November 4, 2015

Psalm 42:1-11; 43:1-5

The following is an excerpt from a sermon on dealing with depression by Steven J. Cole, which was published in April 2013:

The psychology instructor had just finished a lecture on mental health and was giving an oral quiz. Speaking specifically about manic depression, she asked, “How would you diagnose a patient who walks back and forth screaming at the top of his lungs one minute, then sits in a chair weeping uncontrollably the next?”

A young man in the rear raised his hand and answered, “A basketball coach?”

We laugh, but real depression is a serious problem. “Mild or severe, depression affects more people in our culture than any other emotional disorder,” says Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. Armand Nicholi, II. The disorder is so common that it is called “the common cold of mental illness.”

It should not be surprising that the Bible has much to say about depression. A thorough study would consume many sermons, but Psalms 42 & 43 gives us some solid counsel. In some ancient Hebrew manuscripts, these companion psalms are a single psalm. Whether two psalms or one, the subject is obviously similar and they are united with the common refrain of 42:5, 11, and 43:5. Many reputable scholars think that David was the author, in which case the title, “of the sons of Korah,” indicates a group of Levites in charge of temple worship to whom he presented the psalm.

We cannot say for sure who wrote it, but we do know that the author found himself exiled from Israel and from the worship festivals of God’s people. He was being taunted by enemies who said, “Where is your God?” (42:3, 10). Their oppression (42:9; 43:2) had plunged the psalmist into a deep depression. But he doesn’t stay depressed. He grabs himself by the shoulders, takes stock of his situation, confronts his depression, and seeks God with renewed intensity. He shows us how to pull ourselves out of the nosedive of depression: When you’re depressed, rouse yourself to seek God as your hope and help, no matter how despairing your circumstances.