A Brick in the Valley

Why So Many are Depressed at Christmas
December 18, 2007, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Longings

I think the reason many are depressed over the holidays is because they do not know how to interpret the yearnings of their soul.

I don’t suppose that there is anyone who has not experienced yearnings or longings of the soul – Augustine said that he experienced them when he read Plato – –  he felt as though he was looking at a peaceful valley from a wooded ridge – –  a nostalgic feeling — that there was a beautiful place that he couldn’t quite access.

Lewis wrote a great deal about these longings and and called them “joy’ – -but, he didn’t mean simple happiness, but rather a yearning.

“The experience is one of intense longing. It is distinguished from other longings by two things. In the first place, though the sense of want is acute and even painful, yet the mere wanting is felt to be somehow a delight.” See Pilgrim’s Regress, page 7.

The Germans call this longing Sehnsucht (ZANE-zoocht): yearnings and searchings of the soul (Plantinga, Engaging God’s World, 4).

I haven’t heard Bono talk about it recently, but at least in the 80’s U2, “Still hadn’t found what they were looking for.”  That was a song about “sehnsucht.”

Plantinga (page 3) gave this example of sehnsucht, “certain people feel a kind of delicious sadness on what seems to be the last day of summer.” 

The Stones called it “satisfaction” and from the sounds of things were very angry they couldn’t get it.

Most feel it at Christmas time, and my point here is that the reason so many are inconsolably depressed is because they don’t know what to do with Sehnsucht: the longings of the soul.  

Borrowing from Lewis, if you don’t know what I am talking about here – – move on to a different blog – – because this one isn’t going to make any sense.

But, if you do know what I mean by these intense longings – – then you will probably agree that more than any other season, at Christmas time we have a yearning for something wonderful that seems just beyond our reach – –

And, it is imperative that these yearnings be properly interpreted.   We must realize that these longings of our soul are a longing for God and they will be ultimately fulfilled only on the New Earth.

So many get in trouble at this time of the year, because they convince themselves that these can be fulfilled now – – and when the yearnings of their soul are not satisfied, then they find themselves mired in depression.

You want to see someone depressed (or sometimes mad)?  Find someone who thought that the longings of their soul would be satisfied by having Christmas done in a particular way – – then when they couldn’t get “any satisfaction,” they looked for someone or some circumstance to blame.

Here is what we must do.  Recognize the longings of the soul for what they are. . . they are not needs that can be met in Christmas 2007 by circumstances or relationships within Creation – – rather, they are signs pointing us to Christ – – as Yancey said, they are “Rumors of Another World.”

Lewis’ testimony is all about how he finally figured out sensucht. . . not that he ever got over it.

“I believe (if the thing were at all worth recording) that the stab, the old bittersweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever. But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, “look!” The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that sets them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. ‘We should be at Jerusalem.’ Not, of course, that I don’t catch myself stopping to stare at roadside objects of less importance.” C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy.

Know this at Christmas: Your soul will only find rest in Christ (Psalm 62); what you are longing for is God.  Savor him now – – and be excited on that morning when we will open the present of a New Creation and eternity in his presence (Revelation 21:3-5).


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[…] This is another example of the yearning that people feel . . . that so often results in depression.  See my earlier post. […]

Pingback by Sensus Divinitatas « A Brick in the Valley

[…] on “longings of the heart.”  Randy is writing about “sensucht,” see my post on why so many are depressed at Christmas […]

Pingback by A Great Day in Blogging « A Brick in the Valley

[…] If you have ever experienced longings or yearnings of the soul, what the Germans called “sensucht” than you need to read C.S. […]

Pingback by C.S. Lewis and Longings of the Heart « A Brick in the Valley

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