When I was in middle school I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. Yeah, that’s the thing soldiers who have been to war come home and deal with. At 17 I was diagnosed with full-blown depression and was put on medication. Then at 26 a psychologist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder.
Over the years I have had a lot of people criticize me for being a Christian who has dealt with depression. Many well-meaning people, often people who love me very much, have told me that my faith was not strong enough, or, if it was, then I wouldn’t be depressed.
Normally I wouldn’t include a post like this on my blog. It’s such a serious subject and doesn’t really fit in with a craft blog. But I know that a lot of my friends are really struggling with me on this topic and I wanted to share my insights. I don’t claim to know everything. In fact, there is a whole lot that I don’t know and probably never will know. But I am hoping that God will speak to you through the words that He has given me.
The last few days I have been studying different passages of scripture and discovering famous men of the Bible who also dealt with depression. And yet, these are men that we look to as godly men who are our inspiration.
David has always been my favorite Bible “character.” God called him a “man after [his] own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14, Psalm 89:20, Acts 13:22). As a young man he was pulled out of a crowd and chosen to fight a giant for all of Israel. His faith was so strong that he was able to kill the giant with a simple stone.
As the years went on he faced many different extraordinary challenges. It is safe to assume that David dealt with his own share of post traumatic stress syndrome. He was turned against by his best friend’s father, the king; attacked and forced to hide from Saul, he had to flee several times, he was mistrusted, fought many battles, and mourned many people he loved and cherished. Later he lost a battle against his sinful desires that lead him to great heartache and trouble.
In the midst of all this there were times in which he was so filled with happiness that he danced naked in joy. Then there were the times when he was filled with such great sorrow.
The Psalms are filled with poems, or songs, from both ends of the spectrum. Some of the Psalms are so joyful and have been made into praise songs for the church. They lift your spirits and lead towards a spirit of gratefulness. But there are other Psalms that are of great sorrow.
David did not write all of the Psalms. Many of them were penned by other great men. He did, however, compile them into one book.
Here are some of the words within the Psalms that have often echoed my own sentiments.
“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” Psalm 4:1
“O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your wrath. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away; Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; but You, O Lord–how long? Return, O Lord, rescue my soul; save me because of Your lovingkindness. For there is no mention of You in death; in Sheol [after life] who will give You thanks? I am weary with my sighing; every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears. My eye has wasted away with grief; it has become old because of all my adversaries.” Psalm 6:1-7
“Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble? In pride the wicked hotly pursue the afflicted; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised. for the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, and the greedy man curses and spurns the Lord. The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, “There is no God.” His ways prosper at all times.” Psalm 10:1-5a
“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 all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.” Psalm 13:1-4
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest.” Psalm 22:1-2
“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not be silent at my tears; for I am a stranger with You, a sojourner like all my fathers.” Psalm 39:12
All of Psalm 42-43 but these verses in particular:
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. O my God, my soul is in despair within me; therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.” (42:5-7)
“My heart is in anguish within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.” Psalm 55:4-5
“Hear my cry, O God; give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:1-2
“Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?” Psalm 77:7-9
“Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me; for I am afflicted and needy. Preserve my soul, for I am a godly man; O You my God, save Your servant who trusts in You. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to You I cry all day long. Make glad the soul of Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” Psalm 86:1-4
“I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord; I make supplication with my voice to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path. In the way where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see; for there is no one who regards me; there is no escape for me; no one cares for my soul.” Psalm 142:1-4
It is important to note that these Psalms also include lines of praise. They do not solely focus on the negative. But my heart gravitates to the words of others, holy men, who have the same thoughts and emotions as myself. If a holy man, such as David, could suffer from such despair that he was able to pen these words, then how can it be wrong for me to relate to such thoughts?
I don’t think that it is wrong to be sad or to suffer from depression. I do not think that depression is a sign of lack of faith. David had great faith, despite and through, his depression. What we need to do is make certain that we turn our eyes to God in our times of troubles and not allow ourselves to be swallowed by our times of sorrow.
I have really been struggling with a time of depression over the last few weeks. I don’t have a good reason. And perhaps that is the most frustrating thing about bipolar depression. I don’t always know what triggered the depressive state. I just know that every day is a battle just to survive and not give into the overwhelming feeling of despair.
If you are dealing with some demons in your life, or your own form of depression, lets make a pact. Lets take this upcoming month to take a look at great people in the Bible (such as David), and to learn from them on how to handle our depression. For the next few days I will be reading through the Psalms that I have posted above. My goal is to pay attention, not to the words of lament, but to the words of praise that I did not include in this post.
Lord, open my eyes to see the good in my life. Open my heart to feel Your love. Open my mind to understand what You are doing in my life. Please tackle my depression for me, because I don’t have the strength to do it on my own. Thank You Lord, for all of the many blessings You have given me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
*”Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”