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Fighting Off the Dementors

Dementors are some of the scariest creatures that author J.K. Rowling created in her Harry Potter novels. Dementors are wraithlike beings that feed on the happiness of human beings. Contact with a Dementor would leave one in a state of depression or even despair. The worst-case scenario was the Dementor’s kiss, in which the evil creature would consume one’s very soul.

Wizards fought off Dementors by means of the Patronus charm. They would recall their happiest memories, and out from their wands would come a brilliant orb of light in the shape of a creature. Harry Potter’s Patronus was a stag, and his inspiration for his Patronus were memories of his deceased mother. Harry once used a Patronus charm to drive away a crowd of Dementors closing in on his friends.

Dementors are fictional, but in real life there are people and situations who seem to suck the life out of us. What can we do to preserve some sense of joy in our souls? An old hymn by Johnson Oatman titled Count Your Blessings has some advice for us, and it’s not unlike Harry Potter’s Patronus charm:

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Instead of getting lost in feelings of sadness and despair, take a step back, and refocus on people and experiences that have brought you joy. Now, this is easier said than done. Feelings arise from the older, more primitive parts of the brain. In our development as a species, feelings were there before thinking. You may need a doctor or a therapist’s help to get control of your feelings. You certainly need God’s help, so pray that God would give you “an attitude of gratitude” that can overcome despair.

After a conversation with a ministry coach, I have started to visualize the bad news in the media and the challenges of ministry in a pandemic as Dementors circling in the air. While I have no magic wand to change the situation in Afghanistan, or end the pandemic, or put out the fires in California, I can pray, count my blessings, and do what I can do as an individual to make the world a better place. This is how I keep despair at bay and joy and happiness alive in my heart. I invite you to do the same.

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