PSALM 42:6-8: “I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your billows have swept over me. The Lord will send his faithful love by day; his song will be with me in the night — a prayer to the God of my life.” CSB
OBSERVATION: Should a believer be depressed? Is it a lack of faith to battle with depression? How should I respond if I find myself in this unchosen valley?
What is depression? The American Psychiatric Association gives the following definition.
- “Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.”
Depression can range from temporary setbacks, to a long term condition known as clinical depression. Clinical depression may require medical attention. However, all of us will deal with times of depression in our lives. Depression is not a lack of faith, it is an experience of life.
Psalm 42 is a wonderful Psalm that brings encouragement to anyone who is going through depression. You are not alone! Depression can follow a time of great victory and joy, as it did for Elijah after he defeated the 300 prophets of Baal. It many time follows a period of great emotional and physical strain. Or, it can simply surprise you and take you unaware.
The Psalmist finds himself in a place of depression, longing for God, after a prolonged period of sorrow.
- “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, “Where is your God?” I remember this as I pour out my heart: how I walked with many, leading the festive procession to the house of God, with joyful and thankful shouts.” Psalms 42:1-4 CSB
He longs for God, for the intimacy he once felt in God’s presence. Yet, his experience has been only tears day and night. Others have asked – “Where is your God?” He feels alone, isolated, and forgotten. He remembers the times of joy and thanksgiving that seem so far from him at the moment. Why is he so depressed? Where is God?
When we find ourselves in a state of depression, we must remember that God has never left us. When others say “Where is your God?”, we must resist the temptation to believe that the Lord has abandoned us. When the cloud of depression is over our lives everything is distorted from its true reality. It is an unsafe time to make assumptions, to plan a new course, or to make life changing decisions. We must remember the truth of God’s promise.
- “…For he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. Therefore, we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 CSB
This is what the Psalmist does. He remembers and calls upon the faithfulness of God.
- “Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God…The Lord will send his faithful love by day; his song will be with me in the night — a prayer to the God of my life.” Psalms 42:5, 8 CSB
He declares – “Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God.” This does not immediately pull him from his depression. If you read the entire Psalm you will find that he ends up at the same place he started – yet with hope! His faith puts his depression in perspective. He knows that the depression will pass, but God’s faithfulness and love will endure. It is this hope that undergirds us during these times or prolonged sorrow and despondency.
Depression is not the result of a lack of faith, it is a normal part of the human condition.
There is no magic wand for depression. For some, medical treatment is needed. If your depression is prolonged and does not seem to pass, see your doctor. It is not a lack of faith to consult medical attention for depression, it is an honest response to a true physical need. God has provided the power of prayer and the gift of medicine to meet many of our physical and emotional needs. All healing comes from God!
However, if your depression is the normal type that comes and goes, take heart. Remember that you are not alone. The great saints of old struggled just like you are struggling. And they discovered what you and I can discover too – “This too shall pass!” God’s faithful love will lift us up from the miry clay of our depression. He has not left us. He is always there. All the tears that we shed are held by him in a bottle of remembrance. His faithfulness will again restore us. We will once again praise Him! Weeping and depression may endure for the night, but there will be joy in the morning!
So, if you find yourself in this place of personal darkness, remember the promise of Psalms 42,
- “Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalms 42:11 CSB
Lord, bring your hope, your joy, and your unfailing love to my heart this morning, and to every heart that is struggling today with depression.
In Jesus Name!