Saturday, March 23, 2013

Defusing Depression

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul: and why art thou disquieted within me: hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” – Psalm 42:11

         When the Psalmist expressed these words there were no trained counselors nearby to whom he could vent his feelings of depression and anxiety (“disquieted”), so he was forced to take them to God. Poor man! You and I, on the other hand, have the advantage of sympathetic friends or systematic therapy to which we can turn when we’re faced with these feelings. Far better, right? Not so much. It’s like everything else; to get the right answer, you need to go the right source.

         I would suggest that this man’s question was rhetorical. He was not embarking on a journey of self-discovery, trying to trace the genesis of his misery. It’s like when you or I miss a turn on a much-traveled path and say to ourselves, “Why did I do that?” We don’t begin to question our mentality or suspect a deep-seated aversion for that particular turn. We put it down to daydreaming or just plain inattentiveness. The Psalmist didn’t waste time looking for a reason for his depression. He made a beeline for the source of the remedy. And that brings me to the crux of my warning for us today.

Be careful of things you turn to when you’re depressed. They’re substitutes at best, and potential chains at worst.

         I am well aware that we’re to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), and that includes comforting those who are cast down, as Titus did for Paul and his co-workers (2 Cor. 7:6). And I know the Old Testament speaks of giving “wine unto those that be of heavy hearts” (Pro. 31:6). But both of these illustrate my assertion. In the case of burdens, a few verses later in Galatians six, Paul lets us know that when all is said and done, every man will bear his own burden. And it goes without saying that anything (like wine) that is capable of changing our mood can easily become a devastating chain of dependence in our lives.

         I noticed in my Bible several years ago that this verse in Psalms says that God is the “health of my countenance.” He isn’t just the God of physical health, He’s the God of mental health, as well. I understand there are those whose depression is physical, and I would not fault anyone like this for using whatever means they must to alleviate its ravages. But for all the rest of us who are “cast down” by depression from time to time, I would prescribe the Psalmist’s remedy: Hope in God and believe that you’ll soon be praising Him for deliverance. If He can raise the dead, He can raise your spirits. If He can quiet a demon-possessed maniac, He can soothe all your anxieties.       

         Here’s a something to remember: “…he is the health of my countenance…” When God is our hope, it shows on our face!”  

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