I usually chuckle to myself when I ask a fellow Christian how they’re doing and they reply with, “Oh, I’m blessed and highly favored! I am the head and not the tail, above and not beneath! I am more than a conqueror.” You probably know people like this, believers who always seem to be on top of the world, and insist that you should be as well. I understand (for the most part) where these guys are coming from; however, the reality I find in the Bible is a little different from all of that. Sometimes, even if you know the Lord; things can get you down. Christians are not immune to depression.
In Psalm 42/43 (most likely these were originally one Psalm), we see the Psalmist in a state of depression. He remembers how things use to be (42:4), and as he considers where he is at the present time; it seems like God has abandoned him. He asks, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? O God my rock, I cry, Why have you forgotten me? Why have you tossed me aside? Why must I wander around in grief” (42: 5, 9; 43:2) Have you ever felt like that? Has it ever seemed like all hope is gone, and just when you need him most; the Lord has left the building? You are not alone; so did the author of Psalm 42/43.
I read recently that in a given year, between 13-14million people will experience a depressive disorder. Approximately 7 million women in the United States are clinically depressed. Up to 2.5 percent of American children suffer from depression (http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/depression-there-cure-0/). Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years in the U.S., with approximately 25,000 suicides. Currently, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S (http://www.christianliferesources.com/article/suicide-facts-and-statistics-114). These are indeed sobering statistics, and Christians are right there in the mix. Let’s look back into Psalm 42/43.
In this Psalm, the ups and downs of depression are vividly described for us. While we do indeed find our Psalmist in a state of depression, he appears to transition out of it, not because his circumstances change, but rather; he himself changes as he places his hope in the Lord. We see that the depression has produced a deep, spiritual thirst in the author, and he longs to be with God. He compares himself to a deer that is in the slow agony of water deprivation. (42:1, 2) Then, in the midst of the struggle; he tells himself to hope in God, for he will praise him again. Once more in 42:6, he reflects back into the past and again becomes discouraged. He reminds himself that “…each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me…” Down into the pits he goes again in 42: 9, 10:
“O God my rock,” I cry,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
oppressed by my enemies?”
Their taunts break my bones.
They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”
42:11 finds him questioning himself as to why he feels this way. Once again, he says, “I will hope in God.” In 43:2, he asks God why he has been forgotten. Can’t we see ourselves in this Psalm? Up one moment and down the next, our emotions are all messed up. It seems like we’ll never recover, but then; we remember that our hope is in God. And, that’s the game changer!
“Send out your light and your truth;
let them guide me.
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God,
to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise you with my harp,
O God, my God!” (43: 3, 4)
Our Psalmist understands that it is only in God’s presence that he can “get his mind right.” He asks for God’s light and truth so that he can find his way back to where his heart longs to be, in the presence of God. The answer is not in the past, in what use to be, but rather in communing with the Lord right there in the midst of his trouble. He understands that it is God who is the source of his joy, and this realization prompts him to break out into a song of praise!
It may seem like all hope is gone. You may even feel forgotten and abandoned by God. You are not alone! As we have seen, depression was even a part of the lives of those whom God’s Spirit used to pen the Bible. Run to Jesus; pour out your heart to him. He cares about your trouble and wants to heal you of your depression. He himself is the peace you seek. What’s so cool is, even though your circumstances may not immediately change; you will! He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” In the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy, and depression cannot stand before him.