Defeating Depression: 5 Tactics from Psalm 42

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It doesn’t take much to make me cry.

God has wired me in a way that I feel various emotions on a very deep level, whether it be joy or sorrow, pain or relief, sadness or gladness, satisfaction or discontentment, frustration or peace, excitement or apathy….etc.

My emotions change so rapidly that even I can’t keep up with them. Anyone else with me?

When I am tired or stressed, I am irritable, moody, and unnecessary sarcastic.

When I am anxious, I either cannot sit still, am overly talkative, or silent. When I am anxious, I often hold it in around most people and let it all out when I am alone or with my husband.

When I am at peace, I am usually in conversation with the Lord or another person. When I am at peace, I am present in the moment. My mind doesn’t wander.

When I am in pain, I close my eyes and run my fingers through my hair. I become more rigid and frustrated.

When I am bored I go on social media.

When I am joyful, it’s because I am doing something that I am passionate about.

When I am energetic, it’s because I am around people that I am comfortable with.

When I am on my period, I feel like I am going crazy (as do most women).

When I watch an emotional scene in a movie, I cry.

We all have our quirks, and we are all wired in very unique ways. We have all experienced these emotions at some point in our lives. But there is something fundamentally different between a heightened emotional experience and depression. Heightened emotions come and go. Depression, on the other hand, lingers. It rises and falls. There are peaks and valleys, seasons of relief, and seasons that are heightened… but even the valleys are still something that have to be managed.

Sometimes, we know why we feel how we do…

It makes sense to be a  little emotional when you are stressed out.

It makes sense to be emotional when you are in physical pain.

It makes sense to cry tears of joy when receiving good news or practicing gratitude.

It makes sense to feel a little insecure at times.

It makes sense to get a little frustrated when things don’t go our way.

…and sometimes we don’t, sometimes I don’t. 

It doesn’t make sense to feel hopeless, lonely, or unworthy when you are surrounded by people who love and care about you.  

It doesn’t make sense when you cry yourself to sleep. 

It doesn’t make sense when you have doctors and medications that are supposed to be working, yet you still feel overly emotional or numb to everything.  

It doesn’t make sense when your life looks good from the outside, yet on the inside, it’s aching and yearning to be held, understood, and healed. 

It doesn’t make sense when you are married to the man of your dreams. 

It doesn’t make sense when you are financially stable. 

It doesn’t make sense when you have friends who pray for me and believe in you. 

It doesn’t make sense when you have a relationship with Jesus. 

It doesn’t make sense when your tears are your food by day and night

Depression doesn’t make sense, but a lot of time life doesn’t either.

We have very limited control over our lives here on earth. We may think that we have some sort of control through our daily choices, attitudes, and routines, but the reality is that nothing can act against the sovereign will of God. So we can’t always change our circumstances. I can’t just wake up and decide to not struggle with depression, but I can decide how I am going to respond to that situation, how I am going to fight, and how I am going to overcome.

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Insight from Psalm 42:

We don’t exactly wrote this specific song. David wrote the majority of them, so some theologians believe that it very well could have been him. Whatever the case may be, this psalm was written by someone who was very honest and open about working through his depression with God:

“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    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?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

 

The psalmist doesn’t know why his soul is in such despair, why he feels so defeated, and why there is turmoil in his mind. His tears have been his daily bread, he feels forgotten by God, and feels oppressed by the enemy, whether that be satan himself or surrounding foes. He feels like he is drowning; waves of sorrow are continuously crashing over him. He is being taunted, mocked, and encouraged to question God’s presence in all of this. Yet despite his feelings, he did not waver in his trust in the Lord.

1. He seeks out the presence of the Lord:

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

Rather than distancing himself from God, he asks him to draw near. He knows that God is the only one that can save him from the mess he is in. He knows that is what his soul is longing for. He wants to be touched by that living power. So withholding nothing back, he prays.

2. He reminds himself of God’s goodness:

“These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.”

He reflects on the joy that only the Lord can produce. He remembers the shouts of gladness and songs of praise that came out of his mouth. He knows that’s still in him, and he wants God to restore that.

3. He doesn’t settle in his sorrow:

“By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”

Here we see a shift from “my tears are my food by day and night” to “by day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is within me, a prayer to the God of my life.” It doesn’t say that all of his tears were wiped away, however, he doesn’t allow himself to settle in them. He reminds himself of God’s love for him, and he worships him even through the tears that fall down his cheeks.

4. He places his hope in God:

“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” 

He says this twice. Once in the middle, and once in the end. He knows that even if he isn’t healed from his depression right then and there, that God is still his only hope. He knows that his salvation is secure in God, and because of that, he doesn’t stop praising him, even in this season of depression. He fixes his eyes on the author of his salvation, his strong tower and refuge, rather than the enemies surrounding him and the despair that he feels in his heart.

5. He shares his struggle with God, & with other people:

So what does all of this mean?

  1. It means that you aren’t alone (globally, it’s estimated that over 300 million people struggle with depression).¹
  2. The psalmist can’t make sense of his depression. He doesn’t understand why his soul is down cast. But this doesn’t stop him from returning to the one knows him and is known by him. As much as it can feel like it does, depression cannot separate us from the love of God. It isn’t our fault. It isn’t his fault. He doesn’t love us any less.
  3. The spiritual anecdote for depression is praise and worship. It doesn’t take away the tears. It doesn’t fix the problem. But what it can do, is slowly and gradually start to heal the places in our heart that need new life. We have to let go of what we thought life was supposed to look like and embrace the “here and now” knowing that God is always with us, and that he does restore and redeem and heal in His own timing.
  4. We need to talk about it. I’ve blogged about this topic several times before, but I don’t want us to miss this, and I know I am not the only one who struggles with this issue. We can’t do this life alone. There are days where the only thing I have the strength to do is eat, sleep, and lay in bed. There are days where it takes everything in me to make it through the day without breaking down. There are days when I feel like I am not going to be able to breath because I am crying so hard. There are days when I feel like I am a burden to everyone that I know, because of my depression. There are days when I feel unlovable and lonely, even when I am surrounded by a group of people. There are days where God seems so small and so far away. If you experience this, you aren’t alone.

And then there are the days, when I walk in victory; when I experience the chains of bondage being broken in my life; when I realize that strongholds are being torn down; when I am able to sit and be present and enjoy myself with peace; when I am able to engage in relationships; when I am able to go out and be excited about it; when I feel tangible relief from the physical toll that depression takes on your body.

Sometimes a battle has to be fought more than once before full victory is attained. For depression, the battle has to be fought a lot, sometimes every minute of every hour of every day. But we start to see more victory when we realize that the one who has already overcome the world is on our side. Keep fighting friends. The final victory belongs to God’s beloved. Depression doesn’t have to have the final word.

Reference:

  1. World Health Organization

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