An Upward Look by a Downcast Soul, Part 5

Theme: Good Medicine

In this week’s lessons we learn from the psalmist some reasons why the Lord’s people get depressed, and what their spiritual response needs to be.

Scripture: Psalms 42-43

He challenges himself to do what should be done. The second step in the battle against depression follows from the act of addressing oneself in this manner. Indeed, it is a part of it. It is to challenge oneself to do what the spiritual self well knows should be done: "Put your hope in God." There can be no lasting hope in anything else in this sinful, failing world. There never has been. There never will be. Besides, the believer has put his or her trust in God in past days. He can do so again. It is a mark of simple sanity to do what the psalmist urges should be done.

He reminds himself of a great certainty. To “hope in God” leads to the final step in the crusade against depression—the reminder that "I will yet praise him,” based on the character of the God we trust. This is a great certainty. God has not changed. Therefore, his purposes for me have not changed. He has led me to uplifting victories in times past. He will do so again. Therefore, instead of looking at the past glumly as something I have lost, I will look to it as a foretaste of the many good things yet to come. We can find multiple examples of this in the lives of the Bible's characters, people like Joseph, Moses, Joshua and David.

Does medicine such as the psalmist prescribes really help? Does it effect a cure? The progress achieved by it is evident throughout the psalm.

Look how the thought flows and the mood rises throughout the two-part composition. In the first stanza the psalmist remembers the former days at the temple and is oppressed by the memory. In stanza two he draws on memory again, but this time it is to remember God and his goodness. In the first stanza he is troubled by the taunts of enemies who say to him, "Where is your God?" In the second stanza he answers that God is "with him" (v. 8). In verse 1, God is absent. In verse 9, God is his "Rock." By the time we come to Psalm 43:2, God is his "stronghold," and he is praying confidently that God will guide him back to the place of worship and the joys of former days. The first two stanzas were laments; the third has become a strong, believing prayer.

The same flow of thought is carried through the last stanza, for the action he anticipates from God is: 1) backward to Mount Zion, the "holy mountain" of verse 3; 2) to the temple upon Mount Zion, "the place" where God dwells; 3) to the "altar of God" before the temple (mentioned in v. 4); and finally 4) "to God" himself: “Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.”

Is there a cure for depression? Yes. But it is not in us. It is in God. The cure is to seek God's face, so ours will not be downcast, which is what the psalmist does.

Study Questions:

  1. What challenge should be laid before a believer who is depressed?
  2. What is the great certainty the psalmist has? What effect should this truth have on depression?

Reflection: Spend some time reflecting on the truth of God's character as revealed in the psalm.

Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.