by Pastor Bob Feist
Many times, we find ourselves in the middle of everyday struggles. Certainly, this last year has provided all of us with some new and different struggles. What do you do when that struggle turns into depression?
Because depression is an emotional state, we all experience it from time to time in our life. Half of Americans in a recent poll said they or their family members have suffered from depression My guess is the other half of us are just still in denial about it.
Generally, we know that bouts of depression are part of life. People in the bible certainly were acquainted with depression. Elijah got to the place he prayed God would let him die he was so bummed out and it happened right after his great victory against the prophets of Baal. Hannah wept and experienced bitterness of soul in her barrenness, so much so that Eli the priest thought she was drowning her sorrows in alcohol when in fact she was crying out in prayer. David regularly struggled with feelings of loneliness, isolation, and discouragement as his enemies tried to do him in on every side. They experienced despair and deep heartache, but God delivered them. I believe God can deliver us.
1. Admit you are depressed.
David writes, Ps 42:5,11 “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” First, you must admit that something is wrong. I don’t know about you but sometimes I don’t want to admit it. Being depressed is not something any of us enjoys and when those times come, it’s not something we want to go around talking about – “Yeah I’m really in the pit of depression these days – I’m really struggling and I just had to share.” That’s usually the last thing we want to do – talk with anybody about it because talking about it means facing it and often we don’t want to face our depression — we’d like to ignore it or hope it will go away.
2. Accept your tears.
If you are going to defeat the sting of depression in your life, you need to accept your tears. David said Psalm 42:3 “Day and night my tears are my only food as everyone keeps asking, “Where is your God?” (CEV) I don’t know about you, but I’ve come to realize that tears often come with depression. Sometimes you can feel so overwhelmed with sorrow and sadness or shame and disappointment that the tears just flow. That’s nothing to be ashamed of – let them flow. Ps 42:7 says “All your waves and billows have gone over me, and floods of sorrow pour upon me like a thundering waterfall. (Living)
3. Address the pain.
What is it that is causing our depression? Sometimes we are pretty self – aware, something has happened, and we know why we’re feeling so blue. Other times we don’t have a clue. These feeling of despair and sadness just show up out of nowhere and we can’t put a finger on the cause.
Many times the cause of our depression boils down to one simple thing – unrealized expectations in life. You have hopes for one thing, expectations that things will turn out one way but instead they turn out another. Hello? You started with plan A but now your on plan B, C, or D.
You have plans for children and a family and you want it all to turn out like “Leave it to Beaver” But sometimes children don’t come, you’re unable to have them, and that is a special kind of pain, or when they do come your experience of parenthood turns out to be a lot different than you thought. That’s difficult to deal with too. Unrealized expectations in our families can depress us.
4. Ask the hard questions.
David, asked the same question 3 times in Psalm 42 “ Why are you discouraged, my soul? Why are you so restless?” (GW) You have to be willing to ask hard questions of yourself. God, is there something that I’m not seeing here that you want me to see? Why am I so discouraged? Why am I so restless? Sometimes your discouraged and restless because you’re not operating according to God’s plan for you life – guess what — you won’t be fully satisfied or fulfilled until you do. Rick Warren suggests God has 5 primary purposes for every human being. Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, and Missions. Maybe your discouraged and restless because your out of balance in some or all of these purposes. Ask yourself the hard questions.
5. Affirm God’s goodness.
In spite of everything that is happening around you, find a way to affirm God’s goodness. David said, in Ps 42:6 “My soul is discouraged” still “I will remember you.” Some of the most delightful people I know are the people who stay delighted in God no matter what else is happening. What a testimony! Those of you who knew the late Janet Holt remember her steadfast confession from Ps 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Janet went through some difficult times throughout her life, but you wouldn’t know it. She made it a point to rejoice in the Lord always and affirm God’s goodness.
6. Anchor your hope in God.
If you look at this passage closely, you notice that before David ever begins to deal with the circumstances of his depression, he declares his faith in God. Notice the word picture he paints. Ps 42:1-2 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (NIV) In other words David is saying, “Lord I’m seeking you. You’re still the One. I pant. I thirst for You.” Again, that is the voice of maturity speaking. The voice of someone who has learned that there is no better hope than hope in God.
When your life is anchored in God, there is nothing on this side of heaven you can’t face. That’s what the psalmist David was expressing in this scripture. How does your faith give you hope in the face of hopelessness, despair, and even death? Anchor your life, lay the foundation now for whatever may come, by placing your hope and your faith in the living God and in His son Jesus, our Savior. Remember this: Jesus lived, died, and was raised to help us defeat depression.
Oh, heavenly Father, Almighty God, Loving Lord, we thank you today for encouragement in dealing with our depression. It’s something we all deal with at one time or another. Lord, help us to recognize, to admit our depression when it comes. We are so thankful for the biblical affirmation that tears are natural and okay, and we need to let them flow. Help us to address the pain – give us wisdom in seeking the caring help of others. Lord we know that it’s okay to have our hard questions and to ask them – it’s comforting to know that many people of faith have had more questions than answers, but they continued to hold onto their faith. Lord we do affirm Your goodness, we remember Your faithfulness. Lord help us this day, to continue to anchor our hope and our trust in You. We find great comfort in our relationship with you through faith in Jesus. He is the One who loved us so much that he offered himself up for our sins and salvation. He lived, died, and was raised to help us defeat depression. Lord we pray in His mighty name – in Jesus’ name. And everybody said. Amen.