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.
If you are depressed, you may feel that no one else has been right where you are. You may think that if you were spiritual enough, you wouldn’t struggle with depression.
David, the singer of Israel, knew the feeling. Anointed by Samuel to be king, David still waited seven long years for the promise to be realized, and during much of that time he was in hiding from an enemy who wanted to kill him. In Psalm 63 David cried out, “Oh God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” In Psalms 42 and 43, the writer, probably David, pours out his discouragement and then gives us an encouraging plan. In these psalms he describes himself, using vivid words such as “tears, despair, mourning, weeping, disquieted, cast down, depressed, gloomy, forgotten, downcast and rejected. Yet he shares six things that were helpful to breaking through his depression.
What worked for David can help you as well.
Guideline #1: Pour out your heart in all honesty to God. The psalm writer purged his emotions in prayer, telling God exactly how he felt (42:4a, 6a). God knows exactly how we feel, yet so often we find it much easier to tell a friend about our feelings than it is to tell God. Yes, you can let God know exactly how you feel.
Guideline #2: Remember what God has done for you in the past. That’s what David did. He cried out, “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you…” (42:6). When you are discouraged or depressed, you don’t think about the times when God has met you in earlier days. Your attention is totally consumed with how you feel now! Remembering lifts your spirits, focusing on the blessings of God in earlier days.
Guideline #3: Make the decision in your heart to praise God. This is a matter of the will, not your emotions. No one really feels very much like praising God when he or she is discouraged or depressed, yet when you consciously will to praise, your emotions follow. “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” David said. “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, My Savior and my God” (Psalms 42:5).
Guideline #4: Focus on God, rather than what depresses you. David repeatedly he turned from his despair to God, calling him, “My rock,” “the God of my strength,” “the living God,” and finally, “My God!” God’s sufficiency, even to help us in our emotions is unlimited. Refocus on Him and His ability to heal us emotionally.
Guideline #5: Pray for God’s light and truth. Light gives guidance for the next step, and truth reshapes our warped perspective. In another of David’s psalms, David records the words of God, the Father, saying, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8).
Guideline #6: Verbalize your faith. Say it out loud. Both Psalms 42 and 43 end with a reaffirmation of David’s faith and trust in God, as he says, I will praise Him again, my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 343:5)
God gave us the example of David’s despair because His heart is with the person struggling with depression and despair. Other Psalms tell us that “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Psalm 34:18) and that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3). You can turn to Him today, right from where you are at emotionally, and find His care, comfort and encouragement!