Coping With Spiritual Depression (Part Four)

by Dennis Michelson
(Painesville, Ohio)

He has everything under His control

He has everything under His control

Psalm 42

We have come to the final message in this series of coping with spiritual depression.

7. The Psalmist States His Concerns (42:10)

He is worried about the loose tongue of his tormentors who ask the age-old question when God's people are found between a rock and a hard place - "Where is thy God?" David seems to be sincerely concerned that his enemies - who are ultimately God's enemies - may find occasion to mock their Maker.

Spurgeon said, "Cruel mockeries cut deeper than the flesh, they reach the soul as though a rapier were introduced between the ribs and prick the heart . . . this is the unkindest cut of all, reflecting as it does both upon the Lord's faithfulness and His servant's character."

8. The Psalmist Restates His Confidence (42:11)

It is instructive that this same refrain as found in verse eleven also appears in 42:5 as well as 43:5. God does not need to establish His credibility each day but we must renew our confidence in Him constantly. While they "daily" (42:10) reproach us, we can daily approach the throne of grace and tell our soul to "hope thou in God." (42:11)

In this refrain, David changes the wording slightly. Instead of " . . .hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of his countenance." (42:5) He says " . . . hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God." (42:11)

It seems that the writer is growing in his confidence, and even gives a reply to his critics' question as to the whereabouts of God. Even the saddest countenance may take on a smile of faith when God is taken at His Word.

Depression may lead to deliberation and ultimately to direction. Ironically this is one of the "beauties" of spiritual depression. Spiritual depression is one of those mysterious instances where a gracious and loving God may bring blessing out of cursing.

In a day when the emphasis is upon making men feel good about themselves, this psalm demonstrates that feeling good about oneself may not be the best way to ultimately glorify God. The chief end of man is not to feel good, but to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

No one with a normal mental state will desire or even welcome depression of any kind; especially spiritual depression. But if spiritual depression (42:1-5) leads one to honest deliberation with God (42:6-11), then those who would have God rather than man at the center of their life will welcome the outcome of the experience.

Direction from God, which most earnest believers desire, can only come after honest deliberation with God, which most believers tend to avoid.

This final section of Psalm 42 is actually assigned the position of Psalm 43 in our English versions of the Bible. There is a clear connection between 42:5, 42:11 and 43:5. The writer now brings himself to answer his feelings in faith.

Faith tells the soul what Christ has done; hope tells the soul what Christ will do. Both faith and hope draw their confidence from the sure foundation of God's Word. When one's mental faculties are absorbed with God's Word, then escape from spiritual depression is assured.

Note: Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 should be taken together.

  • The Psalmist's Prayer of Deliverance (43:1-2)

    "Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man." (43:1) David now takes his case directly to God's throne of grace. David realizes that he cannot wage spiritual warfare with carnal weapons.

    In many instances the spiritual depression comes as a result of being opposed by others. If such opposition is our portion because we have aligned ourself with God, then it is only fitting to take our petition of deliverance to God.

    Spiritual depression will depart when we realize experientially that "unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." (Philippians 1:29) Verse two of Psalm 43 expresses his confidence in God's power to deliver --

    "For thou art the God of my strength . . ." He knows that the Lord is the only one with strength enough for the task but his feelings still well up within him when he asks, " . . .why doest thou cast me off?"

  • The Psalmist's Prayer for Direction (43:3)

    David says, "O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me . . . ." (43:3) God and His Word are the only source of infallible direction for the child of God -- "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psalm 119:105)

    It is important to note that the psalmist is confident that the Word of God will ultimately lead him to the House of God ("to thy tabernacles") Beware of any treatment for spiritual depression which claims that the House of God is the problem - it is part of the solution!

  • The Psalmist's Prayer of Devotion (43:4)

    The writer does not question "if" God will lead him but rather is so confident that he says "then I will go unto the altar of God . . . ." The statement here is reminiscent of David's words in Psalm 37:5, "Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."

    Here David writes that the believer must (1) DECIDE to do God's will; then (2) DEPEND upon God to bring all necessary information and resources to the believer; and (3) Be confident that God will DIRECT. Direction from God will come after the individual decides to follow Him and depends upon Him completely.

    In Psalm 43:4 David expresses his confidence in God's direction by stating beforehand that he will return to God's altar with exceeding joy. We must be willing to praise God even before the deliverance comes. The writer is now almost completely out of his spiritual depression and well on his way back to rejoicing in God.

  • The Psalmist's Proclamation of Determination (43:5)

    The Psalm appropriately ends with the psalmist telling himself for the third time "hope in God." This again is the key to overcoming spiritual depression -- the trusting believer must live beyond the present situation and by faith express his trust and hope in the integrity of God and the promises of God.

The child of God in times of spiritual depression must work through his problem to the point where his feelings must be answered by the facts of God's Word. Remember, faith is standing upon the promise of God and looking into the past. Hope is standing upon the promise of God and looking to the future. Biblical hope is man's sure escape from the slough of despond known as spiritual depression.

My HOPE is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
but wholly lean on Jesus' Name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my HOPE and stay.


On Christ, the solid rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

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