Psalm 42 in today’s Bible reading* gives us a remedy for spiritual depression. Note that I qualified depression as spiritual depression, which should be seen as separate from clinical depression.*
Most of us know what it’s like to be depressed, to be blue, to be down in the dumps. That’s the meaning of this word dejected, downcast, or discouraged. As anyone who has been through a Twelve-Step Program will tell you, the first step toward wellness is to admit you have a problem. Unless you recognize that you are depressed, you won’t look for a way to get out. And living in a depressed condition could lead to clinical depression. So, the Psalmists admit that their soul is downcast.
The Sons of Korah wrote this Maskil (a song designed to kindle the affections by stimulating the mind) to encourage those whose spirits are dejected and depressed. They begin Psalm 42 expressing their dependence on God. They cry out, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God.” Psalm 42:1 (CSB) They know that God can rescue them from their condition. They know that their ultimate satisfaction can only be found in God.
So they remind themselves to put their hope in God. Peterson in The Message, translates this as “fix your eyes on God”. In a classic Hebrew poetry way, they add that they will remember, meditate on, or think about God in order to re-center their thoughts and get His perspective.
As they admit their depression, (Psalm 42:5-6) and as they turn their focus to God, (Psalm 42:5b) they remind themselves that there is light at the end of the tunnel. God is there. He will deliver them. And He will extend His faithful love to them. (Psalm 42:8) Finally, they remind themselves again to put their hope in God. (Psalm 42:11)
So what do you do when you’re depressed, discouraged, or down in the dumps? It’s easy to wallow in our depression. It’s tempting to throw a pity party for yourself. Someone once told me that no one wants to go to a pity party. And those who show up don’t bring presents!
Why not mark up your Bible in Psalm 42 and turn back to these verses the next time you’re down. You could even commit these and other encouraging verses to memory.
I think you’ll find a great deal of comfort. You’ll also be able to help others to turn their eyes to God and cry out to Him for relief.
* Clinical depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It can be caused by a number of different things. Unless God intervenes in a miraculous way, oftentimes the best remedy to clinical depression is medication. As with any other mental and physical illness, we shouldn’t feel any shame in using medication to ease our pain, even emotional pain. In fact, if we look at Paul and Dr. Luke’s experiences on the island of Malta, we see First Century Believers using both miraculous and therapeutic means to restore people’s health. (Acts 28:8–9) If admitting your depression, reflecting on God’s goodness, and praising Him doesn’t ease your pain, talk with a Christian brother or sister and ask them to pray for you. (James 5:16) Consult with your pastor. And consider talking with your healthcare provider about medication. If you are having suicidal thoughts, do not wait to seek medical attention.
* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
2 Samuel 19
2 Samuel 20
2 Samuel 21