(Since it’s Friday, I have chosen to pull up a post that still, after several years, gets lots of hits. Originally written and posted in 2014, it shows up nearly every day on my list of ten most-viewed posts. I looked up the stats yesterday and found that over 19,000 people, about 5.5 % of my total readers, have accessed this post. Maybe not every single one of them read it, but it amazes me how much interest it has engendered over the years. I did a fairly long series on depression in 2017 under my “Friday Counseling Issues” category. You can find them near the bottom of the right side of the page, listed individually and under “Counseling Issues.” When you find the category, you’ll need to scroll all the way to the bottom and read from the bottom up for continuity.
David’s story is one of the most dramatic in the Bible. He didn’t have an easy life, and he often made terrible decisions. Still he is named “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). He earned that title because he always repented of his sin with great remorse; he always begged God to cleanse him and restore him to His favor (Psalm 139: 23-24).
There are many times in the Psalms that David wrote in which he declares his great sorrow. In Psalm 6:6, David says he is weary with his groaning; that all night his bed is swimming in tears. You will easily find other places in Psalms where this experience is repeated. His grief over his sin was great. His soul was weary with grieving, crying over the state of his disobedience to God, and the terrible results that followed.
Now I want to focus on Psalm 13, which is a little gem describing the steps David took from depression to prayer to victory. It is a retrospective song, written from the vantage point of age, so that David can be objective about his earlier experiences. In this Psalm, he was running from King Saul. He was alone, as yet without the support of his band of mighty men. He was in the northern reaches of Palestine where it was dry, rocky and dusty, and the peopled were unfriendly. In the first two verses we hear five complaints:
1. How long will You forget me, Lord?
2. How long will You hide Your face from me?
3. How long do I have to confer only with myself?
4. How long will I have daily sorrow?
5. How long will Saul have victory over me?
This Psalm has often been called the “how long Psalm,” or even “the howling Psalm.”
Things weren’t going well at all. Not unlike most of us, when the going got rough David complained and wept, feeling very sorry for himself and even going so far as to accuse God of forgetting about him. Of course that wasn’t true, but please, haven’t we all felt like that at some point in our lives? The problem comes when we begin to believe that what we feel must be the truth. It is never safe to believe that how you feel is the truth. “Follow your heart” has become a very popular saying, but it is dangerous because our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9).
In the second set of verses, David apparently starts to get his thinking straight. He begins praying instead of complaining. He asks God to hear him and wake him up so he won’t “sleep the sleep of death.” Anyone who has experienced that craving for deep, oblivious sleep that never has to end will understand that David is describing an aspect of deep depression. The only thing that seems to bring peace is to sleep so long and so deeply that the depression is escaped, at least for a time. In verse four, instead of complaining that Saul is the victor David asks God to have the victory. Nothing wrong with praying that God will prevail.
Finally, in the last two verses, David gets it right. He reveals three important aspects of answered prayer: Trust in God’s mercy; rejoice in His salvation; sing praises to God for His bountiful dealings. We are told to pray with gratitude in Phil. 4:7. Gratitude goes a long way toward eliminating whining. If we turn our minds to God’s mercy, goodness, and grace we are much better able to deal with the vicissitudes of life, including depression.
Most important, I believe, is to rejoice in God’s salvation. Some time ago, I was impressed with a wonderful truth. In this passage, David says he will “rejoice in THY salvation.” He didn’t say he would “rejoice in MY salvation.” Salvation belongs to God. He provides it for us when we receive His Son as our Savior, but redemption is His. We cannot lose what we do not own. We never need to worry that we’ll lose salvation, because the victory is the Lord’s, and no one can take us from His hand. That truth alone should help boost us out of the pit of depression and despair.
As you read through the Psalms, look for David’s descriptions of his soul’s agony. You will be surprised at how quickly you can identify with this man that most of us see as a great and powerful king. We forget that man is only man, after all, and that we are subject to our own weaknesses, just as David was.