The Psalmist’s battle with depression


The book of Psalms is a great songbook, containing truth and subject matters that help shape our understanding of God, and how to worship Him.  But it also contains many real-life conditions experienced by David, Asaph, and the other psalmists. 

The psalmist who composed Psalm 42 trusted in God.  But he could also identify with a condition shared by many today – those that are downcast in spirit, fighting the fight that we call depression.

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In Ps. 42:5-6, the psalmist cried, “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. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you…”

This heartsickness – depression – is a real thing, caused by a variety of reasons.  In many of the Psalms, David was literally fighting for his life…at times with a single person, and other times with an entire army.  But perhaps at other times the enemy of whom he speaks is the voice coming from inside his own head, telling him that “there is no hope.”  

In those times when I have faced a temptation to be depressed or disheartened, I have learned that I must remember that heartsickness is a DOWNWARD SPIRAL.  I have to break OUT of that pattern of thinking.

We have to inform our emotions.  Otherwise, they will inform us – and not always with a true picture of our circumstances! We have to inform ourselves with the objective truth of God’s word.  

Please know that I am aware that there are many causes of severe depression, some needing the help of a loving doctor.  But there are some occasions when depression is caused by wrong responses to life problems that are common to us all.  When we are tempted in that way, we have to believe the Word of God OVER what we are feeling in our hearts.  

One of the key things that we can do to help us in those moments is stop LISTENING to ourselves and those voices that seem to form out of our situations.  In that moment, I need to TALK to my own heart, speaking the truth of God’s word.  This helps me to stop trusting every thought or imagination that crosses my mind. 

Just as a song has a chorus or a “refrain” that is oft repeated, enabling the main theme of the song to become embedded in our hearts and minds, so is the theme of HOPE and TRUST in God the refrain for this troubled psalmist.    

Finally, keep in mind this important truth…the psalmist only FELT alone. He was never completely separated from the God he loved.

The pattern of this psalm points us toward two important truths:  First, we humans tend to forget, and have to be reminded of our need to trust and hope in God. And secondly, we have to remember that we will all face many difficulties in life.  To do so is normal, and God will be there in those moments.  

Like the psalmist, we too can hope in God – even in the darkest hour of heartsickness.

About the Author

Mike Gilland is Operations Manager for The Shepherd Radio Network, a group of radio stations in Florida that features the “Christian Teach/Talk” format. Mike hosts a daily talk radio show in the 2 PM hour called “Afternoons with Mike”, talking to local pastors and newsmakers.  In Gainesville, Mike is heard on WTMN – 96.3 FM / 1430 AM. In Ocala, on WRZN – 103.5 FM / 720 AM. In addition to his broadcast experience, Mike spent 36 years in full-time ministry as a pastor and worship leader.  As a guitarist, Mike performs at concerts, restaurants, private parties, etc. He is married to Cindy, the father of four grown children and grandfather to seven grandchildren.

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