King David and Depression

(First posted four years ago, this post consistently remains at the top of my “most-viewed” posts in my daily stats. Dusting it off for you, hoping it will be a blessing to you if you’ve already read it, or if this is the first time you’ve seen it.)

 

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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?

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 “follow your heart” 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.

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40 thoughts on “King David and Depression

  1. That second to last paragraph is precious. We cannot lose what we do not own. That is good!
    The danger I face is not depression as much as getting a job done in my own strength. Stoic. My attitude is usually, “I can do this” and that isn’t always the best thing either. I went through a very traumatic time some years ago and couldn’t sleep–not in the night or day. So I asked my doctor for help. He asked me a few probing questions, looked at me directly and said, “Well, you are not depressed.” He expected it, I guess. I needed something to shut my mind down. Ambien worked.

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  2. I woke in great pain in my soul. I know who I am in Christ but I am going through some deep waters. Of all the Saints in Gods word I am definitely a David and God lead me to find this blog this morning. I hope it is alright to share on my Ministry page. Thanks so much and may God richly bless you.

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  3. Liz

    Thank you. This is great, and something I was looking for. But can you tell me in the bible, besides the Psalms, where David was depressed? I was looking for the scripture of when David was on the run and when he showed signs of depression. Thats the only way I can think of describing it, because I can’t remember anything else and I skimmed the two books of Samuel and could not find anything. I appreciate your help.

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    1. The first thing that comes to mind is when David and Bathsheba’s son was born. David put on sackcloth and ashes and mourned and prayed for a week. When the baby died, he cleaned himself up. Another time would be when when one of David’s sons raped Tamar, David’s daughter by a different mother. Again, he was heartbroken and mournful. When Absalom was killed, David mourned greatly. What he understood was that it was his own sin and laxity as a parent that had destroyed so many of his children. You’ll find these stories in II Sam. 12; II Sam. 13, and II Sam. 18.

      Thanks for your comments and questions, Liz.

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    1. Because I am a therapist, I want to ask you if you have seen a doctor? Do you think you are experiencing depression? Sometimes depression can be a symptom of some other disease. Also, have you considered taking a medication to help relieve your depression, and are you seeing someone who can help you talk through it? God has provided many way to deal with depression.

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  4. soulspeak2013

    Thank you for this sharing. I am grateful for your visit At the Table, and am indeed immensely grateful to be meeting you and sharing a moment in your corner of this world. ” You cannot lose what you do not own”…so empowering…Blessings abundant..Namaste’

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  5. I started reading the psalms with my calendar in such a way that every month. I get to read over and over,and to an extent I am beginning to understand why King David was referred to as a Man after God. Indeed the best of Men are still Men at their best,including David,You and Me. :).

    Explicit post.

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  6. CJ

    Linda, thank you for this post. A particular line really hit me: “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.” I accepted the Lord at age 9, and was baptised when I was a teenager (I’m 24 now), but fell into a sinful lifestyle toward the end of high school and into my early college years. I never rejected the Lord, but my behaviour didn’t match my beliefs… I repented of all of it several years ago, and none of it has a hold over me now, but guilt still lingers from time to time. Sometimes I feel very low and like a fraud, because of my past. Today was one of those days. I prayed that the Lord would send someone to speak to me, and I found this blog post! God bless you for your ministry… I can see that you love the Lord Jesus and are doing His work. If you wouldn’t mind saying a prayer for me, I’d appreciate it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course I will pray for you! You have just encouraged me SO MUCH! Please, as you have the time, go back and read the other Friday Counseling posts on depression; I hope you will find more to help you. Thank you for stopping by to let me know God directed you to my blog today. I just shake my head in amazement. I wrote that post on David a couple of years ago, and it just keeps getting hits. Thank God!

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  7. Well done Linda. With just five hours of the year to go (over here) today I read the above post as I tried to catch up on my Christmas wordpress tardiness. I say well done, because of all the 2,000 odd posts I’ve read in the past 12 months your essay on psalm 13 (14 for us catholics 🙂 ) is the best. I am awarding you my ‘Anton’s best wordpress read of the year’ for 2015. I was particularly empathetic to the way you explained that David was asking for help to free him from his own faults and the importance of gratitude in all our conversations with God. As you may remember from a post of mine on which you commented, I have been plagued with a dreadful anxiety neurosis and phobia literally all my life and believe me only my chats with God and those he loves, not just me, are what get me through. You picked out all the salient points of this psalm perfectly. Thanks for a great reminder that my night and morning prayers actually both work and keep me so much closer to God and His saints. Have a very happy 2016 and God Bless. Anton.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anton, thank you! I never dreamed, when I wrote that post back in January of 2013, that it would continue to get hits almost daily ever since. So many people struggle with depression and anxiety. It is a comfort to me to know that even some of the greatest figures in the Bible also struggled. I think of Elijah, the Apostle John, Apostle Paul, and so many others.

      I am so pleased that the post was a blessing to you. And thanks for the award 🙂

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  8. Benedict

    Have just found this page today…and its directly to the point,I remember sleeping upto 4pm and still struggling to fall asleep…I didn’t even want to walk to the reatroom coz then I would think of my failures and mistakes in life. Am healing but I still need ur prayers guys…today when u pray pray for me. am actually in church while writing this post that should tell u how much I really need God to help me. thank you for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Benedict, I’m glad you found the page. If you’ll look at the right side of the page, you’ll scroll down to Categories, and under that you’ll find Depression. I encourage you to read all of the posts, starting with the earliest one and reading up from the bottom. You are on my prayer list.

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  9. Pingback: Depression, Again – Study God's Word

  10. Pingback: Depression and the Bible – Study God's Word

  11. What a wonderful post. It is heartening to read that even such stalwarts of our faith like David struggled and “groaned in agony”. Thank you so much for being one of today’s many blessings in my life! 🙂

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  12. BASHIR P

    Dear Pastor, Brother & Sister in Christ,
    Greetings to you in Jesus’ name!
    I am Bashir from India! God has asked me to reach out especially to the Muslims with The Gospel of Christ and plant Churches among them. God is using me for His own glory among the Muslims.
    I am seeking more prayers of God’s saints around the world. My daughter Noorie’s life is in danger. Therefore, I am in great need of your kind prayers & intercessions for her life. She has developed friendship with my former care taker of the Church building who is a lair, unfaithful and morally corrupted boy. God’s Spirit led me to found your contact address through Google search so that you could pray & intercede with my prayer request.
    Please pray that God’s Spirit will convicts Noorie’s heart and she will break this unholy & inappropriate friendship for His own glory. Please pray that Noorie will give priority to Jesus in her life and LOVE TO HIM BY OBEYING HIS COMMANDMENTS.
    Regards,
    Bashir
    Contact: iamthelight1994@gmail.com

    Liked by 1 person

  13. thank you granonine, for this insight into the Bible. It is reassuring to see how even David had had phases of despair and sadness and even suffered from depression. Especially the point fascinated me that we can not lose what we do not possess. Very interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

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