3 My tears have been my food day and night
What do you do when people taunt you and speak against you?
…while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
When we find ourselves facing discouragement and depression, how do we find encouragement?
In the last post we saw one step to encouragement is to Worship God. Being with the people of God, who are singing and praising lifts us when we are down. The word of God also encourages us and is a part of our worship.
The next step to encouragement is to Remember what God has done in the past.
My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you
This is a strong expression of determination. The psalmist is determined to remember how God has helped him in the past. That is one of the greatest things we can do when we begin to experience depression. Think back to what God has done for us in the past. Remember how God was there for you in the past. Remember those who prayed for you. Remember how God has answered your prayers in the past. Remember the day that you gave your life to Christ. Remember when you were baptized. Remember the times that God was faithful to you.
Have you ever known someone that has a habit of remembering only the bad things? They date everything by these negative events. “That was the day the toilet overflowed. And that day is the day my cat ran away.” That’s no way to live.
But here the Psalmist is showing us that memory can be an important aid by remembering the positive experiences of God’s blessing. “I will remember you,” he says, the times when God caused my heart to be full of joy.
Last year for Kaleb’s senior year and last year at home we went skiing at spring break. Kaleb and I would ski until the lifts closed but the girls would often go back to the car early and wait for us. They would rest and listen to the radio.
On the third day when Kaleb and I got down there and tried to start the car it wouldn’t start, the battery was dead. I immediately went to the office to see if they could give me a jump start. They said all their employees were busy closing down lifts, processing ski returns, etc. and it would be two hours before they could help.
I went back to the car opened the hood and started to wait. Not long after a man parked near us, a friendly Texan asked if I needed jumper cables. We got the car started and were delayed about an hour going down the mountain. On the way down we saw police cars and a cleanup crew. We later found out that there had been a severe accident involving multiple cars. Several people were dead and injured. If we had left at the time I wanted, we would have been part of that accident. Now when I find myself with a frustrating delay, I remember that God may be delaying me for a specific purpose
The next portion of this poetic passage needs some explaining..
My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon–from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
He remembers an experience that he had when he was in the northern part of Israel near Mount Hermon, at the head of the Jordan River, on a little peak of the range where Mount Hermon is located, called Mount Mizar (which, incidentally, means “little mountain”). Snow from Mount Hermon would melt flowing down to form the Jordan river that would then flow into the Sea of Galilee. On that occasion he could hear the waterfalls of that mountainous region with thundering cascades. He became aware of how they seemed to be calling to one another, “deep calling unto deep,” and it reminded him that the deeps in God call out to the deeps in man.
One of the amazing things about nature is the silent voices that call to one another across vast spaces. The moon calls to the deeps in the sea, raising the tides. Twice a day the waters rise in tides across the earth, because of the moon calling to the ocean. The sun and the rain call to the deeps in a seed, causing it to stir with life and to spring up and grow. There are vast distances that call to the deeps in wild birds, causing them to wing their way across long distances to lay their eggs; there are voices that call to certain fish, sending them across the sea to spawn up into a mountain stream. In this way the Psalmist is reminded that God also calls to man. There are deeps in God that correspond with deeps in man, and he calls to them. The Psalmist specifically names two here: the deeps of the love of God, and the joy of God, calling out to the corresponding deeps of prayer in the believer.
Which leads us to the next way we are encouraged in times of depression; Prayer.
In the last post, I shared about Abraham Lincoln and his struggles with depression and how he found help in God’s word and in attending church, but he also depended on prayer. Perhaps Lincoln’s most famous words on the subject of prayer reflect an awareness of his great responsibility and personal inadequacy: “I have been driven many times upon my knees,” he once confided in an associate, “by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”
The psalmist has the same conviction…
8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.
In the next verses we will see the Psalmist prayer. It’s honest, it’s real and its raw. Do you feel you can be completely honest with God in prayer? Can you tell God how you really feel? The Psalms tell us it’s ok to be angry with God, to be frustrated and share hurts with God.
9 I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
Years ago on a Sunday morning after the service I left for home, Danielle was still at church but I thought she was with Niki. Niki thought she was with me, so we went home and left her. Of course, as soon as we reached home we realized our mistake and I came right back. I found her waiting for me, tears in her eyes and with disappointment in her voice she said, “Daddy, you forgot me!” What a horrible feeling it is to be forgotten!
That is the feeling expressed here, and what a terrible feeling it is. How honest and real.
The first step to overcoming depression is to admit it. The psalmist readily admits, both to himself and to God, that he is in despair.
There is a saying that I agree with, “Without revealing, there is no healing.” We must be honest and open to get better. Prayer is the revealing that leads to healing.
As the Psalm ends and his prayer ends, he moves from Talking to God to talking to himself.
11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a doctor who became a pastor in his book, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure ([Eerdmans], pp. 20-21), comments,
“Have you not realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself….
The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God”.
We find encouragement from God’s Word, God’s People, Remembering the good God has done and Praying to God.
I hope that you may be encouraged this week.