Psalm 42:9-11 (NKJV)
9 I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 10 As with a breaking of my bones, My enemies reproach me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 11 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.
We all have heard the school house adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” While the mantra may have helped us from time to time deal with some rather vicious words from our classmates, you no doubt have discovered over the course of your life that the adage just doesn’t hold up. As much as we might like to imagine that the attacks of others upon our personal character or our actions do not hurt, they in fact do. Indeed, they can cause us to question seriously our identity and can even lead to periods of depression and the temptation to despair.
It is this very temptation that the Psalmist records in our psalm today. He was being attacked by his enemies: told that his hopes and plans were merely wishful dreams; told that God did not really exist; told that he was simply deluded. And all this speech caused the Psalmist to begin doubting and despairing. “Perhaps they’re right. Perhaps it’s all just a dream.” And in the wake of doubt came depression.
In our modern day and age we face the same types of temptations that the Psalmist faced in his own. We face criticism at work and at home and we find ourselves weighed down under the reproaches of others. We too face periods of depression.
What’s a man or woman to do in such a circumstance? Our culture declares that we need to head to the local psychiatrist and seek our solution in a pill. While there are organic causes leading to certain types of depression, run of the mill depression is caused by our inability to deal with the trials we face in light of God’s Word. In the psalm before us today, the psalmist models what to do when we find our soul in the grips of depression and we are tempted to despair.
First, bring your complaint to God. The psalmist declares, “I will say to God my Rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’” Don’t go first to the pastor, don’t go first to the counselor, go first to God and bring your troubles to Him. He hears. He listens. He acts. And those who wait for Him will mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not grow faint. While it may be necessary to seek additional outside help and encouragement, our first response must always be to go to our Redeemer and Savior.
Second, the psalmist not only trains us to bring our complaints first to God, he also trains us what to do with our thoughts of despair. Martin Lloyd-Jones in his wonderful book Spiritual Depression explains that when we are depressed we are greatly tempted to listen to ourselves. “Things are never going to get better. No one cares. God doesn’t care. Your enemies are right.” Instead, however, of listening to himself, Lloyd-Jones notes that the psalmist talks to himself. “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.” And so when you are downcast don’t listen to the Phantom of the Opera and the whispers of your own mind, talk instead – speak to yourself the promises of God and the precious treasures of our faith. Throw yourself upon Him and His mercy. His promises are more sure than our feelings. His character is more solid than the cloud of despair which seems so real at the moment.
But too often we do not model the psalmist. Rather than bringing our requests to God first and talking to ourselves; we listen to the imaginations of our own heart and fall into greater despair. And so let us kneel before our Savior and confess our sin, receiving the grace which He promises to us in Christ.