How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”;
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalms 13:1-6 (NKJV)
When believers find themselves in depression it doesn’t help to hold the despair in. The Bible models to us through the examples of the saints of old that when we are down and out the proper strategy is to open up and pour out our hearts to God. David, that man after God’s own heart, was shameless about discharging his miseries before The Almighty. In Psalm 13, we find David depressed and on his face before God and in just the first three verses he lists four woe-filled complaints. Surprisingly, his grievances are not that out of the ordinary. In fact, his complaints are the common complaints that torture those faced with long term despair.
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? is David’s first perplexed protest. The cry of David’s soul is that the dry and trial filled season he is enduring has gone on way too long. His question reveals that his hope for relief has almost completely vanished. David is so emotionally trampled by life’s circumstances that he feels like God has abandoned him. He wonders if the arid season he is in will ever end and his questions for God aren’t ending either. How long will You hide Your face from me?, he continues. In Scripture “to seek the face of God” refers to seeking an audience with God and overtly seeking His favor through prayer. God “hiding his face” means He withdraws His presence or His favor. David feels as if God has totally ignored him and his prayers for a very long time. He feels rejected and wonders why God has chosen not to answer.
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? is complaint number three and it takes on an air of warning. In contemporary language the essence of what David is saying is, I’m going to have to take things into my own hands if you don’t help me soon.” David laments that he has spent every day in the same distressing situation only to be no closer to finding his way out. He admits to trying to devise his own rescue by counseling himself, yet he realizes the folly of leaning on his own resources. David is desperate and can’t understand why God has withheld His guidance.
David’s final issue with God is– that on top of everything else–his enemy is triumphing over him. How long will my enemy be exalted over me?, he quizzes His Father in Heaven. David was a man well acquainted with war and highly competitive in his nature. Nothing galled David more than to have God sitting back seemingly ignoring him while his enemy prevailed over him. He hated being beaten by his enemy and does not hesitate in asking God why he would allow this happen?
Many Christians might think that the depressed David must have surely overstepped his bounds with this overflow of inquiry to his M.I.A. God. Yet Psalm 62:8 commands, Pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us. Job and Jeremiah are two other saints who boldly risked coming before God with similar interludes of questioning. Venting true feelings before The Almighty is not off limits. Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe, however wisely calls for balance in the venting process. He states: We must not deny our feelings and pretend that everything is going well…but at the same time, we must realize how deceptive our hearts are and that God is greater than our hearts and can still lift us above the emotional storms of life.
The Bible urges us to be discerning as we give air to our feelings, we should never forget whose children we are. 1 John 3:20 assures us, For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Many times in Scripture we see believers singing the blues when God has their ultimate redemption right around the corner. In the story of Joseph for example when Simeon is left behind in Egypt Jacob bemoans that his life is over. The patriarch feels that everything has gone against him when in actuality everything in his crazy family is just about to be worked out. With this and many other biblical stories in mind it is good to remember as we set out to vent our emotions that our emotions are not always completely truthful. While clearing the toxic debris from our hearts is healthy and good and permitted by God we should never believe that just because we feel something, it is true.
When struggling Christians are depressed no matter how bad it gets they should continue to pray. The truth is if we wait and persevere and don’t give up, God will eventually touch us and lift our hearts. The Bible teaches that even if we don’t hear God’s voice we can be assured the Holy Spirit is at work within us. Romans 8:25-26 states, But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. The Holy Spirit helps us through periods of trial and waiting and helps us to pray in the midst of them. He communicates our feelings to God when we can’t find the words to describe them. The promises of God to reward those seekers who persevere through the desert are prevalent throughout Scripture. In the book of Isaiah and then again in Jeremiah for instance God declares, For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; Isaiah 44:3, and I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. “Jer. 31:25 (NIV).
One thing is clear as the reader continues through David’s Psalm 13 lament. After releasing his miseries to God David seems to get better and begins to find a new direction for his pain as he talks to God. Instead of being accusative and viewing the Lord as being absent and uncaring for example, David now requests that He “consider and answer.” Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Psalms 13:3, reflects a different more intimate tone on the part of David. Somewhere in the midst of his pain God has touched him and drawn him closer.
As the Psalm goes on, replacing the total despair that had overtaken the outlook of his soul David somehow finds a burst of hope. He passionately requests that God enlighten his eyes. Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death; Psalms 13:3 or as it is also worded Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. Psalms 13:3 (NLT). This request involves petitioning God for physical and emotional vitality as well as spiritual enlightenment. Here David shows inspired insight into the reality of depression. Depression is a body, soul and spirit ailment and requires an appropriate all encompassing treatment. The Bible reflects the truth of the physical and emotional components of depression; it is not just a sin issue. Scripture shows how the spiritual, emotional and physical aspects intertwine. Verses such as Proverbs 17:22 ,A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength reveal the interconnection between all aspects of a human being. Those suffering with depression should consider the physical components of their malady and pray as David did for restoration. If a sufferer of depression is so weakened that he or she cannot function in daily routines there should be no hesitation in seeking the assistance of one’s personal physician. The knowledge of modern medicine and nutrition can provide help to the person fighting the physical repercussions of long term despondency.
When Christians find themselves in seasons of despair they should “keep the faith” continuing to reach out to God . Hebrews 11:6 teaches us what the bottom-line of “keeping the faith” really is, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Heb 11:6 (NKJV). Those in the grips of depression should cling to the foundation of their faith. They should continue to believe that God is a loving God who rewards those who diligently seek Him. As the psalm draws to an end I believe that it is because David has encountered God that he finds the reserves to continue to express his trust in the Lord’s unfailing love. Psalms 13:5-6 reads, But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me. David begins verse 5 with the word “but” and but is a word that usually introduces a contrast. David is saying, in contrast to my former grievances…I have trusted and my heart shall rejoice and I will sing. By the end of this psalm, David in prayer has made some obvious different choices. His faith shown by―relying on the Lord’s love and then remembering his mercy, has paved the way for David to rejoice.
When a person is in depression it is good to try to train yourself to remember the mercy of the Lord towards you in the past. How has God shown his loving-kindness to you at other points in your life? Remind yourself of those times and praise God for those times and it can begin to have good results. Paul a man not unfamiliar with depression taught, Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! …Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus. Phil 4:4-7. Rejoicing in David’s life led to singing of His goodness, which in turn began to lead David out of the depression giving him patience to wait on the Lord a little longer. David had the foundation of an intimate relationship with God and a habit of trusting in God’s love and reminding himself of God’s goodness (see Psalm 34). He knew how important “keeping the faith” was to the equation. I would have lost heart, unless I had believed, that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalms 27:13-14.
As we come to the close of the psalm David’s circumstances had not changed. Saul was still hunting him down, the wilderness was still the wilderness and his longing for God was still a reality. In fact we really have no evidence that God had spoken to Him throughout the entire ordeal but I believe in his lament and in the pouring out of his heart to God, God in the process touched him and revealed himself to David. Nothing around him was different and yet David on the inside at least for the time being was changed. Our conclusion must be that because he poured out his heart before God, because he continued to pray staying close to God and because he kept the faith, he appears to have escaped the pit of his depression.