Devotional # 75. 2/24/14. Psalm 118:1-29.
Why don’t we like depression? …other than the obvious that it makes us feel bad? We may lose weight, sleep and joy. But aren’t we supposed to deny ourselves? Aren’t we told to cry with those who cry (Romans 12:15)? Isn’t there a time to weep (Ecclesiastes 3:4)?
The answer is yes, there are times when we will be sad and God guides us through these times to learn from the experience. But it doesn’t mean we have to enjoy it. Over time God helps us embrace it. Depression is denying God’s power in our life. We are having a pity party and God’s not invited. So let’s look through Psalm 118 to see how God wants us to get something out of our depression.
vv. 1-4. The first thing to do is thank God for all the blessings we have. If you’re like me you’re so focused on what you don’t have that you forget what you have been given. Trust me you haven’t worked for anything, you’ve been given it. Your University degree? God gave you that. The place you live? A gift. What about the air you breathe? What about the “automaticity” of your heart, you don’t have to tell it to breathe. So give God credit.
But why are you blessed? Because “God is good!” What’s next? In four verses there are four times we’re told “His mercy endures forever.”
vv. 5-9. We have heard it so many times that it has lost its resonance. The best way to overcome depression is to give it to God. But what does that mean? How do we do it? Here the Psalmist says that we need to talk to God. “I called on the Lord in distress” means that we should request of God to help us. We may yell it, we may whisper it, we may even grunt it (Romans 8:26) but God hears and acts. Notice that we “put confidence in man” but “it is better to trust in the LORD” (v. 8). If you don’t think you do that, you’re wrong. When a problem comes up do you first call a friend? Do you immediately send a panicked group text (sometimes under the guise of a prayer request)? Or do you reach for the latest Christian self-help book? Only God and His Word gives us peace.
vv. 10-16. When it feels like the whole world is against us we must remember our salvation (vv. 14, 15, 21)! That is the hope that we cling to, the hope that we share with others. After you have given it to God the quickest way to overcome sadness is to work in others lives.
An article about happiness says that only about 1/3 of your happiness is genetic. So what do secular scientists say the other 2/3 is made of? Well, they say things like exercise and eating right are part of it but there is a split between what you do to make you happy. The selfish, “wrapped up in materialistic pleasures”, have “weaker immune systems, resulting in inflammation that can lead to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.” What about people like Christians who do stuff for others without expecting anything in return? “The unselfishly happy, who’s feelings of well-being involved a deep sense of purpose in life, had a strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes” (Source 1). Wait, so when God tells us to help others we actually benefit physically? But if we continue being hedonistic and living for pleasure we have a greater chance of physically dying? Hmmm. But this alone won’t convince us to do good for others. Our foundation is built on the Bible, and God’s Word alone will convince us and motivate us to do for others as we would do for ourselves (Matthew 7:12).
vv. 17-24. It is interesting how this group of verses is in three sections. First, the Psalmist assures us that this depression won’t kill us, it will make us stronger. God can use it to guide us and discipline and correct us (vv. 17-20). Second, he recognizes that his prayer has been answered. God doesn’t just take care of us in our present physical or mental or spiritual trial but he saves us out of hell (v. 21). Thirdly, he ties the discipline we suffer with the persecution Christ would (future from when this was written) suffer when He died to provide our salvation (v. 22). Notice that we are to “rejoice and be glad in it” (v. 24). When we have given our depression to God, helped others and recognized that we have been saved from hell our sadness is lifted and we are left with joy that we can only turn towards God!
vv. 25-29. Do you see that from the point that we recognize what Jesus did for us we are in praise? We’re not worried about the difficulty that is now behind us, we are focused on His “light”. We are the “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) tied up in gratitude for the Lord (Source 2).
And we end this study, and our concerns of depression with the thought “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Lord, I pray that we would always remember that you are good, your plans for us are good (Jeremiah 29:11) and you love us very much. Help us to get our eyes off ourselves and focus on others as You did when You came to earth to minister to us. Let this devotional stick in our minds when we run into problems, not the words of man but let us always turn back to Psalm 118 when we need guidance. Thank you and praise You!
Source 1: Mike Steere, “The Pursuit of Happiness”, Outdoor Magazine, January 2014, p. 52.
Source 2: Matthew Henry, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Psa/Psa_118.cfm?a=596001.