WHERE IS GOD WHEN I’M DEPRESSED?
Depressed. Alone. Defeated.
How many times have you trudged through your day under the heavy burden of these feelings? For me, it has been far too many to count. If you have walked this journey, or are currently walking it, then you’ve probably found yourself many times asking, “Where is God in all of this?”
And you’re not alone.
In fact, it’s an age-old question. I was struck by this recently as I journaled through Psalm 13. In it, the psalmist David talks openly about feeling dejected and abandoned by God. And as I read through line after line, I couldn’t believe how accurately his words—which were penned thousands of years ago in a completely different time and culture—described my experience with depression and anxiety.
David begins, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
How often do we feel like this in life? If you’re anything like me, you’ve asked these same kinds of questions time and time again. How long is this season going to last, God? How long until life feels livable again?
He continues, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”
Man David, you get me! My thoughts can be my own worst enemy. I wrestle with them every single day. I obsess over minute imperfections, and I let irrational ideas drive me to the edge of insanity. When not kept in check, my thoughts can wreak so much havoc on my life that I just want to give up. And when you’re already carrying around sorrow in your heart day after day, intrusive thoughts can be nearly impossible to defeat.
David goes on in the next two verses to plead with God for an answer. “Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death…” Poor David just wants God to look at him. He feels so deserted and demoralized that a simple acknowledgement of his existence would be enough to keep him going. He’s ready to give up and “sleep in death.”
But then something happens that just blows me away. Verse five begins with three small words that change everything.
“But I trust…”
Come again, David? You’re depressed. Your thoughts are tormenting you. You are being hunted and defeated by your enemies. You feel utterly abandoned by God. And your response to all of this is, “But I trust in your unfailing love”? What?!
Can I say those words when I am in the depths of depression? Can you? David could.
How? How could he trust in God’s unfailing love in the midst of such sorrow and despair? Here’s what I think. I think he could do it because he chose to recognize his own flawed thinking. He chose to trust God’s truth rather than the lies that were poisoning his heart. He actively refuted those lies and reminded himself what was true and real.
And not only that, but David chose joy. To be clear, he did not feel joy. But somehow, in the midst of his brokenness and pain, he chose joy. He spoke it. He made his heart believe it. He decided to want it.
He said, “my heart rejoices in your salvation.” David could choose joy because of what God has done and who God is. David was so convinced that deliverance and salvation would come from God that he could momentarily shelve his feelings in order to cling to the truth.
And in that moment, he worshiped. “I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” Worship takes your eyes off you and your woes, and it points them to God. It increases your gratitude and puts things into perspective.
This was certainly the case for David. All throughout this Psalm he poured over his feelings of anguish and isolation—and yet, at the end, he could still say, “for he has been good to me.” He addressed his irrational thoughts head on and essentially said, “No. I’m not going to exist within these lies. God hasn’t abandoned me. In fact, he has been good to me.”
It’s a lesson we can all glean from. Where is God when I’m depressed? He is right here. Beside me. Ready to remind me of his goodness when I am ready to say, “but I trust.”