Though it’s in the middle of a sunny day, you walk in darkness.
You think it’s hopeless to keep trying, or to keep praying.
You’re discouraged about failure in a task, or in a relationship.
It’s difficult to breathe due to the high humidity in your heart that smothers motivation.
Where do you go? What do you do?
One means of assuaging my bouts with despondency is to meditate on selected Psalms. To “assuage” means “to make less burdensome; to ease or to calm.” When I use the term in relation to discouragement or full-blown depression, I’m not necessarily referring to the total elimination of despondency, but to a measure of relief, to a renewal of hope and an injection of much-needed resiliency to keep going.
Today I’m referring to three Psalms that repeatedly encourage and sustain me. I’ll share a basic insight I gleaned, then pose questions for your own exploration of the text. I want to serve as a catalyst for your own reading, not to spoon feed you with all the truths a Psalm offers. Read each Psalm before you peruse my comments on it.
V. Raymond Edman wrote, “Delay never thwarts God’s purpose; it merely polishes His instrument.”
Psalm 62 emphasizes waiting on God to act or to intervene (vs. 1, 5). Waiting is a required course in God’s “divine curriculum” for leading us to greater spiritual maturity. It’s during delays that we exercise desperate dependence on Him and when our faith grows.
- From verses 1 and 5, how are we to wait? What reasons to endure waiting do these verses reveal?
- The object of our faith is more important than the amount of our faith. Psalm 62 contains a number of descriptive terms in reference to God, the object of our faith. What words from the text describe Him? Which descriptive term resonates most with you today? Why?
- How can the portrait of our God in Psalm 62 facilitate resiliency during affliction or depression?
Verse 5 is the hinge on which this chapter turns: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.”
This is one of several instances when the Psalmist, while experiencing despair, does not pray to God. He is talking to himself! Actually, he’s giving a biblical rebuttal to negative thinking by reminding Himself of God’s character and presence. I call this “preaching to yourself”: using biblical truth to address negative thoughts or false beliefs. (Se Psalm 62:5-8 for an example of David “preaching to himself.”)
Delve deeper into the Psalm with these questions:
- Based on verses 1-4, how would you describe the inner state of the writer? When did you last feel this way?
- In verse 5, what basis does the writer cite for “hoping in God”?
- Zoom your mental lens on verses 6-9. Look for what the writer implies as well as what he directly states. What strategies does he cite for responding to despair?
- Verses 5 and 11 look similar. Yet what different outcome or benefit do you see in verse 11?
It isn’t just a plague of old age. (Funny, but I don’t remember forgetting that!) It’s also a spiritual plague hindering our growth in Christ, and our capacity to handle discouragement.
In verse 5 you find the theme statement for the Psalm: “Forget none of His benefits.” The remainder of the Psalm identifies specific benefits for God’s people, and the divine character traits from which those benefits stem.
The significance of remembering stitches together a lot of the pages of the Bible. God instituted the Old Testament feasts so His people, collectively, would recall His miraculous provisions and interventions. Exodus. 20:2 represents many verses where the Lord states, “I am the God who….” followed by reference to a specific deed on behalf of the people. In Psalm 106, God lamented Israel’s forgetfulness of His past deeds, linking their poor memory to a rebellious spirit and a cold heart. In the New Testament, Jesus launched communion as a way to remember His sacrifice on the cross and its implications for His followers.
To guide your exploration of Psalm 103, employ these questions:
1. List all the character traits of God cited in the Psalm.
2. How is meditation on these traits medicine for the despondent soul?
3. What reasons to praise or to thank the Lord can you find? (Focus on deeds here, not traits.)
4. Verse 5 says He “satisfies your years with good things.” Make a list of ways He has satisfied you. Thank Him for each item.
5. See verse 19. What are the implications of His sovereignty for the recurring depression a person may experience?
Remember: no degree of depression can erase the benefits cited in Psalm 103 for a child of God!
What other Psalm ministers to you when you are downcast?
Consider using these Psalms and questions in your personal devotions, or as a study in your small group.