Do you ever feel as if God has forsaken you? You know in your mind that God loves you and that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28), but do you ever struggle to actually feel that God is near when the dark storm clouds come rushing in? Have you ever been so lost in depression that you simply lose all hope, that you feel as though God no longer cares?
I have. In spite of all I know and believe is true about who God is, His sovereignty, and His love, I still struggle so often with my feelings and emotions. It’s easy in those moments of deepest despair to feel as if we are completely alone, that no one understands, and that none care.
How do you focus on God when you feel so lost – when you feel as if you are drowning in a whirlpool and you don’t have the strength or ability to get yourself out?
It’s in those darkest moments that I am constantly brought back to the Psalms. King David understood perfectly. Even though we see the Scriptures refer to him as “a man after God’s own heart”, David was a man that experienced doubt and fear just as we all do. What makes him different from so many others, though, was his dedication through God’s strength to turn his focus away from his emotions and back to God.
Even in those moments of torturing darkness, we can do the same. In order to overcome depression, we must:
Honestly Face Our Feelings
In Psalm 22, David begins by openly confessing to God his present thoughts:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groanings? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” ~ Psalm 22:1-2
Had God truly forsaken him? Was God really so far from saving him? Did God actually ignore him?
No. But it didn’t change the fact that this was how David truly felt in the moment.
As Steve Kim stated in a message he preached on Psalm 13, “There is a place for us to express our honest feelings before God – even if they’re wrong.”
During depression, we have to come face-to-face with how we really feel. Once we understand where we are at, we can move on to the next step.
Analyze the Differences Between How We Feel and What We Know
One of the key factors of depression is that depression distorts truth. In this moment of intense agony in Psalm 22, David was struggling to stay focused on what he knew deep down was true about God.
When we are lost in the midst of trials, we so often lose sight of what is real and what is our impression. It is in these moments that we have to be willing to step back, assess how we feel, and tell ourselves what we know is true. It will be hard, but if we are not open and willing to hear truth, we will never move forward.
Cry Out to God in Prayer
“But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!” ~ Psalm 22:19
In the depths of your depression, the most significant thing you can do is turn to God. The truth is, we so often don’t want to – for whatever reason, we take pleasure in our misery. Maybe we want others to feel sorry for us, or we are seeking attention and comfort; however, these cannot help us. Only God can deliver us. Many days, it will be difficult – you will know what you should do, but you will want to sit in your depression.
It is at those moments especially that you must run and cry out to God. Ask Him to give you the strength to focus on what is true instead of how you feel. Pray that He would change your heart. Beg for contentment. Cry for perspective and faithfulness to Him. God desires that we come to him with all our cares:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30
“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:7
God will not leave you comfortless. Cry out to Him in prayer and seek Him in the Scriptures.
Focus on Truth Instead of Emotion
“For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.” ~ Psalm 22:24
In the heart of depression is discontentment in God’s sovereignty and ingratitude for what He has provided us. We cry in frustration, wondering why God would allow terrible circumstances in our life if He is so good. How can God’s goodness mean our trials and hardships?
How and what we feel does not change what is true. We fail to see His goodness in His sovereignty because life has not resulted in the way that we wanted. But, who are we to question and command God? Is He not all-knowing? Does He not know what is best for us?
You must choose to push aside what you feel and focus on what you know. Our feelings are so inconsistent and self-centered; Jeremiah 17:9 states “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Many times we will be overcome by feelings not based on truth, and some times we will be overcome by feelings we can’t even begin to understand. In those moments, shut the door to your mind and meditate on truth.
What is true?
As a child of God:
– God cares about you. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” – Matthew 6:26
– You are fearfully and wonderfully made. “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul know it very well.” – Psalm 139:14
– You are never alone. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4
– Everything happens for your good. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
– God loves you. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
Choose to Praise God in Spite of Our Current Situations and Emotions
“The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever!” ~ Psalm 22:26
What always amazes me is that, from the begin to the end of the psalm, none of David’s circumstances changed – the trials and troubles were still just as real as before. What did change was his perspective and attitude. David decided that, in spite of his circumstances, he was going to give God glory and praise for everything that He allowed. He chose to rest in God’s sovereignty, believe the truth, and find joy in who God is.
That is our challenge. We can not control our circumstances, but we can control how we will respond.
During a recent struggle with depression, a friend told me something I had never even considered:
“In your case, … depression is not a defining trait. It is not a trait at all – it is a struggle that sends you running to Christ.”
It is so true. Despite how much I hate depression, it is through my struggle against it that I am growing more in Christ. Depression constantly shows me how much I need God. It drives me to study the Scriptures, to know more about God and His promises, to review and memorize passages that help me combat the lies Satan so desperately desires that I believe. All the seemingly bad has brought me on my knees to surrender myself to God, cry out to Him, and watch as He hears and answers my prayers.
My depression is not the curse I have so often considered it to be – it is an instrument designed to bring me back again and again to God.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…” – Romans 8:28a
I will choose to praise God despite my feelings, circumstances, situations, and emotions – and I hope that, through God’s strength, you will too.