- In Psalms 42 and 43 David gives a glimpse
into the working of his inner-most-being as he struggles to come out of a time
of depression. The struggle that goes on in a depressed person is a huge and
complicated struggle. David's soul and heart are out of step with each other.
While his soul desires to fellowship with the Lord and to once more enjoy the
reality of God's presence in his life, his heart is running with feelings of
sorrow and pain caused by circumstances and the seemingly endless taunt of his
enemies asking, ‘Where is your God?' David's
soul and mind are agreed that true hope is to be found in the Lord. Christian
hope is the confident expectation that the Lord in his grace and mercy will
take action and do what is good for his much loved children. David's soul and
mind are striving for the same goal; that he would praise the Lord with all
that is within him. David longs for his life to be a witness and encouragement to
- David's soul and mind have joined forces to fight
against the out of control feelings of his heart. The soul and mind have been
strengthened by remembering the LORD.
David has remembered who the Lord is and his own experiences of God's presence
and blessing. There can be no doubt that David turned to the word of God to
strengthen his soul and mind through the internal ministry of the Holy Spirit.
David by God's grace has begun to climb out of the spiral of despair and gloom.
We know that due to the laws of gravity it is much easier to slide down a
slippery slope than it is to climb up the same slope. The only way out is to
walk with the Lord and depend on his strength to enable you to get your feet
onto solid ground. Believers who are depressed need to burn the words of Philippians
4:13 into their
minds and hearts, ‘I can do all things
through Christ who strengthens me.' This is the statement of absolute
truth. The truth for every believer is they can do whatever the Lord requires
them to do. As a believer you can never say to the Lord, ‘I cannot do what you require me to do.' The believer at the bottom
of the pit of despair cannot say, ‘I
can't get out of this.' With the strength of Christ Jesus and doing things
God's way the believer can get out of the pit of despair. With the strength of
Christ the believer can do everything God tells him to do. This truth greatly
strengthens and encourages the soul and the mind in the fight against the rebellious
feelings of the heart.
- When the soul and the heart join forces to fight the
lying feelings of the heart the real struggle begins. The struggle to get out
of the pit of depression is a hard, long and complicated struggle. When we talk
about getting out of the pit of despair we need to recognise that this is a
figure of speech. The reality of overcoming depression is that of restoring a
broken-life; your inner most being has become dysfunctional. David in Psalms
42 and 43 gives us great insight into the process and progress of
coming out of a state of depression. Those who are depressed are told what to
expect as they struggle in the strength of the Lord to restore their broken
The pattern of the struggle to recover from a broken life.
struggle to recover from a broken-life vacillates between times of great
encouragement and times of deep despair. It is a real roller-coaster ride
because your fight is against your misguided and mischievous feelings. We need
to understand that our feelings are a
very important aspect of our lives. A person without feelings is a zombie. There
are feelings that are good and glorifying to God and there are feelings that are
inappropriate and dishonour God. Your feelings interact with all of life, your
relationship with the Lord, family, friends, work colleges, neighbours and
strangers. Your feelings are always interacting with your situation,
circumstances and environment. When a person has a broken-life a large number
of his feelings have formed habitual ways of responding to life around him. A
habit is difficult to break because you do it without thinking, it is an
automatic response. A bad habit needs to be dislodged and replaced with an
appropriate response so that a new habit is formed. In Psalms 42 and 43 David
reveals that road to recovery is full of starts and falls, advances and
retreats, promises and disappointments, failures and frustrations. The heart
influenced by the legacy of the sinful nature will fight with all its might to
keep its bad habits. David understood this pattern and so by God's grace,
strength and mercy regularly takes stock of his life. His stocktaking agenda is
given to us in Psalm 42:5, 11 and 43:5, ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet
praise Him for the help of His
countenance.' Between the stocktaking there are signs and times of
encouragement and despair. It seems as if every time he takes a step forward he
slips back two. Things seem to get better, then they get worse.
- It is important to fully identify the goals of
the waring parties. The soul and mind have the goal of praising God with all that is within, while the inappropriate
feelings of the heart have the goal of being
thoroughly self-centred and disappointed in the Lord. The inappropriate
feelings of the heart would have you convinced that God has treated you badly,
neglected, forgotten and abandoned you. You need to be focussed on the goal
that glorifies God. The deceitfulness of the heart is amazing and it will
launch a major propaganda campaign to get you to abandon the high and lofty
goal that the soul and the mind desire and have you settle for the goal of feeling better. Feeling better seems like
a very attractive goal as it seems to provide a platform from which to reach
out to other things. The heart will claim that when you feel better you will
naturally turn to the Lord and rejoice in his presence. To the suggestion of
this alternative goal say, ‘It is
written, the foolish man built his house upon the sand.' Rather than listen
to your heart ask what does the Scripture
say about such a goal? Trying to build a platform for future action on feeling better is to build on sinking
sand. The only platform to build on for future action is the Lord and his
revealed will in the word. For the person with a broken life feeling better seems wonderful and full
of promise therefore the temptation to settle for feeling better is great and many yield to it. David experienced all
these things, but strengthened himself by being honest and frequently taking
stock of his life. To climb out of the pit of despondency is hard, complex,
slow and takes a great degree of effort. There is no elevator or escalator out
of the pit; you have to walk out leaning and depending on the strength of the
2. The work of restoring hope in recovering
from a broken life.
- David in Psalm 42:8 says, ‘The Lord
will command His lovingkindness in the daytime and in the night His song shall be with me.' Is David being
arrogant and presumptuous when he says that the LORD
will command his lovingkindness to help him? There is no arrogance or
presumption in David as he is leaning on the promises of the Lord. Has the Lord
not made wonderful promises to his covenant people? Are members of the covenant
not right to expect the actions of God to be full of love, gentleness,
kindness, goodness, mercy, and patience? The Lord will not deny his children
what he has promised them. If you sought counsel from me in a time of trouble
and temptation, and I told you as a believer that God will command his grace
and mercy to help you, would you think I was being presumptuous? All I am doing
is holding on to the promise of Hebrews 4:16 which says, ‘Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may
obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.' The promises of God
are given to help and encourage us and to assure us of God's great love for us.
Believers have every right to expect the Lord to give them all he has promised.
- The word command is very forceful, particularly
when it is God who gives the command. If God issues the command it will
accomplish its purpose. For David's downcast soul the fact that the Lord will
issue the command is very reassuring. It is important to grasp that David is
using the promises of God to restore his hope. Christian hope is the confident
expectation that the Lord in his grace and mercy will take action and do what
is good for his much loved children. God had made a promise therefore David
could have a confident expectation that the promise would be fulfilled. It is
extremely encouraging to grasp God's commitment to you in the promises he made.
David expects God to act in lovingkindness
which means action clothed in love, compassion, grace, mercy, tenderness,
kindness and helpfulness. This truth would be hugely encouraging to a person
who has not known the Lord's presence or enjoyed fellowship with him for some
time. To know that God's attitude towards you as one of his children with a
broken-life is that of loving kindness is very comforting and assuring. The
Holy Spirit uses the promises in the Word to strengthen our hope in God.
- David is
confident that he can expect to see God act in lovingkindness in the day and
during the night His song shall be with
me. What does this mean? I did not find a commentary that gives a
satisfactory explanation. Most commentators simply twist the text to make it
David's song to the Lord. The text however clearly refers to God's song. John
Calvin is helpful when he says, David asks...why
should I not expect that God will be merciful to me, so that in the day-time
his loving-kindness may be manifested towards me, and by night upon my bed a
song of joy be with me? It is the song of God that enabled David to
anticipate sleeping with a sense of peace and joy. I think Calvin is right but
would add that it also refers to God's presence.
- You may have noticed that I did not quote Psalm 42:8 fully. I left
off the bit that says, ‘a prayer to the
God of my life.' I did that to make it easier to follow the process David
is passing through. His thoughts of God's lovingkindness
and song urged him to seek the
Lord in prayer. David's going to pray with the theme; ‘God is the God of my life' in his soul and mind. David's mind and
soul have been forging ahead in putting things into perspective and have brought
David back to the place where he sees that his life in every aspect is wrapped
up in God. God gave him life, sustains his life, determines his life, rules his
life, directs his life, and God is his life. These thoughts are vital as
perhaps for the first time in a long while David's thoughts are not
self-centred. The brokenness of his life is not overwhelming and consuming him
as it was. This stirs up the desire of the soul and mind to go to prayer and
fellowship with the Lord. David was going to prayer with an anticipation of
delighting in fellowship with the Lord. David is greatly encouraged and by all
accounts making good progress in his climb out of the pit of despair. What
could be better than David going to prayer fully expecting to delight in the
Lord? For a believer to go to prayer with such an expectation is wonderful.
3. The treachery of the heart in stopping recovery
from a broken-life.
- David goes to prayer thinking and declaring that God is his Rock.
There are three thoughts connected to the concept of God being my Rock.
(i) God is his anchor and solid ground while everything else in his
life was like shifting sand. God provided him with security in the flood of
troubles that engulfed his life. (ii) The second concept of God being my Rock is that of a refuge a place of
shelter in a storm. This is the meaning of the hymn; Rock of ages cleft for me let me hide myself in thee.' Only in
Christ is there shelter from the wrath and judgement of God upon sin. David
clearly needed a place of shelter and refuge as he was battered by the
circumstances of life. (iii) The third concept linked to the phrase ‘God my Rock' is that God does not
change. God's attitude towards his people is always the same, it is full of
grace and mercy. It is the fact that God does not change that enables the
believer to restore his hope by leaning on the promises of God. For David this
meant that the God who was with him when he faced Goliath has not changed,
therefore he can face his enemies with great confidence in God. I believe that
David had every one of these concepts in his mind when he came to the Lord in
prayer. I am sure that his soul and mind were rejoicing in the Lord.
- Having started his prayer with the grand and lofty statement about
God being his Rock we would have expected David to move on to praise God.
Rather than giving praise, David lays a complaint before the Lord. Why is there
this unexpected twist in David's prayer? What has happened to David? I am
convinced that as David's soul and mind started praying they were ambushed and
attacked by the rebellious feelings of his heart. Remember the goal of the inappropriate
feelings of the heart was to keep David thoroughly
self-centred and disappointed in the Lord. David is overwhelmed by his
rebellious feelings and says, ??"Why have
You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy??
As with a breaking of my bones,
my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, where is your God?" Can you hear his
self-centredness and disappointment in the Lord? His feeling have attacked and challenged
everything his soul and mind had contemplated about God's lovingkindness and
the security, safety and certainty of God being his Rock. His rebellious
feelings like a flood have washed all that away. It seemed he was making great
progress, but now he is back to square one. The encouragements he had received
are crushed and broken by the deluge of his feelings. David sinks back into the
pit of despair and focuses on his broken-life.
- This attack by
the rebellious feelings of his heart was not simply to return to the status quo
but to gain ground. In Psalm 42:10 David reveals that the
threats and taunts of his enemies cut deep into his heart. The pain he feels is
compared to the breaking of bones. The Living Translation seeks to capture the sense by saying, ‘Their
taunts pierce me like a fatal wound.' The Hebrew text literally says the shattering of bones. The picture is that
of being struck with a sword so powerfully it crushes and shatters the bone.
The pain David suffers and feels in his heart from the taunts and threats of his
enemies is severe. David's rebellious feelings make this the new focus.
- When David says, ??"Why have
You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy??
As with a breaking of my bones,
my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, where is your God?" he is not simply
expressing his feelings he is also revealing the argument these feelings put to
his soul and mind. These feelings are calling for an explanation of the
situation David finds himself in. How does the misery that David is
experiencing stack up against God being David's Rock and commanding his lovingkindness
towards him? The renegade feelings have given an answer, God has forgotten you. This answer has been reinforced with the
deep pain which David experienced from his enemies. When an argument is
reinforced with pain it is very hard to argue against it. The argument of his
feelings brings back the question, where
is your God? David's rebellious feelings have washed away every
encouragement and brought a new sense of despair.
- How does David
respond to this treachery of his heart in stopping his recovery from a broken life?
David responds by taking stock of himself, ‘Why
are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in
God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.' David takes stock even though it would not have
been what he felt like doing. His soul and mind have prompted him to do this.
His feelings would be telling him to give up the fight and simply submit to his
feelings. ‘Give up David, you cannot win
the battle, you have tried leaning on the promises of God, but that did not
work, so just give up.' If you asked David how he was going he would say, ‘I took one step forward, but have slipped
two steps backwards.'
After taking stock David returns to prayer,
His prayer is recorded in Psalm 43:1-2 he‘Vindicate ??me, O
God, and ??plead my cause against an ungodly nation; Oh, deliver me from the
deceitful and unjust man! For You are
the God of my strength; Why do You cast me off? ?Why do I go mourning because
of the oppression of the enemy?' Notice three things, (i) His prayer is greatly
influenced by pain that feels like the shattering of bones. (ii) His mind and
soul guide him to hope in the God of his strength. (iii) His prayer is once
again ambushed by his renegade feelings. Notice David no longer says that God
has forgotten him, but that the Lord has cast him off. The struggle to recover
from a broken-life is hard and full of encouragements and disappointments, but
as a believer you struggle on because you know ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' says, Don't give up. Return to prayer, expect your
rebellious feelings to be treacherous but know God will deliver you. God is
faithful he will never leave or forsake you.