TEXT: Psalm 42
TITLE: “Causes and cures for spiritual depression”
DATE: The Lord's Day 13/ 09/2009
For some time I have sensed the need to examine the Scriptures with you on the subject of Depression - with particular application to “ the Christian and depression” .
we commonly speak about “Octoberitis” – October is generally also known as suicide (and therefore depression month). [ Editor's note : One of our members who owns a hairdressing salon has just told me this past week how many of her clients pour out their depressed souls to her at this time ! ] This is primarily because the onset of the heat combined with the dryness before the rains eventually come. It clearly affects people’s moods. Other contributing factors to ‘ Octoberitis’ are a sense of failed expectations as resolutions and plans having been made at the beginning of the year are now failing to materialize , connected also to the fact that there is yet so much to be done before the end of the year . Namibia
For these reasons we must prepare ourselves spiritually for this time . Christians are unfortunately not exempt from depression . The Scriptures in general , and the Psalms in particular reflect on this common condition . In this regard we shall consider Psalm 42 today and next week.
The subheading says: “To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the sons of Korah.”
The sons of Korah were a group of priests who were in charge of the singing in temple worship. Therefore this psalm was probably used in public temple worship.
The Psalm is called a “Maskil.” We are not quite sure what that Hebrew term means. There is a verb in Hebrew which means “to make someone wise or to instruct.“ This clearly fits into the category of the Psalms which are commonly referred to as ‘wisdom literature’. This Psalm is a memorable song , one that teaches - particularly as it gives us insight into the causes and the cure for depression .
You will note that the Psalmist says 3 times in 42:5 ,11 and also in Psalm 43:5: “Why are you cast down , O my soul , and why are you in turmoil within me ? “ He answers his own question by saying: “Hope in God: for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.“
This is the Refrain of the song.
What had caused this condition in the Psalmist?
I see four elementary causes here: Deprivation; Exasperation; Desolation; Isolation
1. DEPRIVATION: The Psalmist had been somehow been prevented from appearing before God in the temple (42: 1-4).
He is longing for the presence of God. He describes this in terms of his soul panting – thirsting for God. He is like a deer panting for water. He remembers the rich experiences of meeting the LORD in the sanctuary, as he used to go with the assembled worshippers with glad shouts and with songs of praise (42:4).
worship was anything but dead! Temple
In Psalm 63:1-2 David repeats a similar thought: “O God, you are my God: earnestly I seek you ‘my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So have I looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and your glory ...”. Here is the first cause of the Psalmists spiritual depression: An absence of seeing and experiencing God – deprivation!
Spiritual depression is found when God is not experienced – when one is deprived of ‘experiencing God’. The Christian soul is made for communion with God - particularly for communion with God in fellowship with the saints. The Psalmist misses out on going to church with the people of God in whose company the experience of God on this fallen earth becomes more profound!
2. EXASPERATION : The Psalmist also experiences a continuous taunting by his enemies : (42: 3, 9, 10 ) - “ Where is your God ?” they say . Spiritual depression becomes accentuated when there are people around us that taunt us, - when they ‘rub in the reality’ of our experience. The Psalmist is not experiencing God as he used to (being away from the temple) , and this matter is made worse as he observes that there are ungodly people around him that also see this, and they taunt him. You can almost hear them say: “Here is this dreamer. He believes in God. But look at him. He is depressed. How can there be a God when he is so depressed. His God doesn’t exist!“
The next two causes tend to follow directly as a result of the first two. It becomes a “snowball” effect.
3. DESOLATION : The Psalmist feels overwhelmed : (42:7) - because He misses the presence of God in temple worship , and he is exasperated because of the taunting of his enemies . He says to God : “All your breakers and your waves have gone over me“. A spiritual tsunami has overwhelmed him. In verse 3 he confesses that he has been in tears because of these things.
This easily leads to the next aspect of the ‘snowball’ effect
4. ISOLATION: The Psalmist feels abandoned / rejected by God: - Why have you forgotten me? (42: 9) – Why have you rejected me (43:2)? Feeling alone (unloved and unsupported) follows very easily from this .
These four causes, all working together, and piling upon one another produce his depression, which is expressed in the refrain in 42:5, 11 and 43:5
How does he deal with this situation ?
How does he deal with this matter of Deprivation, Exasperation, Desolation and Isolation?
“HOPE IN GOD” : THE KEY PHRASE (42:5, 11; 43:5)
The key phrase found in the refrain is : “Hope in God”.
Depression is essentially rooted in a feeling of hopelessness. The four key phrases which I have used here, Deprivation, Exasperation, Desolation and Isolation are classic “Hope smashers “.
No one can live without hope.
Hope is a foundational grace in the life of a Christian.
Paul locates the importance of hope as one of three key pillars upon which the Christian life is built. He writes to the Corinthians under inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “ Now these three abide , “ Faith , Hope and Love“ ( 1 Cor 13:13) . Love is the greatest of these three because love alone will continue to be a reality in heaven. We will not need Faith or Hope in heaven, because we shall live forever in God’s presence. Faith and Hope will then be turned into sight!
But right now in this present time, we cannot live without Faith and Hope - and especially not without Hope! In fact , should you remove any of these vital components in a Christian’s life , the Christian becomes like a three legged cast –iron pot that becomes unstable, because that stabilizing leg has been broken off .
And so we must take note that people without experiences of love, or faith or hope are prime candidates for depression.
Look how hopelessness is described in Proverbs 13:12:
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Hopelessness makes the heart sick! The heart in Hebrew thinking is linked to the essential being of man. A person that is depressed is “heart-sore”. This affects the entire personality: mind, will and emotions.
The way therefore to bring a Christian out of depression is to instill hope.
Where does the Psalmist begin?
By going to the Psychiatrist and Pharmacy to get “happy pills”? By buying something new on your credit card or on bank overdraft or doing something else that will temporarily lift him out of his depression? You have heard it said:”When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!” Many people buy (on credit) to generate a temporary sense of hope.
The Psalmist does not do this. He takes himself to God “Hope in God!”
Now how does this help him? Ah, this is where a solid knowledge of the Word and of the doctrines of the Word greatly helps. What does the Bible teach us about this God in who we must put our hope?
Take a look at Romans 8: 18-39
- He is all seeing and all knowing (omniscient). He sees the struggle and suffering of this fallen creation (Rom 8:18-27). In all this He sees my struggle (because He is also omnipresent). He knows all about it . Nothing that happens to me catches Him unaware. This leads us to the next thought …
- He is all powerful (omnipotent). He can do something about my situation. And if He doesn’t , well then He has a sovereign plan , that will work for my good ( Rom 8:28) ….and this in turn leads us to the next thought …
- He loves His children: (Rom 8:31-39),” If God is for us, who can be against us? … nothing in all creation will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord ” .
Now, please note that by the end of the Psalm there is no report or testimony of the problem having been solved. He is not out of it. He is not worshiping at the temple. He is still in the presence of his enemies. Desolation and Isolation are still realities.
But his heart is now focused in hope upon God !
But his heart is now focused in hope upon God !
Next week we will consider 5 things from Psalm 42 by which the Psalmist effectively designs to combat his depression.