Do faithful followers of God experience anxiety and depression? David did. I have.
David models a way through mental illness in Psalm 42.
•David got REAL
David was honest with God and others about his thoughts and feelings. He admitted he was thirsty, panting, weeping, doubting, not eating, feeling alone and outnumbered; his body ached; he felt forgotten by God; he mourned, wanted to die…”When can I go meet God?” (v.2)
HONESTY silences shame. Anxiety and Depression tell us we’re in this situation because we’ve failed in some way and when God and “they” find out neither one will love us. When we’re honest and loved anyway, shame is silenced.
PRACTICAL STEPS: At the first sign of depression I tell Becky and my counselor, and I immediately get off the internet. If I slip into a full-blown depressive episode, I’ll tell my family and closest friends. Becky has their phone numbers in case I’m unable to do this myself. I never talk about being sick online while I’m sick.
“These things I rememberPsalm 42:4
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.” (v.4)
David remembered he had not always doubted and despaired. There was a time when he believed and celebrated! He hadn’t always felt alone. There was a time when he’d gathered with big crowds to party!
REMEMBERING reminds me that who I am right now is not who I’ve always been or who I’ll always be. I haven’t always felt this way and I won’t always feel this way.
PRACTICAL STEPS: When I’m very sick and incapable of remembering good times, my wife tells stories: about past family vacations, good things God taught and brought out of my last bout of depression, about how we met and fell in love, about times when I was happy. I’ll open a photo album to help me remember too.
David interviewed his own soul – his innermost thoughts and feelings.
“Why, my soul, are you downcast?Psalm 42:5 & 11
Why so disturbed within me?”
When a job is lost, a loved one is buried, a relationship ends, or a country is locked down and divided, it’s normal to feel sad, discouraged, worried, frustrated, disappointed, or despondent. This is a normal, healthy, proportionate response to difficult circumstances. It’s not a mental illness.
A clinically depressed or anxious person’s brain doesn’t always function as it should. This malfunction may cause them to feel things that don’t match their circumstances or are out of proportion. More than once I’ve been ambushed by clinical depression when my life was at its best!
David interviewed himself by just asking WHY: Why am I feeling this way? Is there a reason? Are these feelings proportionate to what’s going on my life? Are these normal human ups and downs I’m going through or is there something more going on here?\
REFLECTING is interviewing my soul to diagnose what’s causing my feelings and determine if they’re healthy or possibly a sign of illness.
PRACTICAL STEPS: At my worst, my thoughts are so jumbled and my body is so tired that I’m unable to interview myself. That’s when a Christian therapist has helped me tremendously.
•David REMINDED himself of the truth
David seems to have realized his feelings weren’t facts. The same thing happens when we take time to reflect with a counselor. I come to realize my feelings are real but not true.
David told himself the truth over and over again:
“Why, my soul, are you downcast?Psalm 42:5 & 11
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.”
Anxiety and Depression lie. They tell me my biggest insecurities are true. They tell me I’m insignificant, unloved, alone, doomed, dying, that how I am right now is how I’ll always be, that I’m hurting those I love by being alive. Ultimately all these lies tell one big and powerful lie: God is not good and cannot be trusted.
REMINDING myself of what God says is true shows my feelings they are not God and do not get to decide what is true.
PRACTICAL STEPS: On my worst days I can’t combat these lies on my own. I can’t read or speak or think well enough. That’s when Becky fights the lies for me. She makes me look into her eyes, tears usually streaming down my face, and she makes me listen as she reminds me how happy I’ve been in the past, tells me I’m loved and important, tells me my feelings are lying, and reads me scripture.
Five years ago, my father-in-law lost his life to depression. He was a pastor. On my desk today is the bible he read from during his battle with depression. In the back of it, he wrote a list of verses to read every day to combat the lies. I’ve memorized these fighting words and more during this healthy season so that I’m well-armed and ready to fight if I’m ever in an unhealthy season again.
Is Psalm 42 The Bible’s Cure For Depression & Anxiety?
Being real, remembering, reflecting, and reminding are probably not the cure for your depression and anxiety. But they’re powerful tools that have greatly eased and shortened my own suffering. Thankfully, they’re not the only tools God has given us either!
I thank God for the gift of doctors, medicine, healthy food, exercise, therapy, friends, family, and support groups. Just as I would fight heart disease or cancer in both the spiritual and physical realms, I also fight mental illness on both fronts using every tool God has given.
Be real. Remember. Reflect. Remind. But also see a doctor and a therapist. Take your medicine. Eat well. Rest well. Exercise daily. Ask the people who love you for help.
And please don’t quit.
Call 1-800-273-8255 if you’re ever tempted to.