Psalm 42:1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
I personally think these two verses express the biggest reason God allows trouble in our lives: to get us to recognize our need for Him so that we will seek Him. There is literally no substitute for that, even though we try to substitute various things for God all the time. This particular Psalm (along with Psalm 43, which is in all probability part of the same original Psalm) deals explicitly with depression. Sometimes we tend to think depression is a modern problem, but it is as old as mankind. There are lots of reasons for it, but it fundamentally comes from truncated vision, the inability to see beyond current events and circumstances. Frankly, there’s plenty going on around us to cause us to feel down, but at the same time, we are surrounded by God’s gracious blessings. Depression comes when we focus on the one and not the other. There are chemical/biological things that influence depression, either positively or negatively, and I’m not discounting that, but I stand by my premise. The Psalmist here recognizes that with the admonition to himself, first stated in verse five and repeated in verse 11 and 43:5, to focus on God. I’m sure I will be accused of being simplistic, but that is ultimately, and always, the answer. We can think of countless excuses, but it comes down to the choice to trust God. Depression isn’t something that can be switched on and off like a light, but if we manage to focus on seeking God, He will answer.
I don’t write this casually. I attempted suicide once when I was in college. I can say with assurance that suicide is the ultimate expression of being self-centered. Lately “bipolar” is a popular diagnosis and excuse, but in my observation, people who are being chemically treated for such a condition are some of the most pathetic people around, because their emotions are compressed from both sides, to the point of being essentially unable to feel anything emotionally at all. People who are emotionally sensitive do need a support structure of family and friends, but running from emotion isn’t the answer. Many creative people have this issue, and squashing their emotions can likewise squash their creativity. Handel had this issue, and wrote the entire Messiah in the space of about two weeks, hardly sleeping, and then crashed. Thankfully there were no psychiatrists to dope him up, and with the support of those around him he recovered and went on to create much more magnificent music. In one of my own experiences, I was lying in bed, not consciously praying but just thinking, “There are so many things I wish were different.” Very clearly, so clearly it could have been an audible voice, except that my wife beside me didn’t hear anything, I heard the Lord say, “How do you think I feel?” Ever since then I have been comforted by the assurance that though things are a mess right now, God isn’t through with it all, and He is to be trusted.
Father, thank You for this reminder. It’s not something I’m likely to forget! I ask for wisdom and compassion as I deal with people around me all the time who are depressed, often with good reason. Help me point them to You without making them feel I am taking their suffering lightly. I’ve had some real problems in that area. May I be so focused on You that those with whom I interact may likewise lift their eyes to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!