Summary: I want us to take a look at Psalm 42 in order to better understand the kind of depression that can hit us in the spiritual solar plexus.
Longing for the Lord
Last week we focused our attention on Psalm 32, and established the fact that our unconfessed sins can cause us physical problems. When we don’t confess we can experience distress. What we’ll learn this morning is that pain is not always a direct result of sin.
Last Monday night, when our family was having supper, I announced to everyone that no one was going to have dessert that night. I lamented that we’ve been eating too many sweets, and we shouldn’t expect to have dessert every night. I may have even thrown in the line that parents like to say, “When I was growing up, we didn’t have dessert every night!” Later that night, when the girls were busy doing something, I opened the freezer and served up a big bowl of ice cream covered with hot fudge sauce and devoured it before anyone could see me. Unfortunately, I left my bowl in the sink and Beth caught me. Our sins have a way of finding us out! I lamely explained to Beth that I just forgot.
Now, I probably should have gotten a bad stomachache for sneaking ice cream but instead my conscience started screaming. The next morning I wrote my family a note. This is what it said: “I need to ask your forgiveness. Last night at dinner I announced that no one could have dessert. Later, while you were all busy, I had some ice cream. I’m sorry. I was wrong. I was being a hypocrite and I sinned against you. Please forgive me. P.S. Everyone (but me) can have dessert tonight.”
I don’t know about you but I get tired of sinning and having to ask for forgiveness. I also just plain get tired of myself. And sometimes I just feel down for no reason at all. Do you ever feel like that? While it’s certainly true that sin can mess up our bodies, there are times when we just feel blue.
I’ve had a couple periods in my life when I was really down. About ten years ago, when I was experiencing some health problems, I was overwhelmed with feelings of despair. The cumulative effect of months of misery led me down the slippery slope of sadness. I can remember trying to snap out of it to no avail. I confessed every sin I could think of, and even some I’ve never committed, just to make sure that my physical pain was not the result of something I had done.
The other period in my life when I got really low was during our time as missionaries in Mexico. I hesitate sharing this because I don’t want the Becker’s to think that their experience will be the same as mine was. As you may know, I really struggled to learn Spanish. While Beth and the girls were very supportive and encouraging, I felt like a failure. I felt alone and walked around in a fog of disillusionment and depression, hoping no one would ask me a question in Spanish. We were supposed to be church planters, focusing on building relationships with Mexicans so we could share Christ with them, and I could barely ask where the bathroom was.
My guess is that you experience some daily discouragement as well. Most of us go through some dry times and low seasons of life. Many years ago a young midwestern lawyer suffered from such deep depression that his friends kept all knives and razors out of his reach. He questioned his life’s calling and just wanted to give up. This is what he wrote in his journal: “I am now the most miserable man living. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell…to remain as I am is impossible.” Do you know who wrote those words? Abraham Lincoln.
Charles Spurgeon, one of my favorite preachers from a previous century, shocked his listeners when he said this in a sermon: “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression strikes about 17 million adults in the U.S. each year – more than cancer, AIDS, or heart disease. Half of all Americans say they, or one of their family members, have suffered from depression. The Journal of the American Medical Association has stated, “More suffering has resulted from depression than from any other single disease affecting mankind.” (N. Kline, 190:732-40).
Let me say at the beginning that I don’t know much about clinical depression, though I may have tasted it personally a few times in my life. I do know that depression is a very complex condition that can be rooted in spiritual, emotional, mental, biological, or physiological causes, or a combination thereof. If you struggle with depression this morning, I hope you are seeking professional medical help. There is no shame in admitting that you need some assistance.