What do you do when you’re depressed? You say, “Christians don’t get depressed! I’m too blessed to be depressed!” Well, that might be a cute saying, but it has nothing to do with reality. Some of God’s greatest saints have gone through dark, deep nights of depression.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that depression is a billion dollar per year business. Over 8 million Americans are so depressed that they can’t cope and many of them name the name of Christ.
It doesn’t do a depressed person any good for you to say, “Cheer up!” There’s nothing they’d like to do more than to cheer up. And if you come along with a silly grin and a slap on the back thinking you’re doing them some good……you aren’t.
What is depression? It’s listless feeling or an overwhelming sadness. Nothing feels good. It’s a state of hopelessness. It’s the idea that no one understands or cares about you. You’re filled with anxiety and worry. You may be given to crying spells. Every now and then you may just heave a big sigh. You wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. You feel fatigued and worn out all the time. You may ache all over. You may not be able to make decisions. You find yourself irritable and grouchy. You can’t be enthusiastic about anything. Quite frankly, you just wish the world would stop and let you off.
I know what it’s like because I’ve been there.
David went through depression. Look at Psalm 42:5. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me?”
Did you know that depression is the second or third leading cause of death in some age groups? It’s not uncommon to see a spouse die shortly after his or her mate passes away.
David, the man after God’s own heart, wrote this Psalm. And this man of God asks, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?”
Moses got so depressed that he asked God to kill him. Elijah, the mighty prophet of God, was running from Jezebel in a time of extreme mental anguish. He sat down under a juniper tree and requested that he might die.
Jeremiah came to the point where he said, “I wish I had died in my mother’s womb!” Even the mighty Apostle Paul said that he despaired even of life. Jonah, who preached a city-wide crusade where everyone in Nineveh repented in sackcloth and ashes, asked God to take away his life.
Jesus said, “There is not a greater man born of woman than John the Baptist.” But when John was in a dungeon, he got so depressed that he even doubted that Jesus was the Messiah.
Great leaders in the secular world have been depressed. Sir Winston Churchill, the man who said, “Never, never, never give up!” had severe bouts of depression. He called it a black dog that hounded him.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon was a man of wit and warmth, but all of his biographers tell us that there were times when he would sink into deep fits of despondency and depression.
Martin Luther, the great reformer also dealt with deep depression. What I’m trying to show you is this: if you suffer from depression, you are in good company.
David had plenty of reason to be depressed. He had a son, Absalom, who rebelled against him. This was a son David loved with all his heart. That son was killed, David was deposed as king, and he had to flee for his life. He was being hunted down. He has no more power or possessions. His son has died, his daughter was raped by another son, his wife was raped, another son is killed and the nation is in turmoil. He had plenty of reasons to be depressed.
In this Psalm, David writes a clinical case of depression. Psalm 42:1-2 says, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”
Just write down spiritual dryness. Here’s a man who says, “God, I’m so thirsty for you, but I can’t find you! I’m like a deer hunted by a pack of wild dogs. God, where are you? Have you forgotten me?” Look at verse 9. “I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me?”
God hadn’t forgotten him, and God hasn’t forgotten you; but if felt like God had forgotten him. Sometimes, even though a preacher knows that God has him where he wants him, feels like God has forgotten where He put them. David says, “God, have you forgotten me?” There is a spiritual dryness and he’s on continual crying jags. Look at verse 3. “My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?”
We all cry and we all have sorrows and heartaches, but that’s not depression. Normal tears are like a thunderstorm that passes through. But depression is like a front that moves in and camps overhead with continual dripping.
David feels shame and defeat. The last part of verse 3 says, “While they continually say, Where is thy God?” David has this feeling that he has let God down and that he’s a miserable example of a Christian. He no longer has any witness or testimony and he has tremendous guilt over that.
Spiritual dryness, continual crying, a feeling of shame; but all of that is compounded by a lingering feeling of what used to be……lingering memories. Look at verse 4. “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy-day.”
He’s looking back at a time when he had joy, and peace, and satisfaction, and friends, and fellowship, and worship. It was so real to him….but now it’s just a memory that haunts him. He thinks it can never be that way again. That just makes his present sadness all the worse because it’s set against that background.
The sum total of all this is overwhelming circumstances. Look at verses 6-7. “O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar. Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”
What’s he talking about? He’s having thoughts of death. He talks of Jordan. In Bible typology, Jordan speaks of death. Jordan begins at the top of Mount Herman which is beautiful and snowcapped all year round. Then the Jordan trickles down a torturous route to the Dead Sea which is 1300 feet below sea level at its surface and is another 1300 feet deep. It’s the lowest point on earth. The Jordan runs down Mount Herman and buries itself there never to rise again. It speaks of death.
David says, “All thy waterspouts have gone over me.” He’s talking about waterfalls. One of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world is at the headwaters of the Jordan. But David says, “This river of death is come over me.” When you get despondent enough, you get to thinking that death would be a welcome release.
There is the severe problem of depression, but there is also the spiritual provision for depression. There is hope.
You may not be clinically depressed, but you may be mildly depressed: you may just be having a bad day. But this will apply wherever you are on that continuum. Look inward with a firm look. Look at verses 5-6. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.”
He’s beginning to look inward and He’s talking to himself. There is someone inside you who is always talking to you. The old flesh nature is continually talking to you. That’s where negative thinking comes from. It’s saying, “You deserve this. You can never be better. You ought to have a pity party. You be better off dead.” Your soul is always there talking to you, but you need to talk back!
That’s what David does. He takes his soul by the scruff of the neck and says, “Why are you this way, O my soul?” He takes an inward look and says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” He just talks back to himself.
Do you ever talk to yourself? One man said, “I’m concerned about my wife. She always talks to herself.” His friend said, “Does she know she’s doing it?” He said, “No, she thinks I’m listening to her.”
Do you ever talk to yourself? You ought to. You aren’t wacko if you do that. David talks to himself and takes a firm inward look. He asks, “Why am I depressed?” You need to ask yourself that question. You can answer it better than anyone else. No one knows you like you do. The Bible says, “What man knows the spirit of a man save the spirit of man that is in him?”
When you ask yourself, “Why am I depressed?” be honest with your answer. You might be depressed because of the death of a loved one. You might be depressed because you’re heartbroken. Maybe someone has rejected you or done you wrong. Maybe it’s a child, a parent, a husband, a wife, or someone in the church.
Maybe you lost something valuable to you. It might be your health, your job, your reputation, etc. But you’ve lost something and you don’t see how you’ll ever get it back.
Maybe you’re depressed because you feel guilty. The grime and guilt has dirtied up the window panes of your spiritual house and everything looks a yellowish gray.
Just ask yourself, “Why am I depressed?” It may be that you’re in bad health. Maybe the first thing you should do is go get a checkup. You may need some vitamins or a better diet. You may need a rest or a vacation. But look inward with a firm look. Don’t tip toe around it….look yourself straight in the eye!
First, look inward with a firm look, then, look upward with a faith look. Look at verses 7-9. “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me?” Look to Him. He’ll never fail you.
Abraham Maslo, a famous research analyst said, “The truth is that the average American does not have a true friend in the world.” You’d think that everyone would have at least one friend. But he says that the average American doesn’t even have one real friend. But every Christian does. What a Friend we have in Jesus! He’s your Rock! Look upward with a faith look. The only lasting cure for depression is to put your eyes on Jesus. If that seems simplistic to you, it’s only because of the hardness of your heart. Verse 8 says that He’s the God of your life and verse 9 says that He’s your Rock.
One verse speaks of His tenderness and the other speaks of His strength. Have you ever heard of a tender rock? That’s what God is: He’s a tender Rock! Look at Psalm 147:3-4. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.”
How many stars are there? No one can count them. But God can tell you about every one of them. He can tell you where they’re located, He can tell you their size, their weight, their brightness, their magnitude……and He’s got a name for every one of them! Yet He’s the One who binds up your wounds. That’s a tender Rock. That’s how great God is.
Everything big is made up of things that are little. Our world is made up of atoms. They’re so small that you can put 25 trillion of them inside an inch. The God of bigness is also the God of smallness. The God who runs the universe attends the funeral of every sparrow. He’s the tender Rock.
Don’t get the idea that God doesn’t care about you. The very hairs of your head are numbered. If no one else understands you, if you don’t have a friend anywhere, if you can’t see a solution; God will not fail you.
If you put your hope anywhere else, you’re going to go down. I used to live in Florida and I’ve been through hurricanes. When a hurricane is coming, you bring everything you can inside and shutter all the windows. But some things are too big to bring inside, so you tie them down. But when you have winds that can exceed 140 miles per hour, the thing you tied down can be gone…..and the thing you tied it to is gone also!
God is a Rock that can’t be moved. You say, “Pastor, are you telling me that if I bring all my troubles to God that He’ll explain it and I’ll understand?” No. You may never understand. In verse 9 David asks, “Lord, why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” Look at verse 10. “As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?”
When people are depressed, they always come and ask the same question. They say, “Pastor, why did this happen? Why did my husband die? Why did I lose my job? Why? Why? Why?”
Why is not your question. Why is God’s question. Your question is how. How are you going to react?
Many of God’s choicest saints have gone through deep, dark depression and David was one of them. In the same verse where he acknowledges God as his Rock he says, “God, I don’t understand.”
Warren Wiersbe reminds us that we don’t live by explanations; we live by promises. If something has happened to you that you don’t understand, just think of the incredible opportunity you now have to trust God.
Robert Frost said, “It was of the essence of the trial that you shouldn’t understand it at the time. It had to have un-meaning to have meaning.”
You wonder why you can’t hear from God while you’re going through this test, but remember that the teacher is always silent while giving a test.
If God explains it all to you it ceases to be a trial. But if you say, “God, why have you forsaken me? I don’t understand it, yet, you are my Rock.” Now you’re coming to the place Job came to when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
Andrew Murrey said, “In times of trouble God’s trusting child must say, First, He brought me here. It is His will that I am in this strait place. Next, He will keep me here in His love, and He will give me grace in this trial to behave as His child. Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends for me to learn, and working in the grace he means to bestow. Last, in His good time He can bring me out again. How and when, He knows. Say, number 1, I am here by God’s appointment; number 2, in His keeping; number 3, under His training and number 4, for His time. God is too good to be unkind and too wise to make a mistake. When we cannot trace His hand, we can trust His heart.”
Take the firm inward look. Take the faith upward look. Then, take a focused onward look. Look at verse 11. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me?”
He’s looking to the future. “I’m coming out. I do have hope. I will hope in God. No matter how bleak it is, no matter how dark it is, no matter how despairing it is, I have hope in God.
There are only two places where there is no hope. One is Heaven where you don’t need it. There, faith has turned to reality. The other is Hell, where people have no hope.
Hope in God who, in His time, will turn every hurt into a hallelujah; every tear into a pearl; every midnight into a sunrise; and every Calvary into a Resurrection Sunday. Don’t lose hope.
Maybe God is taking everything else away from you to get you to hope in Him and trust in Him alone. St. Augustine asked this question…one of the most penetrating questions I’ve ever heard: He said, “Suppose God were to come to you and offer you a deal. He says to you, You can have whatever you want. You will live everlastingly, you will have all power, every longing will be satisfied, nothing will be a sin to you, nothing will be forbidden to you, you can have everything you want, as much as you want, whether it is joy, peace, long life, success…..anything you want. But there is one exception: you will never see my face. Would you take that deal?”
Then he said, “If you say, No, then you have the pure love of God.” Then he said, “If a chill went over your soul when you heard that phrase, “You will never see my face,” then thank God, because you are saying that God means more to you than all the universes put together.”
I don’t think God is ever finished with us until our chief delight is God alone. When our chief delight is God alone, then no matter how dark, or how deep, or how dismal, or how despairing you are: when God alone is your chief desire, you will be complete.
If you are depressed, don’t let Satan blow out the light of hope within you. God is not finished with you yet.