As a little boy living in the village, I witnessed some of the horrible experiences of parasites! I mean a real infestation of parasites! I saw kids struggle with jiggers, body and hair lice, stomach worms, bed bugs, and other horrible creatures that took abode in their bodies and made life miserable. The most disturbing thing was that some of the kids were not even aware that they had the parasites! They would itch and scratch themselves but did not notice what was causing the itch. Their growth was hampered by the parasites and their health was at great risk but they simply did nothing! Their parents struggling to put food on the table and put them through school had no time for any other distraction.
Depression can create a similar situation. I have seen people slowly wither from inside as depression takes abode in them. In Kenya today the statistics of suicides and homicides committed by depressed people keep piling up. It’s time to take this seriously! We must stop and ask, “ what’s bugging me?” Today I conclude with some more causes of depression as displayed in Psalms 42 and 43. As this is a continuation from last week we begin at number four.
- Nostalgic Thoughts
The Psalmist confesses his longing for the golden old days. He meditates on how he used to lead the festive throng in worship as they entered the temple. As he remembers these days he “pours out his soul” before God.
The constant reminder of how low we have fallen is like a whirlwind that takes us high and then very low. We think of the rosy old days and then compare them with the desperate today and we sink deeper into depression. The loss of status can be a gnawing pain that grinds on without stopping. We imagine ourselves as shells of what we used to be. We cry over loss knowing so well that what we have lost will not come back to us. This too will cast down our hearts!
But I like it that the Psalmist in this Psalm is well aware of his situation and he calls his heart from depression. He asks himself why are you depressed oh my soul, why are you downcast? He also counsels himself that he should hope in God for he will yet praise Him. It is this thread of hope that keeps him from plunging into the deep abyss of hopelessness. He keeps hope alive and this brightens his life with fresh meaning.
I want to emphasize that the antidote for depressive nostalgia is constant praise! If we concentrate on what we have lost we go deeper into depression, but if we concentrate on what we still have ( or have gained from our experience), we will lift our eyes. I love Psalm 34, so I recommend that you read the whole of it, but let me quote for you verse 1-3
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
- Self Focus
A casual reading of Psalms 42 and 43 paints a picture of one preoccupied with his own troubles. There are a lot of personal pronouns me, myself, and I in the two Psalms. Allow me to state that this preoccupation with self is not healthy. As we focus on our problems they seem to grow too big that they block our view from seeing the suffering of others around us. We let our problems choke the life out of us while those around us need us for their very survival.
To illustrate this, as a mission facilitator I have seen people cry for bread that they miss or bacon that they cannot find in mission fields, while the very people they minister to are dying of hunger!
It helps to lift our eyes off our problems and say to ourselves that it is not as bad as it can be. Encourage ourselves that there is still hope and that we are better off than others. Our suffering can be a ministry to other people if we handle the situation well.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. Psalm 43:5
Let me wrap up our long discussion of Psalms 42 and 43 with this quote from the New Testament.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7