Depression can affect anyone, including people of faith. This reality has escaped some people who act like faith alone can prevent every instance of sadness, every emotional hardship, and every psychological challenge. However, the melancholy musing recorded in Psalm 88 counters all such claims as the inspired psalmist penned this song from a heart overwhelmed with sorrow while still directing his faith toward God. We know nothing absolutely of the author, nor even the exact time of writing for certain. It could have been written during the time of David by a man stricken by leprosy and so separated from the rest of society. It could have been written by a descendent during the captivity who felt the full weight of the calamity greatly. Regardless, this soulful outpouring of emotional pain provides a powerful reflection of a heart overcome by depression, allowing those who can identify with these feelings assurance that God understands and still cares.
Depression creates the illusion that all of life offers only negativity. This leads to sleepless nights (Psa. 88:1-2) and stress-filled days. Life-threatening illness makes death feel close, and depression can even make it seem preferable, as Job also discovered (Psa. 88:3). The challenges of continuing on seem insurmountable, so much so that common activities feel like a burden too heavy to endure (Psa. 88:4). Under such circumstances, a person can easily feel worthless and forgotten, wondering whether anyone—including God—truly cares (Psa. 88:5-7). Depression makes people feel lonely even in a crowd, and distance becomes exaggerated when contact is impossible (Psa. 88:8). Then impatience sets in, expecting God to provide a solution quickly (Psa. 88:9) so that doubt begins to creep in as time passes by (Psa. 88:9-12). As a result, prayers can turn into grumbling and petitions into complaints (Psa. 88:13-14). In the midst of sorrow, problems seem bigger than they actually are and therefore overwhelm us more easily (Psa. 88:15-16). That is why it is essential not to retreat from God and others who care (Psa. 88:17-18) but instead to remain constant in faith regardless of the temptation to pull away.
If you find yourself depressed, do not worsen your situation by feeling guilty or inadequate as a Christian. Instead, take some practical steps to move forward and move through it.
- Talk about it—even though you probably do not feel like it. It really helps to express your feelings with someone who truly cares—and those people ARE there.
- Build your faith in how much evidence there is that God cares about you so that you never give up on Him even when feeling down (1 Pet. 5:7).
- Pray even more (1 Thess. 5:17). Pour out your heart. Cry out to God. Shed tears in prayer. But also give thanks for what you still have because of Him (Phil. 4:6-7).
- Keep an eternal perspective (2 Cor. 4:16-18). No matter how bad your situation may seem or even may be upon this earth, you have great reason to hope for the future.
- Distinguish between your circumstances and your identity. Everyone goes through hard times. Struggles are part of life. Your response is more important than the experience (Matt. 16:24-26).
- Focus on the hope of eternity, the hope of the resurrection, the hope of reuniting with loved ones, and the hope of seeing your Savior (1 Pet. 1:3-5).
- Accept help when offered, and surround yourself with people who will help (Heb. 10:24).
Finally, consider seeing a Christian counselor who understands, who takes your problem seriously, and who is trained to help. Seeking needed help is not a sign that you have no faith; it is a sign of maturity that you are humble enough to find the help you need.