Published January 1, 2009
Related Sunday School Lesson, Bible Studies for Life, Jan 11
Depression and discouragement are not new disorders. They are as old as the world. And even Christians are not immune.
A friend of mine from college, who served with his family through the International Mission Board, spoke about the despair and discouragement they experienced on the foreign mission field. They were so homesick for their family, American culture, and fast food. In the large city where they served, there was a fast food restaurant that had originated in the United States. Often, they would treat themselves to a meal there and cry the whole time they were eating.
They were terribly depressed and discouraged. But, praise God they stayed and had a dynamic ministry in that city for two decades.
As we begin, there are a number of important facts concerning Psalms 42 and 43. First of all, these Psalms seem to be combined as opposed to being separated. If one reads Psalm 42 without also reading Psalm 43 it seems unfinished and depressing. By also reading Psalm 43, the theme is completed.
The writers of these Psalms were known as the Sons of Korah. Who were they? They were members of the Temple Singers Guild.
What we can surmise from reading these verses is the author is suffering from depression. His depression is due to the fact that he is in exile. He was far from the Temple and from the worship that he experienced there all his life.
This passage hits many Christians right between the eyes because many believers can relate to spiritual depression and discouragement. The best part of this passage of Scripture is that it introduces us to a cure for this despondency.
Reasons for this depression
He is a long way from home and from his place of worship. Because of that he feels a long way from God. He feels alienated. I have known many church planters and their families who have moved a long way from their home and their culture. If one grows up in Georgia and moves to the Northwest, it is quite a change in attitudes, customs, and one must not forget that there is no SEC or ACC football.
Even today, it is hard to be away from your culture. Just imagine the writer of this Psalm. He is among strange people. He observes them worshipping false gods and sees them act in a condescending way toward him and his worship. He is not welcomed here, but is seen as a stranger from a defeated enemy.
He remembers the past. He has fond memories of his past, his home, and his great times of worshipping the one true God. It is amazing how much better the past seems.
I have noticed over the years that when a pastor has left a church, the congregation usually remembers the good things and he becomes a virtual saint. The next pastor has a difficult time living up to the unrealistic expectations. We have all heard the words, “Brother so-and-so never did it this way ….”
His concern is that God does not rescue him. There is a deep feeling of abandonment. He is alone and wonders why God just left him. It is not unusual that a depressed person can feel forsaken by God.
The cure for this depression
As we know, the world looks to many sources to cure depression. One who suffers from depression can try to escape by divorce, frequent vacations, or any way to escape the realities of life. Some will look to drugs or hard drinks. But this writer gives us an example of how a godly person can be lifted out of depression:
He wrestles through it. He does not wallow in pity but forces himself out of these feelings. The mind speaks to the emotions rather than the emotions speaking to the mind.
He challenges himself to do right. He should do what he know needs to be done. He must put his hope in God. In verse 11, the author shares that one must “put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” He remembers when he first put his trust in God and knows that he can do it again.
He remembers the certainty of God. The same God he worshipped and served in Jerusalem is the same God who is with him in exile. God has not changed; therefore, there is no reason for him to feel defeated or dejected.
The best medicine
At the conclusion of this passage, we are reminded about the theme. The author begins by being depressed and discouraged. He has no home, he remembers the past, and feels that God has abandoned him. But as he remembers the faithfulness of God and the spiritual victories of his past, he can have certainty and hope. He goes from hopelessness to hope and begins the final verses with a victorious prayer.
I remember a young Christian being very critical of seasoned believers. He had only been a follower of Christ for a short time and was on a spiritual high. He couldn’t understand the ebbs and flows of the faith. He had not walked in the shoes as a believer enough to know what seasoned Christians experience.
Once he did, he understood the wonderful times of growth and the difficult times of despair many believers go through. The key is to follow the example of the author and finish well.
He closes out with a prayer of hope in verse 5. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Have you done that? Allow your depression to grow you closer to the God you love. Discover that fresh hope.
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