Psalm 42:11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
This refrain, repeated from verse 5 and repeated again in verse 5 of the next Psalm (which is probably just part of this one) is justly famous. We laugh at the picture of someone talking to their own soul, but psychologists tell us it’s something we all do, and rightly so. We often need a good talking to, and who better to do it than ourselves? Sometimes we need the encouragement of knowing another human being understands and cares about us, but most of the time we know what’s right, we simply don’t have things straight in our own heart and mind to do it. That’s one of the foundations of the Coaching I’ve been studying. Rather than telling someone what they need to do, you help them bring the answer out of their own heart and mind, and then encourage them to follow through. The Psalmist here seems to be struggling with depression, which virtually everyone alive does at times. The ultimate answer to depression is assurance of the love of God. That is a gift from Him, but receiving it requires our choice to release our doubts about Him. For someone who knows Jesus Christ as the risen Lord, that goes all the way to the assurance that physical death is far from the end, and that we will be able to delight in praising God for all eternity. Depression sometimes makes people suicidal, but this is the opposite of that. This is placing our hope in God whatever happens, on this earth or in eternity, and letting God be the arbiter of whatever that is.
I am as much in need of this as anyone. I have had various bouts with depression, and as a teenager referred to them as “pink-and-purple-polka-dotted-funks,” to emphasize that they were worse than a “blue funk.” In college, I had an honest suicide attempt, which the Lord very graciously rebuked me for before I could follow through. I can’t say I don’t feel down occasionally even now, but the truth of this verse has penetrated deeper and deeper into my being. Having received that grace myself, I regularly deal with people who haven’t yet appropriated it. That can be difficult! I have been accused multiple times of failing to appreciate the seriousness of someone’s situation, because I keep telling them to release it to Jesus. I’m not to stop speaking the truth in love, but I also need to be an effective coach to help people recognize the truth they already know. We have a recent success story in that area that has been very encouraging! I am not to receive depression because of my own situation, nor am I to receive depression because of the people I deal with. I must remember that God is far bigger than any situation, any failure, any weakness, and rest, relax, and rejoice in Him.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You indeed for the believer who has remembered that he is a believer! Thank You that Your plan, Your will, is always, good, acceptable, and perfect, (Romans 12:2) and indeed be anxious for nothing, as You have told me so many times. (Philippians 4:6, etc.) Thank You. Praise God!