Whether you call it discouragement, depression, melancholy, or deep sadness, we all struggle with these feelings from time to time. Some have a deeper and more continual struggle with discouragement, but as frail human beings, we are all susceptible.
While I wouldn’t counsel someone who is seeking medical attention for issues of depression and anxiety to stop their treatment, I do believe there is much to be gleaned from the Bible on the subject. With this in mind, I plan to present a series of undetermined length, dealing with discouragement from a Biblical perspective. I hope it is helpful.
In Psalm 42, David, is speaking from a very dark place. David is discouraged. David is depressed. He feels as if God is miles away (v. 1-2) and has forgotten about his suffering (v. 9). He speaks plainly about his constant weeping (v. 3) and mourning (v. 9). He describes his state by comparing it to being beaten constantly by crushing waves (v. 7), and feeling morally ill inside (v.10). Not only this, but he is being provoked and taunted by his enemies (v.10), who are quick to pounce on this weeping, broken, lonely man.
When you or I (or David) for that matter become discouraged, we tend to have a running monologue in our heads. This sour soundtrack seems to come from a source other than our own consciousness. We are listening all day to familiar phrases. “You are a no good loser.” “There is no hope for you.” “Nothing is ever going to change, so why don’t you just give up.” “God isn’t interested in someone like you.” The list could go on and on. The point is that we become passive listeners to our own complaints.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a very insightful book called “Spiritual Depression”. I remember reading it when I was in college, and the one thing that stood out to me above all else was his contention when we are discouraged or depressed, we must stop listening to ourselves and start speaking to ourselves.
At first blush, you might not think it good advise to tell someone struggling with mental problem to start talking to themselves, but this is just what we need to do, and it is just what David does in Psalm 42.
David asks his own soul a question: “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)
David’s internal monologue was saying “God has forgotten about you. That’s it buddy, you’re cooked this time.” He responds by speaking truth to himself. “No, God has not forgotten me. In fact, I know that there is a future where I will be filled with joy, praising God, because He is faithful and trustworthy.”
In David’s declaration, there are two main ingredients: truth and hope. When lies come into our minds either from outside or from within, we must learn to start talking to ourselves, and reminding ourselves of the truth. If you are a believer in Christ, you need to speak the truth of Scripture to yourself. God is for you, not against you. No suffering is meaningless. God is in control of circumstances. You are a wretched sinner BUT you are clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ and no one can bring an charge against you! Whatever lies, or even distorted truths are discouraging you, learn to put them to death under the sword of God’s true word.
Secondly, David is hopeful. When you are discouraged, the future looks bleak, and circumstances look permanent. I’m sure David was tempted to think this way, but through his life, he had learned to hope. Now Christian hope is not a ‘wish’ or some vaccuous feeling that ‘everything will work out’, which is little more than self delusion. No, Christian hope is a sure thing because it is based on the character and promises of God. David knew God and so he knew hope. Though David was suffering intensely, he had already tasted of the goodness and faithfulness of God, and knew that the ultimate end of all his suffering would be greater joy, greater praise, and greater intimacy with his Maker.
Is your soul downcast and in turmoil? Stop listening to the hopeless soundtrack in your head, and start speaking truth to yourself. Put your hope in God, for you will have occasion to praise him again!