Sunday, March 22, 2009

Where to Go When Depressed

Then it happened when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag, and had overthrown Ziklag and burned it with fire; and they took captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great, without killing anyone, and carried them off and went their way. When David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep. Now David's two wives had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strenghtened himself in the LORD his God.
~1 Samuel 30:1-6

One thing no Christian is immune from is depression. Due to living in a fallen world, circumstances and situations inevitably seek to rob us of joy. Even the greatest "heroes of the faith" underwent boughts of depression. Job, Jonah, and Elijah at different points pleaded that God would take their lives while Jeremiah spent much time lamenting over the judgment that would befall his people. Timothy appears to be a discouraged young minister who might have even contemplated giving up the ministry due to growing opposition and persecution. One cannot read some of David's psalms and overlook periods of depression which the king after God's own heart experienced.

One such period of depression for the king occurred upon his return to Ziklag to find the city in ashes and all of the women and children carried off by the Amalekites. This included his two wives at the time. The response of David and his people is typical and expected. They lifted their voices and wept. In fact, their weeping was so great that the author explained that they did not cease until there was no strength in them to weep. Not only was this enough to depress the king, the people also turned against him. They were so embittered, literally bitter in soul, that they talked about stoning him! These were his men. The very ones who had supported hiim and fought right alongside him. This understandably made David greatly distressed. He must have felt like Job, having lost everything he held dear to and being left with those who seemed to make the situation worse (remember the lack of comfort and compassion shown to Job by his wife and "couselors").

Many of us find ourselves in similar situations sometimes. We suffer the pain of losing something we hold dear, a severed relationship, or being dismissed from a job in a steep economic time. We have relatives or family members once close confidents turn on us and become bitter enemies. Much of which make us weep with all of our strength and become greatly distressed. However, notice how David dealt with these depressing situations. He strengthened himself in the LORD his God. The situation looked bleak but the king did not give up and instead looked to God for his strength. David may have strengthened himself here similarly to that in which he did in Psalm 27. He would not be afraid of his enemies because he recognized that God was defense of [his] life (Ps. 27:1). He looked to be in the LORD' s presence where he would be protected in the day of trouble (Ps. 27:4-6). His army had now forsaken him just as his parents so he may have reminded himself that the LORD will take me up (Ps. 27:9). Through it all, what may have kept the king going in such a trying time was the consistent faith that I would see the goodness of the LORD / In the land of the living (Ps. 27:13). He found his comfort in God alone. He focused on the One who can provide joy in the midst of the darkest valley or deepest pain. He focused on the One who gives hope in what seems to be a hopeless situation. Sometimes the greatest comfort we need can come from redirecting our focus from the terrible situation we're in to the terrific God in control of such a situation and the knowledge that He is working through it for our good and for His glory.

David did not run away from the circumstances but sought the strength which only God could give to deal with them and move forward. He did not pick up the latest self-help book which outlines "12 Steps to Overcome Depression" but went to God. Interestingly, this seems to be the last place we often go in times of depression where it should be our first. In fact, it was the LORD who provided David with the guidance of how to handle these specific depressing circumstances.

After finding his strength or encouragement in the LORD, David asked for the Ephod from the priest Abiathar and asked God whether he should pursue them (v. 7-8), receiving an affirmative from God. Then through further provision of an Egyptian servant of an Amalekite, God led David to those who had burned the city and captured its residents and he received all that was lost. Where would the king have been if he allowed the depression to cripple him to the point of giving up or had attempted to strengthen himself elsewhere?

I don't know what you may be struggling with currently or the events and circumstances depressing you but I do know that there is One you can call out to during this time who can provide strength amidst the feebleness and weakness which has resulted. Like David may we find our strength in the God of all comfort when faced with the depression which comes from the pain and trials life brings!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria

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