Coping With Spiritual Depression (Part Two)

by Dennis Michelson
(Painesville, Ohio)

No depression here!

No depression here!

Psalm 42

Introduction: In the last message we saw that spiritual depression is described as thirst. We now come to verse three.

2. Spiritual Depression Will Result in Tears (42:3)

The writer says "my tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, where is thy God?" Tears are usually the result of strong emotion. Tears are not unnatural. They can be quite natural or even supernatural. God has much to say in His Word concerning tears.

God told Hezekiah that "I have heard thy prayer, and seen thy tears . . .." (I Kings 20:5) Sometimes tears can be a sign of utter emotional exhaustion (Psalm 6:6) The tears which issue forth from a heart of genuine contrition are precious to God --

"Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?" (Psalm 56:8) The Lord God even promises a special blessing for "They that sow in tears" because "they shall reap in joy." (Psalm 126:5)

In the passage before us the writer refers to his tears as his "meat". This is similar to the thought expressed in Psalm 80:5, "Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and giveth them tears to drink in great measure." In the latter reference (80:5) tears are force fed to those who deny God and would dare to oppose His people.

In the former reference (42:3) the psalmist is expressing the idea that instead of eating, he is weeping. Leupold said, "In the type of emotional expression characteristic of the oriental writer's grief, he has sought relief and found expression in tears, so much so that he has done more weeping than eating."

This outpouring of emotion, as evidenced by tears, raises a rather interesting question for the contemporary Christian. Where is such deep emotion displayed in our day? Who sheds tears because they find it necessary to be absent from the House of God? Tears have almost become an anachronism. When they are shed then it seems that the one weeping feels some compulsion to apologize.

Perhaps our worship should devolve back to the archaic juncture where contrite believers would rather weep than eat and tears would be seen as an indication of spiritual progress and not spiritual perversion.

When genuine God-fearing believers are prohibited from worshiping God in the context of their own unique culture (like Jerusalem in David's time), then tears shed day and night would certainly be a pleasing sacrifice ascending as a sweet-smelling savor to God.

"The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." The preceding verse states that when "The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth", that He delivers them from their troubles. (Psalm 34:17-18) David asserted that "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Psalm 51:17)

3. Spiritual Depression Is A Battle of the Mind (42:4)

I have said on many occasions that the Christian life is lived primarily in the mind. The constant emphasis in the New Testament is on the mind of the believer. The spiritual battle will ultimately be won or lost in the mind.

The psalmist says in verse 4, "When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day." The writer thinks back to his fond memories and it adds to his depression.

Delitzsch offers an interesting observation at this point where the psalmist compares his gloomy present with his joyful past. "In this gloomy present, in which he is made a mock of, as one who is forsaken of God, on account of his trust in the faithfulness of the promise, he calls to remembrance the bright and cheerful past, and he pours out his soul within him . . ., inasmuch as he suffers it to melt entirely away in pain."

The psalmist expresses outwardly what he has already been thinking inwardly. In the opinion of Delitzsch, David's spirit is communicating with his soul. Although this may be impossible to prove, it does raise an important point for consideration.

The route of depression is from the deepest part of man outward - not from the outside to the inside as some might think. Proverbs 23:7 says, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."

Although it is beyond our human ability to make fine distinctions between the human soul and the human spirit, we can say with some certainty that the soul and spirit are a part of the conscious part of man and not his sub-conscious or unconscious nature.

It is true that the way out of depression depends greatly upon the "self-talk" of the inner man, but this is the conscious inner man; not the sub-conscious. This is a major difference between those who would deal with depression Biblically and those who would treat depression psychologically.

From this section of the Psalm ( 42:4-5 ) there does not appear to be anything wrong with speaking and/or thinking to oneself. But this discussion with oneself should eventually lead to a deliberation with God.

C.S. Lewis said that "pain is the megaphone of God." Spiritual depression should lead us to ultimately cry out to God and not merely stare more intently at our belly button!

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