Dealing with Depression Head On, Part 1
By Matthew Recker
A Divine Description of Depression from Psalm 143
In a recent report on how Americans view the future of our country, 76% said they do not have the confidence that our children’s generation will have it better than us.
The gloom many of our citizens feel goes beyond wealth, gender, ethnicity, region, age or ideology. This fractious nation is united in a lost faith in the United States. Rich or poor, man or woman, young and old, since the early 2000’s, optimism is in decline, and depression is on the increase.
But how can this be? Don’t the young people have HD TV’s, movies on demand, internet access at will, social networking, and smart phones? How can they NOT have it better than us? Don’t they have sleek cars? Free or affordable health care? Legalized marijuana? Tolerant attitudes toward sexual choices? Abortion on demand? Nevertheless, people are not happier, nor more optimistic, but are far more depressed.
What is Depression?
Depression is a severe and profound emptiness. It may be characterized by despondency, hopelessness, inadequacy, loss of interest and energy, and ultimately, emptiness.
Depression may occur over a period of time and lead a person to give up on life. The depressed person has attempted to fill up his/her life with everything, but nothing has satisfied. How sad when someone so seemingly successful, who has made it to the top, yet is still empty. Robin Williams, apparently so successful, recently committed suicide, having battled with depression. An estimated 18 million Americans are in depression which is about 9% of the adult population. A frightening 4% of preschoolers are taking prescription drugs for depression. Depression afflicts people of every age. [source]
Psalm 143 is written at a low point in David’s life, and it is classified as a penitential psalm (along with Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130). Although facing heavy despondency, there was nothing wrong with David physically. In fact, David’s emotions were working perfectly, and he had good reasons to be depressed.
Many believe this Psalm was written during his son Absalom’s mutiny. How would you feel if your own son rebelled against you and suddenly seized your business after having another of your sons killed? And yes, the reason he killed your other son is because that son raped his sister, your daughter. Don’t you think that would depress you?
These terrible circumstances were David’s reality. David’s son Amnon defiled his own half-sister, David’s daughter Tamar. David’s inaction led Absalom to take matters into his own hands, and he had Amnon killed. Absalom then revolted against David, stole the hearts of the people in the nation, and finally seized the throne from his own father. Even the dangers that David faced in fleeing from Saul earlier in his history were as nothing compared to fleeing Jerusalem after Absalom’s coup d’état. David felt doomed, destroyed, and desolate in his soul.
So here is David, overwhelmed in spirit, turning to God as he pens Psalm 143. David finds once again that his God is the One who never lets go of him and never lets him down.
David’s Four-fold Description of Depression
In this fragile moment, David gives a comprehensive description of a depressed soul.
For the enemy hath persecuted my soul;
he hath smitten my life down to the ground.
He hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.
My spirit is overwhelmed within me.
David’s depletion of energy was multilayered. Depression is most often not reduced to one thing but a combination of things: physical, financial, emotional, spiritual, business, personal, or family. It could be from the past, like abuse or it could be a present sin issue. Profound emptiness could relate to heavy uncertainties in the future that cause fear. To pinpoint the reasons for one’s depression is often elusive, but here we have a divine and detailed depiction of a depressed soul.
David describes his soul as being chased by tormenters (v.3a). He was exhausted and empty of strength to go forward. Life’s enemies had pursued him unto death. David felt like he was always running and not getting anywhere. The constant spilling out of energy without progress left him empty. The enemy that persecuted him was his own son, Absalom! How hurtful and painful that must have been!
Second, David’s soul was crushed by circumstances (v.3b)
In Psalm 143:3b, we read: He hath smitten my life down to the ground.
Here is confusion, hopelessness, and shattered dreams. Life can be crushing and it often leaves us confused, bruised, and dazed. For example, a long term unemployment can crush one’s soul. It can make one feel totally inadequate and useless, and this can be devastating to one’s emotional well-being.
Job provides us with a clear example of one who was crushed by his circumstances. He pleaded with his counselors to cease speaking words that smashed his spirit:
How long will ye vex my soul,
and break me in pieces with words? (Job 19:2)
This shows us that our words have the potential to bring about depression in others. The Psalmist felt abandoned and alone, beaten down by the words and deeds of others. He was entirely depleted of strength, joy and energy, and he felt like he was on the doorstep of death.
Third, David’s soul was covered by darkness.
Life and vigor had dissipated. Overwhelmed and faint, his desire to live vanished. This word “overwhelmed” defines Jonah’s experience spiraling down to the bottom of the dark sea in Jonah 2:7;
When my soul fainted within me
I remembered the LORD;
and my prayer came in unto thee,
into thine holy temple.”
Man’s inner thoughts are powerful, intricate and lonely. The heart often howls a lonely roar. The movements of man’s spirit are so hidden and inward that one must realize that we are really unknown by anyone except God. There is a solitude and loneliness of this human existence so that with all the thoughts and emotions that roll through one’s soul, no one can fully know us, except God. No one can completely understand us, except God.
The heart knoweth his own bitterness;
and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy. (Proverbs 14:10)
When people isolate themselves, they often engage in self-destructive behavior such as self-mutilation, or cutting. Others may fall into the trap of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia.
A fourth description of depression is this: his soul was stunned by disappointment. “My heart within me is desolate,” he says. Desolate means to be in the paralysis of stunned horror.
This also describes Job’s experience when he answered his tormenting friends,
But now he hath made me weary;
thou hast made desolate all my company. (Job 16:7)
How can you respond when you feel chased by persecutors, crushed by circumstances, covered in darkness, and stunned with disappointment?
You must look unto Jesus, for he endured crushing darkness for you that left Him forsaken of His Father on the cross. Although He was smashed for our sins, He crushed death and conquered the grave by bodily rising again, nevermore to die.
The word “smitten” (Psalm 143:3) describes Jesus’ suffering in the great prophetic passage of Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53:5 says, “he was bruised for our iniquities.” Isaiah 53:10; “it pleased the LORD to bruise him…”
Jesus Himself was smashed and bruised for us. No matter how crushed you feel, look to Jesus and thank Him that He was broken for all of your sins. Rejoice in His grace, and claim that your sins are forgiven through Christ so that you may joy in knowing that all your iniquities are covered by His blood.
If you are born again by faith in Christ, claim your union with the risen Lord Jesus and exercise your authority over the enemy. Remember who you are, a child of God. Remember where you are, in Christ. Call upon God in Jesus name: “I claim my union with you, LORD JESUS, and EXERCISE your authority as I ask You to rebuke all evil spirits that would tempt, deceive, accuse me. Fill me with your grace which is sufficient for me every day in every circumstance.”
If you are not saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, the first step to take is to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver you from sin. Believe that He died for your sins according to the Scripture, and rose again on the third day according to the Scripture. He is alive today, to deliver you from eternal death and to give you eternal life.
In part two of this article we will discover David’s decision and his dedication in God that lifted him out of his depression.
To be continued…