As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that certain things about me are changing. It’s not as easy to stay healthy as it once was. In my youth, I was able to eat entire sleeves of Oreos without the slightest repercussion. Now, if I even look at an Oreo I immediately gain five pounds. I also feel exponentially more tired than I did when I was younger. I suspect this is because I have children. Those parenting books that tell you what to “expect” when you have kids should list exhaustion first. Nobody told me about the blunt-force exhaustion of having three young children.
Perhaps most the most concerning change I see in myself is that I’m becoming increasingly cynical and jaded as I get older. I was pretty naive when I was younger. I didn’t realize just how full of suffering and sadness life can be. The older I get, the more I’m aware of how royally life can suck. I’ve seen brain cancer rob a family of a husband and dad. I’ve seen fellow Christians turn on each other and treat one another in the most horrific ways. I’ve seen my sister endure constant, chronic migraines. I’ve personally dealt with a massive amount of physical anxiety.
In the midst of life’s bitterness, it’s so easy to drift toward depression. Now, just to be clear, when I talk about depression here, I’m not talking about clinical depression that is physically based and should be treated in appropriate medical ways. No, I’m talking about depression of the soul. That sick, sour, cynical disposition that leads me to see all things through gray lenses. That constant discouragement that I try to numb with television and Facebook and anything else I can use to distract myself. That feeling that it will always be winter and never Christmas.
What is it that causes this depression of the soul in me? A large part of it is forgetfulness.
I recently read Psalm 42:6 –
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you.
The Psalmist was cast down and discouraged. He was worn out with life. He didn’t have any gas left. So what his solution? To remember God.
If there is no God, then I have every reason to be depressed. If there is no God, I have every reason to think that things will continue in a downward spiral. Atheists have cornered the market on despondency.
But there is a God, and he is my God! There is a God, and he is not silent! There is a God, and he is living and active, at work in my life and in the lives of everyone around me. God is at work in me and for me, ordaining all circumstances for my good and his glory (Romans 8:28). He is at work in the world, moving all things toward his ultimate goal of filling the earth with his glory (Habakuk 2:14). He is at work in me, transforming me from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18), and he is at work in the world, preparing to unite all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:10).
God is not distant. He is very, very busy.
Are you discouraged and depressed? Are you worn out, beaten down, out of gas, frustrated, cynical, or angry? Follow the example of the Psalmist: remember God. Remember who God is and what he has promised to do in your life. When the Psalmist was discouraged, he told his soul to get it together:
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
It’s as if the Psalmist is saying to himself, “Why are you so discouraged? You know the living God who works incredible deeds on behalf of his people. You know the God who split the Red Sea and spoke the universe into existence. Put your hope in him and quit being such a panty waist!”
Are you discouraged because you’re still single after all these years? Hope in God! Are your kids sucking the life out of you to the point where you want to send them to boarding school? Hope in God! Are you pastoring a church full of critical people who are never satisfied with you? Hope in God! Is your budget stretched too thin, like bread scraped over too much butter? Hope in God.
This is not a simplistic, reductionist solution. This is not just Christian talk. This is our lifeline in a dark and depressing world.
If there is no God, we have every right to live a depressed and discouraged life. But there is a God, and he is our God.
As Charles Spurgeon said:
I am the subject of depression so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to. But I always get back again by this—I know that I trust Christ. I have no reliance but in him, and if he falls, I shall fall with him. But if he does not, I shall not. Because he lives, I shall live also, and I spring to my legs again and fight with my depressions of spirit and get the victory through it. And so may you do, and so you must, for there is no other way of escaping from it.