A Little Depressed or “Cast Down in Turmoil”?
Author: Karen Lindwell-Bourg
“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.” (Psalm 42:5, 11; Psalm 43:5) It’s very common to sometimes feel sad, lonely, and unhappy [especially during the emotion-riddled holidays]. Depression is a commonly used term in today’s culture. How do you know if you are depressed and need professional help?
How do you respond to God rightly in the midst of deep despair? Where do you find hope and joy again?
Real depression is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. “Mild or severe, depression affects more people in our culture than any other emotional disorder,” (Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. Armand Nicholi II). The Bible has much to say about depression and in Scripture – Elijah in 1 Kings 19:1-4; John the Baptist in Matthew 11:2-3; Peter in Matthew 26:69-75 –were described as afraid, desiring death, confused, and cursed. Mature believers are susceptible to depression.
Picasso depicted his struggles in his blue paintings. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Charles Spurgeon – the English preacher, David Brainard – the missionary, J. B. Phillips – the Bible translator, were depressed and faced severe trials. When you are depressed, you should address and recognize it as the psalmist readily admits to himself and to God, when he is in despair (Psalm 42:5, 6, 11; 43:5).
Recognize Depression versus despair.
These verbs originally meant to be “bowed down or prostrated”; to be “laid low,” or “in the pits.” Various symptoms with wavering degrees can point to depression and include feelings of guilt and rejection, a loss of motivation in all areas, and include concentration difficulties, and eating and sleep disturbances. Often physical symptoms such as chronic pain, digestive maladies, fatigue, and persistent headaches accompany severe depression. The psalmist describes depression in the following ways – his countenance (42:11; 43:5) is cast down and in turmoil; he cries frequently and cannot eat (42:3); he pours out his soul and seeks escape (42:4); he feels drained emotionally, as if he were drowning in the waves (42:7) or overwhelmed and unable to move, and he doesn’t know where to begin to cope. His wounds are bone-deep and he is taunted relentlessly (42:10). He feels anxious and disturbed and hopeless (42:5, 6, 11; 43:5). He feels oppressed by enemies and rejected by God (42:9; 43:2).
Be Aware of God’s Purpose for Darkness.
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” — C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain [Online] Depression is a red flag warning you of a problem or danger. If you keep going and ignore the warning, you may incur more damage, and you must pause to figure out what’s wrong. Some say that God doesn’t cause a trial, He just “allows” it! Or they blame Satan. But we know that trials come from the Lord for your benefit (Psalm 66:10-12; Romans 5:3-5; Hebrews 12:1-13; James 1:2-4) to teach you not to trust yourselves, but in the Lord alone (2 Corinthians 1:8-9) and to encourage you to serve Him. Your purpose is to worship and love God (1 Corinthians 10:31), to become more concerned about and place more importance on His honor and reputation than on your own. Your pure devotion to God will not be fulfilled unless your [vertical] relationship with God is as it should be; and no other [horizontal] human relationship will succeed without a sure foundation in Christ Jesus.
…“when pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.” — C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain [Online] If you have suffered from depression for an extended period of time (more than two weeks) and are experiencing impaired social, occupational or educational functioning, you might want to seek support. If you have experienced a depressed or irritable mood most of the day or nearly every day; decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day; significant appetite or weight change (5%); change in sleep; change in activity; fatigue; feelings of guilt/worthlessness; and diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, pursue help. And, if you have had thoughts of death or suicide or have thought through plans to complete suicide, seek the help of a family member, a friend or professional immediately. Do not neglect to worship with other believers and seek their help (42:4; 43:3-4).
Seek God as your hope and help. When you feel desperate, strive to think Biblically about your circumstances. You are responsible to please the Lord and bring Him glory and honor and to live according to the precepts of His Word. Your goal is to be godly through discipline (1 Timothy 4:7). Discipline sometimes means going against your feelings. Even in some of the most difficult circumstances, you are to be joyful (John 15:11; Acts 5:41; 16:25; Galatians 5:22; Philippians 4:4). Are your circumstances due to any known sin on your part as David’s were in Psalms 32, 38, and 51? Confess disobedience, turn and repent, and ask God for His forgiveness. Continue walking uprightly before the Lord. Does God want you to do anything to change your circumstances? Act now! Does God want you to change your attitude? Focus on the Lord. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16). God is in Sovereign control of this situation. What is He trying to teach you? Realize that your real need is God (42:1-2, 5-6, 11; 43:4-5). He is a refuge, a familiar Father to turn to in your time of despair. Praise God (42:8; 43:4) – this is a command, a song drives the darkness away; focusing on His attributes and actions and His saving grace draws you out of a horrible pit and lifts your spirit.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13) Hope in God. Remind yourself of God, Who God is, what He has done, and what the Lord has pledged to do. Is He “your exceeding joy” (43:4)? Seek the Lord until you find joy. You need Him – to thirst after Him more than you need happiness and relief from pain. You can be overwhelming conquerors in desperate situations because God has given you resources beyond measure (Romans 8:35-37). You live by faith when you choose to believe God and His Word and worship Him, rather than focusing on circumstances and the created thing. Do you believe it? Do you think you can’t overcome?
All you have at the door to your heart is the Sovereign God, Indwelling Holy Spirit, and Redeemer Christ Jesus – brother, friend, servant, the source of hope and life, the truth, and the way. He is the lover of your souls, the one who hears and acts and never leaves! CH Spurgeon said, “I believe every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes; that every particle of spray that dashes against the ship has its orbit as well as the sun under the heavens; that the chaff in the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses; the creeping of the aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence; the fall of leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.” In Him, we HOPE!
*All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible
*American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th Ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
*Cole, Steven J. (1993). Dealing with depression: Psalms 42 & 43/Psalms: Lesson 11. Flagstaff Christian Fellowship, 123 S. Beaver St., Flagstaff, AZ 86001 http://www.fcfonline.org/sermons
*Welch, Edward T. (2000) Words of hope for those who struggle with depression. The Journal of Biblical Counseling • Volume 18 • Number 2 • Winter 2000
*C.H. Spurgeon quote Online at http://www.gracegems.org
Posted on March 5, 2011