By Betty Cooper —
Minnesota winters can be wearing on a person’s emotional and mental well-being. Sometimes it’s called “cabin fever.” But feeling blue or down, even depressed, is not exclusive to weather or location or century. It is a common malady since the fall. In reading the scriptures, I see the issue being addressed to all generations through such words as, “do not lose heart” or “Rejoice in the Lord always.” In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah writes about his affliction saying his “soul is bowed down within him.” He goes on, remembering in his sorrow the Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease nor fail but are new every morning (3:23). Let us remember to believe that the Lord surrounds us with that same lovingkindness in hard and easy times.
And lest we think that a disturbed soul is limited to sinners or due only to sin, we read of Jesus (the sinless human) in the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26:38 tells us He took three friends with Him “and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’” Mark 14:32 adds, He “began to be very distressed and troubled.” Luke 22: 43-44 states that an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him, and that, being in agony, He was praying very fervently and His sweat became like drops of blood.
Jesus’ response to His disturbed soul was fervent prayer, and He brought close friends with Him to pray and to watch. Throughout His whole lifetime as a human being He turned to the heavenly Father and, in humility in the midst of His agony, He submitted to the Father’s will.
I have never been clinically diagnosed with depression, but I have had many battles with being in a gloomy pit of discouragement or sadness. Scripture tells me these struggles are common to mankind. Paul was no exception. In 2 Corinthians 7:5-6 it says, “…we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” The same idea of God’s comfort and mutually comforting one another is seen again in 2 Corinthians 1:3-10 where God the Father is referred to as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. And though he “despaired even of life,” Paul determined not to trust in himself but to set his hope on God, expecting that God would yet deliver. What truths do you know and believe in times of difficulty that give you rest? For no matter how much we know of God’s truth, it will not profit us if it is not mixed with faith.
We see this evidenced throughout the Psalms as people cried out to God to lift their spirits. Surely you have your list of Psalms that encourage you. David records: “My soul waits in silence for God only; He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psa. 62:1, 2, 8). Psalm 34 is one that encourages me. David wrote it when he was in very trying circumstances. He said the Lord listens to our cries and is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. May God cause us to be satisfied in the morning with His lovingkindness so that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days (Ps. 90:14).
We can find comfort and solace within our times of despair through the truth of God’s word by taking a cue from David. I suspect he wrote Psalm 103 as an exhortation to himself to think about and be thankful for God’s many incredible blessings: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless His Holy name.” He exhorted himself to forget none of God’s benefits, among them the Lord surrounding us with His “lovingkindness and compassion.” On one of my darkest days, I connected with the prayer of Psalm 143:8, 10 which says, “Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.” He has answered that request over and over. And Psalm 23 reminds us of the Lord’s sufficiency for our soul’s well-being. I am encouraged that “He restores/repairs my soul.” My soul often feels broken and in need of repair. Is it “well with your soul”?
Whatever our situation, whatever our circumstance, we must seek the Lord through fervent prayer and know and claim His word over our lives. In the midst of depression, we can then praise God from whom all blessings flow, for He alone can lift our spirit from the miry pit and set us on a firm foundation (Psalm 40:2). To God be the glory, He continues to do great and good things.