Distress of spirit denotes a state near to despair, can be seen from the fact that they who are in a state near to despair are in internal anxiety, and are then actually in shortness of breath. In the external sense this condition is a compression of the breast, and from this as it were a difficulty of breathing; but in the internal sense it is anxiety on account of the deprivation of the truth which is of faith, and of the good which is of charity, and from this is a state near to despair. … That the deprivation of spiritual truth and good gives birth to such anxiety, and consequently to such distress, cannot be believed by those who are not in faith and charity; for these suppose that to be in distress on this account is weakness and sickliness of mind. The reason is: they do not place anything real in faith and charity, nor therefore in those things which belong to their souls and to heaven, but only in wealth and eminence, thus in the things of the body and the world. They also think:
“What are faith and charity but mere words? What is conscience even? To feel distressed by these things is the same as being distressed by such things as a man sees within him from the silly creations of his fancy, and which he imagines to have some existence, although they have not any. Wealth and high position we can see with our eyes, and we know that they exist by the pleasure they afford, for they excite in our whole bodies an expansion and a fullness of joy.”
So think merely natural men, and so do they speak among themselves.
But spiritual men think differently, for these have their chief life in their spirit, thus in the things that belong to their spirit, that is, in faith and charity; and therefore when they believe themselves deprived of the truths and goods of faith and charity, they are affected with anguish, as are they who are in the anguish of death, for they see before them spiritual death, that is, damnation.
As before said, to the merely natural these persons appear weak and sickly in spirit, but they are strong and healthy; whereas they who are merely natural appear to themselves strong and healthy, and also are so as to the body, but as to the spirit they are quite weakly, because spiritually dead. If they could see what kind of a spirit they have, they would acknowledge it to be so; but they do not see the spirit until the body has died.