As a young man in my teens I tried my hand at boxing as a sport. I was feeling the pressure from my two brothers who were very successful in martial arts at that time, and so I decided I will do my own thing: boxing! My career as a boxer however was very, very short lived. It ended one day the same month it began! I found myself in the ring with this huge accomplished boxer who was in the same weight category with me. In that one short moment in the ring so many emotions overwhelmed me. Here I was representing my team, surely they expected a lot from me. Everyone else on the opposite team was laughing and taunting me. I did not want to fail at this because I so wanted to impress my brothers with my story of success. . . . I tried to confuse my opponent with impressive footwork, like Mohamed Ali would do. But he just stood there looking at me, his left hand to his head and the right slightly in front of his face. After a while he decided he had enough of my antics, he moved one step towards me and planted a heavy right blow to my face. I remember darkness covering my face but to this day I have no recollection of anything else! They told me later that he gave me one blow that sent me across the ring and I came down in a lump unconscious!
Sometimes, life knocks us down! But before this happens there are tell-tale signs that things are not alright but we ignore them.
About Psalm 42 and 43
Both psalms are credited to the sons of Korah, who were Levite’s in Jerusalem. The Psalms are treated as one song because of the similarities in structure and content. In the two Psalms the psalmist takes us through four cycles of lament to hope. These two Psalms raise key reasons for depression and also bring out an array of raw emotions associated with depression, as the hold up the power of God to sustain in such dire circumstances. Interestingly, these two Psalms are a song of worship, encouraging us to rise from self pity associated with depression to exulted praise associated with victory.
1. Unquenched Thirst verse 1-2
The Psalmist in these two Psalms acknowledges the fact that he is depressed. He begins Psalm 42 with his utmost desire to commune with God and which seems elusive. He longs to feel the warmth of God’s embrace but instead he feels cold and lonely. He states that as a deer pants for the waters so his soul thirsts for God. His thirst for God goes unquenched and this for a long time. He even comes to question when he will get an audience with God. When will he get a chance to present himself before God.
One of the most difficult things about depression is that it leaves us lonely and feeling rejected. We grope in the darkness of our souls yet we don’t feel anyone walking with us. God seems distant and very quiet. We long to reach out and feel Him but He is just not responding. The thirst, the longing for God can drive us to the edge, but we have to remind ourselves that we will “yet praise Him our salvation and our God.“
2. The Food of Tears verse 3
It is not just the loneliness and the feelings of rejection that complicate the situation for the Psalmist; it is the taunting from his adversaries. He cries day and night when he hears the voices of those who taunt him asking him in mocking tones, “where is your God?” Remember this is the same question he has asked himself in verse one and two. Now, it becomes more painful when his adversaries pick it up and throw it at his face.
The most difficult thing we undertake as believers is to defend the honor of our God. People look at us as foolish and clueless, just because of our faith. We hear them asking us why we believe in God as they point at our desperate situation. It hurts even more when you feel helpless and the deprivation they are pointing at is real. You are tempted to join them in asking, “where are you God?” You die a thousand times as you look for words to explain your faith in God even though it seems hopeless.
It is here that Hebrews 11:1 becomes very helpful. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” When we cannot point out any physical reasons why we should hold on to our hope let us remember our arsenal of faith!
3. The Out Pouring of Emotions verse 4
The Psalmist cannot help but pour his heart before the throne of the almighty as he remembers his past worship moments and contrasts them to his anguish. He recalls how he led multitudes in worship. He recalls the mountain top moments and now wonders how low he has sank.
Depression points us back to our successes but trashes the reward that those moments gave us! Do you remember the Prophet Elijah? After a successful campaign against false prophets at mount Carmel he flees in the dead of the night at the thoughts of terror promised by Jezebel, and sinks into a deep pit of depression.
1 Kings 19:1-4
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
Some people think that depression is for the weak and immature. They frown at those who go through depression as if to suggest there is something wrong with them spiritually. But I want us to understand that sometimes spiritual victories in themselves can be triggers of real depression. As one of my friends pointed out once, “ after winning over the devil during the day in public, don’t think he will allow you to sleep quietly in private.” The battle with depression comes even to the most successful, those praise and worship leaders, those preachers or those great intercessors. In fact the more successful we are spiritually the more prone we are to attacks of depression. My counsel to all of us is to keep calm when this wave of depression comes over us. We can only succeed if we pour out our emotions to God.