The lie depression tells

Depression is an unpleasant condition at best. At worst it’s debilitating. And yet it’s basically a lie. In part, of course, it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain, but no drugs can cure it unless somehow its victim can look past the lie to find the truth.

Like all lies of the devil, it works by blinding people to their true situation. Anyone who hasn’t bought into depression’s lie has bought into something else. Although David might be the last biblical character we’d think of as someone suffering from depression, Psalm 13 clearly illustrates both the problem and the solution.

The lie

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts 
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

You can’t get right answers to wrong questions.

There’s no telling when or why Psalm 13 was written. But David had an early taste of trouble when he had to leave an effigy in his bed and escape from Saul’s house.

After that incident, he wrote, “You are my strength, I sing praise to you;  you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely” (Ps. 59:17). It took years of danger and struggle after that evening before he finally became king. He always prevailed. His faith grew immensely.

As king, his armies never lost a battle, whether he personally led them or not. So at what point could he possibly have wondered if God had forgotten him? When was any enemy ever exalted above David?

The questions in these first two verses contradict every promise God had made to Israel. Every promise God had made to David personally. If a man like David can fall into such a funk, no wonder so many other people do.

Even Christian people who have all heard God’s promises find it easier to believe what Satan says about circumstances than what God says about his character. As a distraught man prayed to Jesus, “I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

It’s hard for a depressed person to pray. It’s even harder to pray and believe. But that’s the key to the door out of depression: search for what the devil tries to hide until you can grasp it.

The antidote

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him, ”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

David is still scared of some enemy and feels like the first defeat of his life is imminent. These words are surely not the strongest expressions of faith in the psalms! But it’s enough.

With these petitions, David turns away from questioning God’s faithfulness and turns instead to prayer. No matter what it feels like, God does not wait around for weak faith to become strong faith before he asks.

Weak faith will never become strong faith unless God works to strengthen it. And what God does to strengthen weak faith often seems like heaping on more trouble. Just read what David went through while he was on the run from Saul!

For that matter, check out Psalm 142, which he wrote “in the cave.” Then read Psalm 57, his response to God’s answer to Psalm 142. Faith is robust in both psalms, and danger still remains after that particular victory.

David’s psalms show a man to turns to God in all moods, all circumstances, in strength and in weakness. He learned that if he prayed–and prayed expecting God to do something about it–God came through.

It’s the expectation part that we find so difficult.

The victory

But I trust in your unfailing love; 
    my heart rejoices in your salvation. 
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

Has David prevailed over his enemy? Has God actually done anything about the situation that caused so much anguish in the first two verses? No. Outwardly, everything remains the same as before. The change, the victory, is inward.

Don’t neglect the significance of that wore “but” that introduces these closing verses. Faith does not acknowledge the enemy. As soon as David turned his attention from the enemy to God, the enemy ceased to matter.

Whoever or whatever David’s enemy was, God would take care of him. That’s the power of praying with expectation. The God who seemed so distant and uninvolved now appears not only near, but actively at work.

When we pray with expectation, surprising things happen. The first surprise? We trust God even though nothing has yet changed from a few moments ago when we didn’t trust.

Instead of bewailing the absence of God or dreading the unfathomable hostility of God, the now trusting heart recognizes the love of God.

Have you ever gone for a long time doubting that God loves you and then coming to recognize that he does? If so, I don’t need to tell you how much joy that realization brings. If not, no words of mine can convey it.

I remember well how my long struggle with that question started to end. I thought about the children’s song, “Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.” As long as I was looking for any other evidence, I’d never see it.

Only if I chose to believe that God loved me in a period of frustration would I ever see his love. That decision, as I say, flooded me with joy. Then I immediately suffered another unaccountable frustration, and it didn’t shake my conviction of God’s love.

Several ears of blessing followed, but the past three years have been painful in many ways. I have never once been tempted to doubt God’s love. I have probably asked the questions in the first two verses all too often, but I have not given back any of the ground God captured from the devil years ago.

I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by D. Sharon Pruitt (link doesn’t work as of Jan.2015)

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