During her life, St. Jane Frances de Chantal struggled with anxiety and some depression. She had great difficulty learning how to forgive and spent her entire life dealing with bouts of doubting God’s love and even existence. By continuously redirecting her thoughts away from her doubts and internal pain she eventually came to a place of serenity though, according to St. Vincent de Paul, she died doubting. Serenity in emotional pain and doubt, imagine that!
Anyone who has struggled with depression, obsessive thoughts, and/or anxiety knows how hard it is to turn away from the pain and function well in life. St. Jane Frances modeled several ways to move in the right direction.
First, she sought help. Of course, during Jane Frances’ time help for mental conditions only came through spiritual directors, of which she had several. She even persisted in getting additional help when she ran into a spiritual director that made her symptoms worse!
Second, when she finally found a good director/counselor in St. Francis de Sales, she candidly poured out her pain, doubts, and fears to him. She did not keep secrets or omissions. These often jeopardize progress towards mental and spiritual wholeness and health.
Third, Jane Frances listened and obeyed to good counsel. When told she could and would have to live with her trials, progress in faith through them, and be a gift to others because of (not despite) them she proceeded to accept herself as she was, emotional pain and doubt included. She didn’t give up trying to get well, but she accepted her cross. In doing this, she allowed God to work through her in His way.
Today, many good people can help us with our mental and emotional ills as well as deal with the difficult situations that often trigger and perpetuate them. So, follow the example of St. Jane Frances de Chantal. Pray. Accept who you are, persevere in your trials, and never give up trying to find the right combination of physician, counselor, spiritual director, and/or other support. Regardless of how you feel, do your duty as best as you are able, continuously redirect your thoughts away from self-critical and doubting thoughts, and make statements of faith. If you do that, God will grant you serenity in pain and doubt and will work through you to build up His kingdom on earth.
Happy Feast Day St. Jane Frances de Chantal! You, who knew such hardships, pray for us as we go through ours!
Picture by Noel Halle (1711-1781), public domain, on wikimedia commons. This is a revised post from last year.