When the Spirit Is Overwhelmed
George H. Morrison
There are some natures more exposed than others to this overwhelming of the spirit, but it would be untrue to life to say that the peril can be limited to temperament. Some of the last people one would ever dream of are prone to this hopeless sinking of the heart. The author of "The Christian Year"1 was a man of singular serenity; he had a happy humility of soul; he delighted in the beauty of the world. Yet in one of his letters to Sir John Coleridge2 he tells us of the fight he had to wage against this overwhelming of the spirit. I should look for it in Jeremiah, that most tremulous of all the prophets; but in Elijah-that man of iron will-I should scarcely anticipate the finding of it. Yet in the life of Elijah came an hour when, plunged into the deeps, his prayer was that God would let him die (1 Kings 19:4). There are few things that men hide so well as this interior desolation. Brave folk are adept in concealing it. It is when men and women meet us brightly, though there be not a star in all their sky, that we feel the heroism of humanity.
Sometimes this overwhelming comes for reasons that are purely physical. This is the body of our humiliation, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made. I asked a friend only the other evening if she knew the overwhelmed spirit, and she answered, "Only when I am very, very tired." Women especially get so very tired. In Spenser's3 "Fairie Queene" there is a magnificent description of Despair, and the fine touch is that the knight confronts Despair when he has been a prisoner in a dungeon. Give him his charger, let him ride abroad, fill his lungs with the fresh air of heaven, and he never meets the horrid form of hopelessness. Nothing is more delicate and subtle than the interaction of the body and the soul. Lack of faith is sometimes lack of oxygen which should make us very tenderhearted and forbearing and compassionate in judgment toward those who are never ...
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