Many people today struggle with depression in varying degrees and for a variety of reasons. Some people take medication. Some participate in counseling. Regardless of the cause of depression, the gospel can provide comfort and relief for those who are hurting. I want to look at Psalm 42-43 with a view to understand who God is and how he is a help to those who struggle with depression and discouragement. This post will conclude with a look at three ways to battle spiritual depression with the gospel.
Solomon rightly notes in Ecclesiastes 1:18 that with much knowledge and wisdom comes sorrow. This means that as we grow in Christ, we may experience seasons in our walk with God where everything in our lives seems to be down in the dumps. That last sentence in my opinion is a neglected truth in Christianity today. While we are rightly taught that we are to be happy in Christ and enjoy him, it is also important to note that the Christian life is not about living on the mountaintops without also living in the valleys of daily life.
Hope in God
The writer in Psalm 42 points out that the one whose soul is indwelt by the Spirit “pants” for God. This means that those who love God are exhorted to “hope in God” (Psalm 42:5; Romans 5:5). The Psalmist here is describing an intimate relationship with God that Christ came to fulfill in John 14:21. He more fully and deeply can empathize with our feelings since he experienced the full range of human emotions but did not sin as the God-man (Psalm 42:14; Mark 15:35).
The sons of Korah refer to God with three names rich in redemptive significance: God, salvation, and rock. Because this God is living, the psalmist hopes that his thirst for satisfaction in worship will be quenched (Psalm 42:4-5). Christ personally came to bring this ever-living God—and the fullness of his joy—to spiritually dead people (Matt. 22:32; John 15:11; 17:13). The particular aspect of “salvation” that the psalmist pines for—the very presence of God (Psalm 42:2-3)—is precisely what the Savior provided. The psalmist needs around-the-clock protection (v.8); Jesus promises it (Matthew 28:20). The Psalmist mourns for a “rock” to give stability to his life (Psalm 42:9); Christ became the cornerstone (Matthew 21:42; Eph. 2:13-22). If we suffer from spiritual depression, we can find relief in the Savior anticipated in this psalm. We must call our souls to build their confidence on the living Rock who stabilizes, protects, and provides the only basis for joy.
Vocabulary for Our Deepest Emotions
The Psalter in Psalm 43 provides all the vocabulary necessary to articulate our deepest emotions. This Psalm encourages God’s people to express without fear even our disappointments with God. Though God has not rejected him, the psalmist feels as though he has. But God uses even our mistaken beliefs about him to draw us to himself. In Christ, God will ultimately show us the relief from despair for which the psalmist longs (“salvation”). By committing his spirit into God’s hands, the suffering servant experienced vindication (v.1; Isa. 50:7-9; Luke 23:46). Because the Lord upheld him in his righteousness, his “light” could not be overwhelmed, and the “truth” he personified could not be discredited (Psalm 43:3; John 1:5; John 18:37). After Christ’s life provided justification, he was raised in holiness and later ascended to Gods “altar” (Psalm 43:3-4). And there he has received with “joy” the inheritance of the nations (v.4; Acts 4:25-26).
Those who are united to Christ by faith may anticipate the same trajectory of “hope in God” (Psalm 43:5). While many languages do not have an equivalent expression to “my God,” this Hebrew poet assures God’s people that he offers himself to be possessed by faith (John 20:17). Complete consignment to Jesus as our Redeemer will result in vindicating righteousness, guiding light, liberating truth, and emboldening access to Gods throne in prayer (Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 4:20-24; John 8:32; Hebrews 4:16)
THREE WAYS TO BATTLE DEPRESSION
First, fight spiritual depression with the gospel. The gospel is the power of God and provides the fuel by which we go out and face our day with all of its challenges by the grace of God. Whenever I’m feeling discouraged or depressed I don’t run to my books. Conversely, I spend significant time being quiet in prayer with God preaching the truth about who he is, what he is like, and who Jesus is focusing on what he has accomplished for me in his death, burial, and resurrection. I have also found it helpful to note how he continues to move in my life to grow me to the image of Jesus. In a sense, battling discouragement and depression with the gospel is just another way of applying the reality of who I am in Christ given that fundamental truth alone helps me to get to the bottom of the issue. While I realize some people do seriously struggle with depression and discouragement (if that is you I encourage you to seek professional Christian counseling) what has helped me more than anything else is preaching the gospel to myself.
Second, realize you don’t fight spiritual depression alone. The Bible resoundingly teaches that in the abundance of counselors there is wisdom (Proverbs 11:4). Don’t fake your Christianity acting like everything is okay when it isn’t. Be real about where you are. For most of us that will mean being honest with our close Christian friends about what is going on in our hearts and allowing them to minister to us. On multiple occasions I’ve had to call on close friends to listen, pray, and encourage me. The more you realize that you are not in this Christian life alone and that we desperately need each other, the better. The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation but in community with God’s people. Living in community with God’s people and having godly friends to pray for and encourage me has been a huge blessing from God to help me do serious battle against discouragement and depression.
Finally, battling spiritual depression may be spiritual warfare. Some of you struggle with depression and discouragement because a battle is being waged requiring you to take up the full armor of God. Rather than succumbing to the lies of Satan, you need to stand firm in the grace of God and take hold of the “nowness” of the gospel that is your identity as adopted sons and daughters of God. Battling depression and discouragement is hard, but preaching the gospel, applying the truth of who you are in Christ, living in community, as well as knowing when and how you get discouraged are keys in the fight against discouragement and depression.
Whether you struggle with discouragement or depression a little bit or a lot, please don’t suffer in silence. There is hope and healing in Jesus, a Redeemer who is not far from you but near to you. Know that God loves you, sent his Son Jesus Christ to die, rise, ascend, and to serve as our High Priest and Intercessor. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit has called you to the community of saints to hear his Word, to call on his name, and to grow in his grace. Grow deep and wide in the gospel by standing firm in the gospel, not being afraid to be real and honest about your struggles. Moreover, always have a view to lean on your brother and sisters in Christ in time of need so that together we may show the world his unfailing and unchanging love that flows to God’s people from the throne of his grace.
Dave Jenkins is a servant of Christ, husband to Sarah, writer, and Seattle sports fan. He serves as the Executive Director of Servant of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life magazine, the Book Promotions Specialist at Cross Focused Reviews and serves in a variety of capacities as a member of Ustick Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho.
Originally published at Servant of Grace. Used with Permission.