When reading the Psalms of the Bible, I find a soulmate in David, who also wrestled with depression. It is easy to see from his Psalms that this guy had some heart-wrenching struggles.
You may only know David as the young teen who killed Goliath, the giant warrior from Gath who wanted to war with Israel. But there was so much more on his resume. Saul, the King of Israel, hired young David to be his armor-bearer and later his musical therapist. His best friend was King Saul’s son Jonathan. Barely into his 20s, he became a successful commander of the king’s army and married Michal, one of Saul’s daughters.
Life was grand.
Unfortunately, the good life didn’t last. King Saul, who had a tormenting mental illness of his own (called an “evil spirit” in many translations), had jealous rage because of David’s successes. There were times when David had to flee when the unbalanced ruler threw a spear at him. Saul’s temper became increasingly volatile. The “spear hit the wall” (1) when David didn’t attend the royal dinner table two nights in a row. Jonathan stepped in with an excuse for David and was nearly killed himself.
With this final escape, David was on the run from Saul and his men for nearly a decade. (2) He moved from place to place to stay alive, along with his own ragtag army. These 400 men gave up everything to travel with David, keeping the future king of Israel safe from harm.
It was during this exile that David wrote many of his Psalms. His heart was devastated because Saul, his king, boss, and father-in-law, no longer wanted him alive. His health undoubtedly suffered since he often couldn’t eat or sleep.
That sends someone into a deep depression.
Many of what David wrote are “Lament Psalms.” These are songs of grief and mourning. One example is Psalm 13:
O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
But I trust in Your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because You have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
because He is good to me.
The struggle was real for David.
The same happens to us. Our lives can be steadily rolling along without any significant troubles or strife. Then, bumps in the road become apparent. Things spiral out of control because of unexpected occurrences or sorrow. Nothing is as it was.
Or, something unexpected sends us reeling. The heavy cloud of depression returns once again. You are shaken. It is lonely. Where to do next is uncertain.
When it is one of those days when you feel that you are again in the abyss, it’s hard to cling to anything positive. I know. It is a struggle that I understand. Depression and anxiety have the upper hand once again.
When we pray for help and feel unheard, we certainly feel deserted. As the storm rages, we don’t want to give in to depression’s darkness, even though we know (in the far reaches of our minds) that our feelings are currently deceptive and undependable.
When we at this point, call out to God in the same way David did in Psalm 13:
Lord – I’m hurting!
Where are you? Why don’t you answer?
Do you see my struggle? I’m shaken to the core.
When will this enemy of darkness let go of my soul again so I can return to life?
As we feel the depression seeping in to devastate us, we can beg the Lord to rescue us. We can ask Him desperately to breathe life back into our spirit. We need help to triumph over destructive feelings and thoughts.
Stop here. Try to catch your breath. Grab for these truths and tuck them into your heart:
You can trust God’s faithful love.
You can believe that God will rescue you.
You can know that God will be good to you.
We are allowed to cry out to God and ask, “how long.” Even though it feels as though God isn’t there, He will never leave us nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5b). That is His promise.
David knew this too. Later in the Psalms, he writes:
Day after day, David desperately prayed to the Lord, giving over his heavy burdens. David knew God would take care of him. God will take care of us too. He does not let the godly slip and fall.
Reach out to God today and tell Him how you’re struggling. If you feel unsafe, ask for His protection. If you’re lonely, ask for His presence. If the darkness is never-ending, ask Him to be your refuge.
Friend, please take care of yourself. If it helps, journal all your thoughts – even the deep and scary ones – just as David did in the Psalms. If you feel overwhelmed, reach out for help! Ask someone to stay with you, so you aren’t alone. Make an appointment with your doctor. And if you are on meds, make sure you stay on your regimen.
1. My twist on the saying of when something hits the fan.
2. Because David would become king at 30 years old, (2 Samuel 5:4) his period of exile was likely around 8 years.
Scripture references are linked to BibleGateway for the reader’s convenience.