“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” – Psalm 42:5
“It feels like a curtain of darkness closed within me. I’ve been overwhelmed by a heavy sadness that consumes me. I can’t shake it. It feels like hope and joy have been siphoned out of my heart and despair has been pumped in in their place. I’m slow and sluggish, with no energy. I go through waves of having little appetite to eat, to wanting to eat everything in sight. I’m losing weight, or gaining weight respectively. I’d sleep for days, if I could. I have an increasingly hard time paying attention and focusing.“
In my experience as a pastor and counselor, these are statements that provide accurate glimpses into the heart that shares the struggle of what walking through the valley of stubborn darkness and depression looks and feels like. Can you relate? If we’re honest, though many would like to say they’re travelers making quick trips through it, sometimes it feels like they’re stuck in the valley, like they’re sinking in quicksand, not making any forward progress on their journey, or feeling like they will soon be overcome.
Yet, there is a way through. How can we get up and walk again when we’re under such a burden? Our Lord uses David to help us. David was familiar with such a battle within his own heart. How did God, by His grace, help him through it? He gave light in the midst of David’s darkness. God did this in several ways, several steps that guided David:
- The illuminating light of discernment – When we’re in the dark, not seeing the forest for the trees, we can convince ourselves that we’re fine when we’re not. Sometimes we recognize the struggle, but don’t know why it’s there. We can’t see the source. God gave David insight to discern what was going on within him. As he examined his own heart, David asked two important questions: Why was his soul cast down? Why was it disquiet within him? For David could see he was discouraged and depressed. He could recognize the lack of peace. What did God show him?
- What was found in the shadows – David discovered the source of his depression boiled down to a lack of hope in God. Hope had been siphoned by the battles he endured. His soul was cast down. Peace and trust had been replaced with fear and confusion. Yet, he wasn’t forsaken or left to wallow.
- The illuminated remedy – The clear solution and remedy was restoration of divine hope in the heart. In Proverbs 12:25, Solomon points out, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” God showed David that the discouragement and unrest needed to be confronted and the good word regarding the hope of God restored, grounded in the reasons for it. David found great comfort in his covenant God, the living God who was his God. The God who was the help of his countenance, the lifter of his head, was completely worthy of David’s praise. God brought David to the place where he could see and embrace that hope again.
Beloved, the light of the Lord, the light of Christ, brings us great comfort, aid, and restoration of hope when we are in dark places, when we’re in the stubbornly dark valleys where the end is nowhere in sight. Don’t forget this! For it’s easy to doubt, despair, and stay there, instead of hoping and resting in Jesus. I encourage you to examine yourself, and as God gives you discernment, to confront depression and confusion, intentionally countering those thoughts and feelings with knowledge of the truth and faithfulness of Christ and His promises. The light of Christ and the great hope that we have in Him alone is a wonderful salve to hearts that have been worn down and wearied by stresses without and discouragements within.
Take courage! Your loving Savior, who can sympathize with your weakness, and was in all points tempted as you are, yet without sin… He will help you!