These last few days have been very hard for Marti and me. I find it difficult to think, sleep or care for her or anyone else, for that matter. Our land is threatened and temporarily overtaken by the enemy. Unlike David in Psalm 41 and 42, I accepted the spirit of depression and did nothing to shake it.
You see, late in David’s reign, his son, Absalom, took over the kingdom temporarily and David was driven into exile outside Jerusalem. Clearly it is a time of depression and frustration. But David does not give in to that spirit of depression, like I have a tendency to do; he seeks to do something about it. He embraces it, expresses it, and fights with it, as if he could wrestle it to the ground like Jacob wrestled with the angel.
None of us can escape times of depression; they will come. But when they come, instead of succumbing to them, we need to do what David did.
There are three stages of David’s experience, and at the end of each stage there comes the refrain that describes what brought him through:
“Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my help and my God.”
The first stage is one of intense longing and desire. He is experiencing a sense of God’s delay. There is no doubt in his heart that there is help for him in God. He expects to find it. He knows God has met his need in the past and he expects Him to meet it again. But, for some reason, after glorying in the memory specific times God has met his need, it still seems that help is delayed and this is hard for him to bear.
So he reminds himself in the refrain of this song:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall yet praise him,
my help and my God. (Psalms 42:5)
But his trial is not over. He has reached a second stage and he tries another tactic. He says,
My soul is cast down within me,
therefore I remember Thee
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the thunder of Thy cataracts;
all thy waves and Thy billows
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love;
and at night His song is within me,
a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalms 42:6-8)
Here he remembers something else: an experience on a mountain, where he heard the waterfalls and the thundering white water. They seemed to be calling to one another, “deep calling unto deep,” and it reminded him that the depths in God call out to the depths in him: the depth of the love of God, and the joy of God, calling out to the corresponding depth of prayer in the believer. Even though he does not feel anything, they are there; these silent deeps in God calling out to the deeps in man. Depression can drive us deeper to where we can find God in the depths.
But still he is not met with any comfort or resolve. So he expresses his disappointment in Verses 9-10:
I say to God, my rock:
“Why hast Thou forgotten me?
Why go I mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my body,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
“Where is your God?” (Psalms 42:9-10)
As if to say “Well God, you heard them; where are you?”
He is still deeply troubled. His usual means for dispelling depression have not helped him this time. He has not been able to shake his sense of God’s untimely delay, and now it has grown into a nagging, torturing doubt, “Why hast Thou forgotten me?”
He has reached the place of despair. “Why have You abandoned me? I’ve taken refuge in You, God, and yet You do nothing, absolutely nothing. I feel utterly forsaken.”
But then he realizes, at last, a way out:
Oh send out Thy light and Thy truth;
let them lead me,
let them bring me to Thy holy hill
and to Thy dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy;
and I will praise Thee with the lyre,
O God, my God. (Psalms 43:3-4)
What a word of triumph! Now he understands that what God is doing is driving him step by step to the ultimate refuge of any believer in any time of testing: the word of God. It is the truth of God coupled with the light that will lead Him. The truth is God’s word; the light is our understanding of it. What he is crying out for is an understanding of the word as he reads it; light, breaking out of these promises, to encourage and strengthen his heart.
There comes a time in all of our lives when we discover for ourselves that our ultimate refuge is in the word of God — what God has said. That is what David is saying. When you have depression of spirit, where nothing seems to relieve it; when you have tried to remember a joyful time with God in the past, and tried to recall the unshakable, unchangeable relationship that exist between you and God, but nothing helps; then there is nothing left but to rest upon His word, His truth, and to allow that to heal your heart.
So David isn’t actually able to wrestle his depression to the ground, but he is able to come to something even stronger than his depression — the truth and light of the word of God. Like a lighthouse in a storm, we can hold on through to calmer days.
So David closes once more with the refrain that catches up the whole meaning of this song:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
my help and my God.” (Psalms 43:5)
Yes, hope in God, for He is working out His purposes at all times. That is what the New Testament means when it says, “Having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).
Our Prayer Ministry Pastor, Merv Keck, has been a huge encouragement to me during this difficult time. Even his prayer requests are uplifting. As in: “Pray for financial stability as the ministry has labored through a pandemic during a time while many organizations did not stand.” And: “Pray that by the Grace of God we can focus our ministry on meeting the needs of a broken world, introducing Grace turned outward to everyone we encounter, and introduce Jesus to a new generation.”
So why are you cast down O my soul? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my help and my God!
Admit to racing through the Catch to try to find out what is besetting you and Marti to cause the pain and depression (and of course you never shared). When you start a Catch that way, I think we all want to know what’s going on!
Praying all will be well soon, and whatever lesson the Lord has for you will be clear! I love that He loves to teach us, but hate that we don’t always catch on to what He wants to teach as we go through trials. Blessings on ya!
Thanks for today’s message. So glad to hear the message. I have had my share of depression during this trying time and always be close to our Lord. I wish you and the ministry all the best introducing Jesus to a whole new generation. I remember a song long ago our church quartet sang back in the seventies and I thought about that song with your message. The title of the song is The Lighthouse and the words are powerful just like your message for today. Take care, God Bless, and keep hanging in there with all of us.
I apologize beforehand, John, at appearing to minimalize your experience(s) for that is not my intent. Your struggle is very real and ought to be revealed and/or expressed in the manner you’re doing.
And, I would say you’re doing fine, albeit rough but fine.
However, I’m thinking many of us are somewhat mistaken about David and have placed him on sort of a pedestal where neither he nor other writers of similar Scripture believe they deserve.
We tend to look at many years of life summarized into a few brief verses or paragraphs – that are easily readable in a short amount of time and relatable to every generation – as the complete picture.
Unfortunately, because of their brevity, we often tend to subscribe to or would rather focus on “quick-fix” solutions for whatever haunts us rather than (willingly) go through a process (sometimes lengthy) which God has allowed for our betterment.
We must remember that these dark valleys that David had to wander through lasted several weeks, months, and even years – seasons if you will.
And, whether as entries into a personal journal for himself or as an “how-to” guide for Solomon (and/or future readers), it pretty much took David an entire lifetime to jot down in a few words the emotions he felt and the take-aways he wanted others to learn.
As you alluded to, David didn’t simply write things down and, poof!, his problems were resolved!
No, I would dare say that David’s 70 years of ups and downs, victories and defeats, alliances and betrayals, and everything in between would equate to several lifetimes for most of us. David lived more life in his 70 years than many of us will inhabit during our allotted existence on this planet.
How do we imagine, though, that David was able to write about his victories over emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical challenges without FIRST having wrestled with them for extended periods of time – often in the darkest depths and with no victory in sight?
What a depressing thought! Not sure I could withstand it.
And yet I believe God has given us the same Spirit that David had.
But, speaking for myself, I think I would have probably returned to my perceived safety inside the camp rather than struggle anymore; probably staring at or distracted by images of those either better off or worse off than I; and continually murmuring to God, “Why?”
Perhaps David was under greater pressure because of his unique anointing but, ultimately, David suffered nothing that is uncommon to any of us.
And we should take heart in the fact that even though many trials, attacks, and setbacks in our lives seem inescapable or worse yet: unprofitable (in a maturation and spiritual sense), we have several encouraging examples of people who have endured and continue to endure until the end – both in the Bible and in our lifetime now – joyfully counting it a blessing rather than a curse or punishment or abandonment on God’s part.
John, you’re among many of those present-day souls being put through the wringer or, more biblically, the refining fire. Hang in there and see what wondrous marvels await you at the end of this season.
Be a blessing. Be blessed.
Be of good will. Be cheerful.
Be courageous. Be encouraged.
Be honest. Be True.
Be Holy because He is Holy.
Shalom, Peace to you my friend…
Hang in there John Fischer. God didn’t bring you this far – and it appears that it’s been a long road that you’ve travelled – and allow you to go through all that you’ve gone through – and it appears that God has allowed you to go through a lot – to leave you behind. You have inspired us. And you will again. Actually, your honesty about your current struggle inspires us now.
May you feel His smile soon.