Psalms: Hope in the Darkness – Depression

The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand forever.  – Isaiah 40:8

According to Andy Haley from stack.com (last updated September 23, 2015), did you know these things happen every day in our bodies?

You get shorter (gravity).
You gain weight.
Your hormones fluctuate.
Your heart rate changes.
You’re more or less likely to get hurt (more likely in the evening than the morning).
Your body temp peaks in the afternoon.

Our bodies are constantly changing, and so are our emotions. But to someone who is depressed, this is one of the hardest things to believe; that they won’t always feel this way. But as the verse above says, the “grass withers, the flower fades” – nothing on this earth lasts forever, except for the Word (Bible) and promises of God.

So, if we apply this principle to feeling depressed – this is actually good news. As I sincerely promise all of the clients I work with who are experiencing depression, they won’t always feel this way – and it turns out to be true.

Depression eventually lessens.

Sometimes through therapy, sometimes medication, sometimes nutritional and lifestyle changes, sometimes through circumstances changing, and sometimes through a whole combination of these things and more. Always through prayer; although not always in the timeframe we would want. But the depression does eventually lift.

Now, let me say a few things before we delve into the Psalms again. Depression is not “one size fits all”. Everyone who experiences depression experiences it in a different way.

Some people cry, and others can’t find any tears. Some people eat more, some eat less. Some sleep more, some less. Some people find it hard to function and others bury themselves in tasks and responsibilities. Some people’s depression comes and goes, others experience depression that weighs heavily for what can seem like a lifetime.

Just the same, the answers about why the depression is there are not necessarily easy either, and sometimes it takes some time to figure it all out. Relieving depression is also not simple, or formulaic. Believe me, I wish it was…

But what I do want you to know is that if you are experiencing depression, you’re not alone. I have walked with many people down what may seem like a very dark path, and I have seen as what little light there is becomes brighter and brighter until the depression is in the past rather than the present. Isn’t that what we all want?

Let’s look at Psalm 42:5 first:

5Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Here the Psalmist acknowledges the depression he is feeling, but he almost instructs himself to put his hope in God and declares that he will praise Him, reminding himself (and all of us) that God is his Savior and his God.

Part of the darkness of depression is feeling alone. Feeling like no one understands you and wondering if maybe God has even forgotten you since you aren’t experiencing relief. See here what David wrote in Psalm 13:2:

2How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

In the midst of depression, you wrestle with your thoughts; trying to figure out why you’re feeling the way you are, or you wonder why you are going through the depression in the first place. David understood. He describes here the agony and frustration of not knowing when the sorrow in his heart will end.

Just a few verses later, his tone (and his focus) changes:

5But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Now, truthfully, we don’t know that experientially his feelings changed as quickly as reading one verse to another. What he wrote may have been a summary of what he had been feeling over a time period. It may have taken time for him to actually cry out to God in his suffering and then to praise God. In fact, it takes time for most anyone going through depression to experience this change, or for some, to even be able to praise God.

We see David reflect here on God’s promises to us of his unfailing love and salvation. David, similar to the Psalmist in Psalm 42 above, then declares that he will “sing the Lord’s praise” and reminds himself of God’s faithfulness.

What can we learn from these passages?

We won’t always feel the way we feel; our emotions change.
We are not alone; God is always with us, and others have gone before us, felt similarly, and experienced God’s faithfulness, closeness, and relief.

There is something we can do in the midst of depression which will provide some relief, and that is to cry out to God – tell Him all that you are going through, and trust that He’s listening.

“Instruct” yourself to praise God because it’s likely not the first thing you’re thinking of when you feel depressed. But, praising God, singing to Him, is not only honoring to the Lord, but it’s good for us. It can provide perspective and relief.

Keep in mind, if it takes you some time to get to this place of praising God, it’s okay. It will not be helpful to put pressure on yourself or feel shame because you’re not ready to do this. Again, everyone’s experience is different.

Finally, what I’ve written here isn’t everything, but I pray it’s a start. Please reach out to a therapist or trusted pastor if this message is speaking to you, and you’re feeling stuck and alone, like the darkness is engulfing you, like there are no answers and nothing is working. We’re here to help.

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