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Did Abraham Lincoln Use Faith to Overcome Depression?

Abraham Lincoln is a powerful mental health hero for me. Whenever I doubt that I can do anything meaningful in this life with a defective brain (and entire nervous system, actually, as well as the hormonal one), I simply pull out Joshua Wolf Shenk’s classic, “Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness.” Or I read the CliffsNotes version: the poignant essay, “Lincoln’s Great Depression” that appeared in “The Atlantic” in October of 2005.

Every time I pick up pages from either the article or the book, I come away with new insights. This time I was intrigued by Lincoln’s faith — and how he read the Book of Job when he needed redirection.

Following I have excerpted the paragraphs from The Atlantic article on Lincoln’s faith, and how he used it to manage his melancholy.

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Did Abraham Lincoln Use Faith to Overcome Depression?

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  1. Victor Frankl is another source of inspiration. I actually don’t know much about his mental health history, but he identified the necessity for finding meaning in hardship. Ultimately, religion and spirituality serve to make sense out of tragedy that otherwise looks senseless. It may have been easier in Lincoln’s day, when the reality of God was less openly questioned. With modern science and secularism, it becomes more challenging to find meaning. But it’s possible even today, and even for atheists (or perhaps I should say non-deists, since there are strains within modern atheism that reject all meaning beyond random happenstance). Just like Lincoln, we can find strength by believing that there are larger principles at play than our own small self-interest.

  2. “I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them: Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.” – Saint Augustine

    Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D.



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