conceive of His plan as setting a certain height of holiness for each man, we should also remember that He can lead us to that height from any point we reach in our wanderings. If we lose our way and leave the path He has marked out for us, He can still bring us to the goal by another route. Let us be convinced that no matter what we have lost, what we have ruined, or how far we have wandered into the wilderness from the right path, God can give us back all we have lost or damaged. God can show us a road — or if necessary, build a new road for us — that leads from our present position, whatever it may be, to the heights of sanctity.” – Dom Eugene Boylan

Maxims (inspired by Fr. P.J Michel’s book, ‘Spiritual Despondency and Temptation’)

1. Despondency is an insidious temptation. It blinds us to God’s goodness, weakens our wills and paralyses our soul.

2. The remedy for discouragement is humble, persevering prayer. God has promised us victory and- in the end- eternal life; we must respond to God’s infallible promises with confidence in He alone Who can (and ardently wills to) give us the strength to persevere.

3. “…where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” (Rom. 5:20) If we fall through weakness, there is mercy; if we fall through malice, there is mercy (provided that we are contrite). Boundless mercy merits boundless confidence; though this is only possible with God’s grace.

4. Everything God wills (or permits) is for our ultimate good. Therefore, we should always be grateful to God for whatever befalls us!

5. Sloth leads to discouragement. We must not wait for extraordinary graces that will render our trials ‘easy.’ We must fight courageously. We have the assurance of victory, provided that we lean on God.

6. It is heresy to believe that we can avoid all sin without a special grace from God.

Furthermore, we would do well to meditate on God’s promises; His perfect fidelity; His delight in granting great graces to those who persevere in prayer (cf. the Scriptures and the lives of the saints, for example); our weakness and misery, which entitles us to God’s strength and mercy etc.