THe Familiar Voice of Depression

Of course it is wrong and destructive to tell your fellow brother or sister that they are disobeying God, in their experiencing depression. “Just get up, read this verse, believe it, and move on in your life!” No, don’t do that. Change, in the really important stuff, rarely happens by the “read this verse, and call me in the morning” method. 

But depression does have an angle, an edge that it’s trying to pull with you, and with me. There’s a seam that it’s trying to get its finger nails into, in order to pull up, and rip and tear the fabric of your life. I will get to that angle, that edge, in a moment. 

But I must clarify on aspect of depression. In the paragraph above, I described depression as an enemy. And it is. Depression is an evil enemy of the soul. Yet for most enemies, our strategy is to eject them from our life, or to avoid them, or conquer them. But what if we can do NONE of those things with depression? What if depression, being an amorphous cloud, that you cannot touch, is just going to hang around, no matter WHAT you or I do?

In that sense, it is not like other enemies. It IS an enemy, but it is an enemy that we must learn to live with. And when we see the battle with depression like this, then the Bible opens up to us. Our fight is not unlike that of David’s:

Psalm 23:5  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

God blesses David, not by ejecting his enemies, but by blessing David in their presence. 

And if depression is not an enemy to beat, but one to resist, then other passages come cascading before us: 

James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

1 Peter 5:8 Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

And now the Bible is alive with direction, with wisdom, and with solid ground under our feet. 

But one turn, one subtle, quiet step of repentance is necessary, in order to receive God’s grace in our time of need. David sees the edge, the seam that depression is trying to pull on, in him, in Psalms 42 and 43:

Psalm 42:5  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 6 and my God. 

Here David is clearly depressed. But then he comes to a realization: that one of his greatest problems is that he listens to himself talk to himself too much. Thus he takes himself in hand, and tells himself the truth. When we are depressed, the only voice we will listen to is our own. And this is both the curse and the way out of depression. So David refuses to listen to himself, passively, but instead actively talks to himself. 

And where does he get the truth to tell himself? We get some indication in Psalm 43. First his angst, and need: 

 2  For you are the God in whom I take refuge; 
 why have you rejected me? 
Why do I go about mourning 
 because of the oppression of the enemy? 
3  Send out your light and your truth; 
 let them lead me; 
 let them bring me to your holy hill 
 and to your dwelling! 

So where does the truth come from?

 4  Then I will go to the altar of God, 
to God my exceeding joy, 
and I will praise you with the lyre, 
 O God, my God. 
5  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. 

He goes to the “altar”, to the tabernacle, and he reminds himself of God and His gospel. And then he preaches that to himself. Now, he must not have gone alone.

Note how the three means of grace come into play here:

The Word: this is obvious. He preaches the Word to Himself. 

Prayer: He asks God for help, for “light and your truth”. Cry out to Him. He hears, and is on the move, even, especially when that voice inside you says that He’s not. 

Friendships: Going to the altar was not a solitary activity. One of the ways we get our footing in depression is by having friends who also constantly tell us the truth and the whole truth. That there is a God Who makes all things new, and Who is sovereignly in charge of all things, even depression. 

By His truth, God arms us to preach to ourselves, that we may have enough courage to come and sit at the table that He has already prepared for us, in the presence of our enemies. And by this courage, we may sit and not tremble, though the black cloud of depression is not far away. We may sit without fear, that the table is rich, and real – that the real stuff is not the black cloud of depression, but the delights of His grace. 

This season, beloved brother and sister, let not your neighbor in this church fight the black dog of depression alone. Let them not be crushed under the weight of flippantly delivered, solitary Bible verses. But let them also not fight alone. Come close to each other, as if we are a family, and give one bit of grace, to one bit of life. Because it’s God’s grace, that will be enough.