January 1, 2023
This article is based on Pastor Adrian Rogers' message, How to Deal with Depression.
Psalm 42 pictures a true case of depression symptoms.
It comes with spiritual dryness. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2). Here is a man saying, “God, I can’t find You. Where are You? Have You forgotten me?”
“My tears have been my food day and night” (Psalm 42:3a). We all cry. We all have sorrow. But when a person is in a depression, it’s like a front that moves in and camps overhead.
The Psalmist feels shame and defeat. “They continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:3b). He feels that he has let God down. He feels like a miserable example of a Christian.
All this is compounded by lingering memories of what used to be. “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast” (Psalm 42:4). Now that peace, satisfaction, friends, and worship—which were once so real—are only a memory that haunts him. He thinks it never can be this way again.
“O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar” (Psalm 42:6). What is the Psalmist talking about?
The Jordan River starts bubbling up at beautiful Mt. Hermon, and runs down that torturous route to the Dead Sea, 1300 feet below sea level—the lowest spot on Earth. It buries itself there, never to rise again. In Bible typology, the Jordan River speaks of death.
When you get despondent enough, you may think that death would be a welcome release. That is the reason we have such a plethora of suicides today.
How do you deal with depression as a Christian? Do we have to be depressed? No—there is hope! Here is what Scripture says to do when you are depressed.
The old flesh nature in you—the mindset you inherited from Adam—is where negative thoughts come from. “You deserve this pain…you can never be better…” Your flesh is constantly talking to you.
You need to talk back. That is what the Psalmist does: he takes his soul by the scruff of the neck, looks it in the face, and says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?” (Psalm 42:5a).
He is asking himself, “Why am I depressed?” Ask yourself that question—and be honest.
You might be depressed because of the death of a loved one. Maybe somebody has rejected you or done you wrong. Maybe you allow yourself to be routinely sucked into someone else’s negative drama (this is different from caring about and encouraging someone). Maybe you’ve had a broken relationship, or lost something else very valuable to you—health, job, or reputation. Maybe you feel guilty. Or it just might be that you are in bad health, and you need vitamins, rest, a better diet, etc.
Don’t tiptoe around—look your soul in the eye and ask, “Why are you cast down?”
The Psalmist gives voice to his deepest emotions and cries out to God.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me—a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 42:7-9).
Whether you understand why you are depressed or not, look to God with faith, because He will never fail you.
Abraham Maslow, the famed research analyst, once said that the average American does not have a real friend in the world. But every Christian does. What a friend we have in Jesus! There is no lasting cure for depression other than looking to the Lord.
God is a tender Rock! Psalm 147 says of Him, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name” (Psalm 147:3-4). The God of bigness is the God of smallness. The God who runs this Universe attends the funeral of every sparrow. (See Matthew 10:28-31.) God has given a name to every star in the Universe, yet He is the one who binds up your wounds.
Do not think that God doesn’t care about you. He is your God, and if nobody else understands you, He will not fail you. Your hope is God! You need to look to Him in faith.
Does this mean that if you come to God with all your troubles, He will explain it to you? Nope. You might not understand. “Why did this happen?” is not for you to worry about; it is for God.
Your question should be, “How am I going to react?”
God’s ways are not your ways. If God explains it all to you, it ceases to be a trial. But if you say, “God, I don’t understand it—but still, you are my Rock,” then you are coming to the place that Job came to when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15a).
Tell yourself these truths:
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11, emphasis added). The Psalmist is looking to the future. I am coming out! I do have hope, and I will hope.
If you are depressed today, hope in God. Say, “Lord, you are my rock, and I will yet praise you. By your grace and in your time, you will turn every tear into a pearl, every Calvary into an Easter. I will yet praise You!”
It may be that God is taking everything else away from you to bring you to Psalm 42:11—to trust and hope in Him alone. God is not finished with us until our chief delight is Him alone. When He is our chief desire, we will say, “I don’t care what happens. He is God! I will praise Him and seek His face.”