(The following is a chapter excerpt from Delight in the Word: Biblical Counseling for Everyday Issues.)
Depression is debilitating. It is a crippling state that leaves you unable to function normally and, sometimes, not even caring that it is so. You may feel sad. You may feel angry. You may not feel at all. You may simply be numb.
It may surprise you to know that the man who wrote the greatest poem exalting the beauties of the Word of God, Psalm 119, battled depression. So depressed was he that he said, “My soul clings to the dust” (v. 25), but just eight verses later he was able to shout, “I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart” (v. 32). How did he get from laying in the dirt to running in the race?
I hope to encourage you by showing how he worked through depression. That, I believe, is the key. When you are depressed, you sometimes just want to sit and wait for it to go away, but it rarely resolves itself, unless it is simply a long nap that you need. The most difficult part of being depressed is that you must continue to live. But how? How do you go on with your life? How do you go to work tomorrow? How will you get out of bed? The answer is: you must begin to take small steps of action through the fog. Three clues as to how to do this are given in Psalm 119.
1. Identify the Cause of Your Depression. (vv. 25–29)
First, you must discern what it is that has led you to this point.
Begin with prayer. (v. 25)
Notice that immediately after his admission of depression: “My soul clings to the dust,” David cried out to God: “Revive me according to Your word.” God must be the one you run to first when you are depressed. If you do not know what to say to Him, pray something like this: “For [my] soul is bowed down to the dust; [my] body clings to the ground. Arise for [my] help, and redeem [me] for Your mercies’ sake” (Psalm 44:25, 26).
Evaluate your life. (v. 26)
The next thing David did was examine his life with God’s help. “I have declared my ways, and You answered me; teach me Your statutes.” As he rehearsed his heart attitudes and actions before God, the Holy Spirit gave him insight into the potential causes of his depression. This resulted in a renewed desire to learn more of God’s truth.
Plead for understanding. (v. 27)
“Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on Your wonderful works.” It is impossible to see through the dark clouds of depression without the light of God’s truth. Meditate on the wonderful works of God displayed on the pages of Scripture, which bring understanding and hope.
Admit you have no strength. (v. 28)
Sometimes when you are depressed you may find it hard to admit just how helpless you really are, but that is pride. Admit your weakness to God; He is already aware of it. “My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to Your word.” Humble yourself before Him and seek encouragement from His Word.
Confess sin and be cleansed. (v. 29)
It appears God answered this man’s prayer for understanding by exposing his sin of dishonesty. “Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously.” Sometimes depression is the result of sin, and the saddened state is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s conviction and grief. It may also be the tool God uses to put His finger on something specific in your heart or life that you may be blind to. When that occurs, honest confession cleanses and puts you back on the road to rehabilitation.
2. Decide to Let God Rehabilitate You. (vv. 30, 31)
Second, you must make a conscious choice to follow God’s remedy.
Choose to follow God’s Word. (v. 30)
In order to reap the benefits of God’s rehabilitation program you must make a decision to obey God by being a doer of the Word and not a hearer only (James 1:22). “I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me.” This man made such encouraging progress because he was serious about delighting in Scripture. If God has revealed areas of disobedience that may be contributing to your depression, you need to consciously turn away from those false ways toward the way of truth. “Happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18).
Cling to God’s Word as your source of hope. (v. 31)
When you are depressed, hope seems impossibly far away. That is the time to completely bypass feelings and, like a child, simply believe what God’s Word says. The Bible is the only reliable, rock-solid source of hope. Hang on to simple truth, even if you feel it is by your fingernails, most of which are already bitten off! “I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame!”
3. Rededicate Yourself to a Life of Obedience. (v. 32)
Thirdly, when God renews your spirit through His life-giving Word, recommit yourself to living a life of faith, trust, and obedience—a life pleasing to Him. Whether your depression was caused by sin or by something else, the time is always appropriate to say to the Lord, “I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart.”
(This chapter is a very effective tool as you counsel others who are struggling with depression. It is now available as an e-book at Barnes & Noble for only 99 cents.) Get the E-book it here.