Wednesday, April 18, 2012


"Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 43:5 HCSB)

Outside, the rain is pouring. It is hours before dawn--a dawn that will be obscured by dark clouds. I am up--alone with my thoughts. A certain weariness sweeps over me--with pressing demands and relentless responsibilities, it would be easy to fall into melancholy. Go to bed, pull the covers over my head and stop beating that head against the wall--it's tempting to yield to this. A whisper invades my thoughts, rattles around in my soul, grows as a lengthening shadow: "What's the use? Why do you get up and spend all this time studying and sharing Scripture? Few even read it. What good is it?" The ridicule resounds, mocking me, "You are going to do what? Slog out through the rain at this hour and meet with a few men for prayer? And that does what good? God doesn't even care!"

Maybe you never have thoughts like that--at least that you will admit. Good Christians should never be discouraged, much less depressed--we think.

Tell that to the writer of Psalm 43. He was dealing with depression. Now, in the space of these few paragraphs, I cannot present a comprehensive treatise on such a complex matter--which can involve our entire being, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The truths presented here can, however, help us deal with what can become debilitating and dominating. We dare not surrender to it. Some are disposed to depression, but all of us will face it--to some degree or another, at some time or other.

The psalmist deals with depression by offering a PLEA.

"Vindicate me, God, and defend my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from the deceitful and unjust man." (Psalm 43:1 HCSB)

The stimulus for his struggle is the situation that overwhelms him. He would not cry out to God if he felt his resources to deal with the problem were adequate. But, he can't handle it--and thus he begs heaven to hear and help. The author feels betrayed. He has been treated unjustly. Life isn't fair. He thinks, "God, what are you going to do about this?" There is desperation in the tone of his voice. He doesn't deserve this.

Did God provide the miraculous intervention immediately? There is no record of it. Did his situation turn around instantaneously? You cannot prove it. That may well have happened. God does answer prayer. "Prayer changes things!" is the Christian cliche. Yes! But, prayer does not always change our outward conditions. Those may remain, for God is more intent to change our inward dispositions.

You may not like hearing that. We want the dramatic--the parting of the Red Sea and the collapse of Jericho's walls. With enough faith we should be able to kill a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey or bring down a giant with a slingshot! It has happened--and happens still. Just read Hebrews 11.

But, read it all. That chapter concludes with these words:

"And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead-they were raised to life again. Some men were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection, and others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, [hiding] in caves and holes in the ground. All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us." (Hebrews 11:32-40 HCSB)

These "others" never saw the burning bush or the blind made to see. No angel came down to deliver them. Yet, their faith was just as great as those who saw the spectacular. They instead were the spectacle. Were those incredible saints ever depressed? How could they help but struggle with it? But, they did not succumb to it.

So, pray when you feel like it--and even when you don't. Pray especially hard when praying is hardest. When heaven is silent in response, don't you dare be silent! There is something therapeutic even in the expression of the raw emotion. If you don't express your thoughts, they will become toxic. It is a confession of faith in merely pleading with God. Sometimes, our prayers are like lancing a boil to let the pus of self-pity out of our soul. It's a nasty business, but necessary.

The plea is important for it is an honest expression of PERPLEXITY.

"For You are the God of my refuge. Why have You rejected me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy's oppression?" (Psalm 43:2 HCSB)

You aren't supposed to ask God why. It is wrong. Really? Didn't Jesus express such a pitiful perplexity from the cross? "My God, My God WHY have you forsaken Me?" (emphasis added). You are thinking it any way. Do you sincerely believe that God doesn't know your thoughts. He isn't surprised when we voice them. God is a big God. He can take our questions. God may even answer them. But, we can't demand that He do so. He is God and we are not.

Just the acknowledgement of our perplexing, vexing struggle is beneficial. It is an embracing of reality. It is an honest look in the mirror--and while we my not like the image we see, it is nevertheless the nitty-gritty truth of what is going on. I don't think you can deal with depression without that kind of brutal transparency. You will just sink farther into the shadows of unreality if you don't come to grips with things as they truly are.

Perplexity desires a PATH.

"Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place." (Psalm 43:3 HCSB)

In the darkness of depression, we call for light--even a little that would show us a way out. The truth of God's Word is that light. "Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path." (Psalm 119:105 HCSB) Without that light to lead us, we stumble and fall--without the truth we become delusional; without the light we become disoriented.

Chiefly, the psalmist wants to find his way back to the house of God. Where is the path that will take him up God's holy mountain? He is "down" and longs to be "up." It is the place where God's glory dwells that he desires. This man, dealing with depression, knows there is the need to be in the company of the saints, worshipping the Lord. But, he is struggling to get there.

One of the real difficulties in dealing with depression is that the very thing you need to do is often that which you find hardest to do. Depression leads to withdrawal. You travel down a dead-end road, go into an abandoned house, draw the blinds, lock the doors, turn out the lights, disconnect the phone--and barricade yourself in the darkest closet in the basement! You just don't want to deal with people. You don't want to be around happy people because they remind you of what you are not. You don't want to be around depressed people because they remind you of what you are. You don't want to be around bland people because they are boring. You just don't want to be around people! Yet, that is the very path we need to pursue. The encouragement of our fellow pilgrims and the environment of God's presence is so helpful to those dealing with depression.

The audience hearing the letter to the Hebrews were distressed, dispirited, dismayed and depressed--at least, many of them. The path to the house of God was prescribed for them. "Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our [worship] meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:23-25 HCSB) It isn't always the medicine we want to take, but that which is so needful!

If we travel that path to the house of God, we will find it to be path to PRAISE.

"Then I will come to the altar of God, to God, my greatest joy. I will praise You with the lyre, God, my God." (Psalm 43:4 HCSB)

Dealing with depression comes as we carry our burdens to the altar and leave them there! At the altar, we find that it isn't our circumstances that bring us delight--those are as changeable as the weather. Rather, our great joy is found in God--who never changes!

But, when you are dealing with depression, surely you don't feel like praising God. Here are two big words, twice repeated: "I will..." indicating volition, not emotion. You can choose to offer praise, even if you don't feel like it. The choice to rejoice requires that you embrace with your mind the facts of who God is and express with your mouth those facts, irrespective of the emotion of your heart. Some might argue that it is hypocritical to say, "Hallelujah" when you aren't happy, but the truth is that God is worthy of our praise because of his steadfast character.

The author will take up the lyre and begin to pluck the strings. Some of the best melodies have been wrung out of broken hearts.

"Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures. His circle of friends included Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey and various other well-known Christians of the day.

At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.

In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He also went to join Moody and Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that his family's ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.

With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on this trip that he penned those now famous words, When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul..." (from

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.


And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.


The psalm ends with a determined PURPOSE.

"Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 43:5 HCSB)

Depression may reside with him, but it will not preside over him. This is his resolve. The writer talks to himself--a spiritual pep talk, if you will! He has gone from questioning why God doesn't do something about his difficulties, to questioning why he himself doesn't do something about his depression.

He can continue to focus on the conditions that brought this hurt or look instead to the consolation that brings such hope. Hope in God will become his fixation. Somehow, some way, God will come through--even if it has to wait for the blessed hope of heaven!

This hope is unfailing for it rests in the Savior. Should we have the whole world--and all the happiness the material world holds--yet die in our sins, we are without hope. What a waste! On the other hand, if we lose everything here, but gain heaven hereafter--that's reason enough to rejoice!

"Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this [hope] as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure." (Hebrews 6:17-19a HCSB)

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