Psalm 42:5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.”
This refrain, appearing twice in this Psalm and once in the next, is powerfully direct. People today often laugh at the idea of “giving yourself a talking-to,” but actually we talk to ourselves all the time. Freud even tried to formalize it with terms like ego, super-ego, and id. The world would be a better place if people took this idea seriously, because God gives each of us a conscience, and we need to listen to it! Here, the Psalmist is faced with some pretty depressing circumstances, probably as almost everyone is at times. He knows intellectually that God is still God, but his emotions aren’t keeping up with that knowledge. That’s why he’s being firm with his emotions, pointing out the truth of God’s reliability. As Jesus said, the truth will set us free, even from the grips of depression. (John 8:32) Many would protest that depression doesn’t yield to logic. In a sense that’s true, but we’ve got to start somewhere, and choosing to appropriate truth is that place. Expecting to say a few words and be done with depression is foolish, but choosing to wait in hope for God will get us through just about anything. It’s that element of hope that is key. We don’t have to see what the ultimate solution will be, because that’s not given to mankind to be able to do. (Many people try, but looking back at various projections and predictions can be pretty amusing reading.) That’s why we have to choose to believe, to trust, to hope. The devil does all he can to hinder that, but for the Christian, the One who is in us is far greater. (1 John 4:4)
I’ve had various struggles with depression over the years, and in college I even tried to end my life over it, so I certainly don’t speak casually here. I have learned that nothing trumps the plain fact of God’s absolute reliability. Certainly my own weakness doesn’t trump it. I’ve come to the conviction that many of us think our weaknesses are greater than God’s strength. How could that be? God, who spoke the universe into existence, can certainly do anything He likes with anything He made. I have learned that God can use even me and my circumstances to bless others and bring Him glory. I have learned that the various compound names for God in the Old Testament (now there’s a rich, blessed study) are all true, that He’s our Provider, our Healer, our Righteousness, our Helper, and all the rest. That makes it much easier to wait in hope for Him, and forms a firm bulwark against depression. As a pastor, I’ve learned that simply demonstrating the reliable love of God gets through to people in the fog of depression far better than haranguing them over how foolish they are being. Speaking the truth simply, briefly (!) and in love works wonders, but only when a framework of love has been established.
Father, thank You for Your grace toward me over the years, and for the privilege of being a channel of that grace to others. I pray that everyone in this church would indeed be able to take their eyes off of themselves and fix them on Jesus, (Hebrews 12:2) so that we will not lose hope at any point, but walk in the peace and joy that You intend for us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!