Study 6 WHY ARE YOU DOWNCAST, O MY SOUL?
GREAT QUESTIONS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Psalm 42:11)
How grateful we must be that the psalmist David knew what it was to be depressed, despondent and dejected, otherwise we would have been deprived of many of his most helpful psalms! Two of these which are placed side by side are Psalms 42 and 43. They were obviously written at a time when this great man of God was very downcast. In Psalm 42 compare verses 3,5,7,9,10. It would be true to say that very few Christians escape the experience of depression, and writing of these verses C. H. Spurgeon said, ‘Most of the Lord’s family have travelled the path which is here so graphically described … This psalm is eminently calculated to instruct those pilgrims whose road to heaven is of the same trying kind as was the writer’s.’ This leads us to ask, what should we do when we are downcast?
- (1) We may wallow in self-pity. Should we do this? No, a thousand times, no! This is the easiest thing to do when we are depressed, just to feel sorry for ourselves and to become completely preoccupied with ourselves.
- (2) We may complain. It is also very easy at such times to feel that everything is wrong, and to say so! - but we must not do this. Christians should not be grumblers - look up Exodus 16:8.
- (3) We may burden others with our troubles. Of course, there is good therapy in sharing our burden with someone else, and there is a great ministry that we can exercise towards those who are depressed by seeking to help and encourage them, but when we are downcast we must be careful that we do not become a constant nuisance to other people.
- (4) We may do nothing at all about it and just let the depression go on. This is wrong too, for when we are depressed some action is needed.
Study this psalm carefully to see that when David was downcast he took action in seven ways, and as he did this he experienced deliverance from his depression. What should we do then? What should you do?
1. GET ALONE WITH YOURSELF
It will help to get alone to some quiet place. David did this, and it is evident that he got alone with his own soul - compare verses 4 and 5. Life is so hectic and there is so much noise everywhere! Have you been alone with yourself lately? What a strange situation! It must be remedied. This is the first step if you would be delivered from your depression. But of course you must not stay alone with yourself, otherwise you will become more depressed than ever.
2. FRANKLY ADMIT THAT YOU ARE DOWNCAST
Notice that David did this, as verses 5 and 6 make clear. It is very noble in these circumstances to go about with a smile on our face, to give the impression that we are free from worry - but we should be honest and frank with ourselves about our true condition. We should say, “I am downcast.”
3. ENQUIRE THE REASON FOR IT
In verses 5 and 11 David asks, ”Why?…Why am I like this?” - and we may ask the same question. There may be a number of reasons for your depression:-
- (1) It may have something to do with your TEMPERAMENT. Some people always look on the black side of life; that is how they are made and they can’t help being negative.
- (2) It may have something to do with your HEALTH. People in good health are often bright and optimistic, after a time of illness can become depressed and despondent. Maybe your depression has been caused by overwork.
- (3) It may be due to your CIRCUMSTANCES. Have you been experiencing persecution, as David did (verse 4)? Perhaps you have suffered bereavement or a great disappointment. All these things can bring us into a depressed state of mind.
- (4) It may be due to a REACTION. Depression often follows after a long session of work, after studying for an examination, after a wonderful holiday, or after having made a very important decision.
- (5) It may be due to SIN or DISOBEDIENCE, as was the case with Jonah (Jonah 2:5) and Peter (John 21:3).
4. SPEAK TO THE LORD ABOUT IT
Verse 6 tells us how well David did this and how wise it is when we are downcast to share our experience with the Lord. Pour out your troubles to Him and tell Him all about it, however wrong it seems to you to be feeling like this - and you will experience relief and release.
5. THINK ABOUT GOD
This is wonderful therapy for the despondent soul. David thought about the Lord as (1) the living God (verse 2); (2) the helping God (verse 5); (3) the delivering God (verse 6); (4) the commanding God (verse 8); and (5) my God (end of psalm). You need to remind yourself that this God is your God.
6. PUT YOUR WHOLE TRUST IN GOD
Notice verse 5: “Put your hope in God” - compare Psalm 43:2-3. Faith has to be exercised. Faith is not just a mental conception, but it is reaching out and trusting God to do what He waits, wants and promises to do for us.
7. AFFIRM YOUR FAITH IN GOD
You must declare your faith in Him and express it, as David did (Psalm 42:5,8,11; Psalm 43:3-4). David was in fact saying, ‘Its going to be all right!’
If, when you are despondent and dejected and very downcast, you will take these seven steps you will rise out of your depression into “inexpressible and glorious joy” which the Lord wants you to experience each day (1 Peter 1:8).