By Dr. Joseph Mattera
Everyone has been “down in the dumps” at a certain point in life.
There have been points in my life when I have had to continually battle against discouragement, depression, and anxiety because of all the responsibilities and uncertainties that I deal with on a regular basis. I have also endured several seasons of severe emotional pain and trauma while still attempting to function at a high level, leading my family and various ministries.
During the past 12 months, a phycologist friend told me that all the mental health professionals he knows are completely booked with appointments during the past 12 months because of the difficulties during COVID-19 and the political unrest. That being said, we need to know what to do when we are emotionally downcast, discouraged, or depressed.
The book of Psalms illustrates God’s ways amid all human emotions, including depression.
Psalm 42 shows us eight things to do when we are depressed:
1.Continue to seek after God even during seasons of emotional pain (Psalm 42:1-2).
In the context of when the Psalmist wrote this, he was panting after God the same way a deer pants for streams of water. Even though he was downcast and oppressed by the enemy, the Psalmist knew that seeking after God was more important than any of his temporal challenges. He always prioritized that as the object of his spiritual disciplines. Since he lived a hungering lifestyle after God, rather than seeking God for His benefits, he was anchored to this immutable Creator who centered the Psalmist’s life when his emotions were unstable.
Centering our emotions on seeking God will eventually stabilize our life.
2. Pour out your soul unto God (Psalm 42:4).
The Psalmist did not merely “say prayers,” He poured out his soul to God! He did not hold down his emotions with religion but was honest with God. The Psalmist was in touch with his feelings and let everything in his inner-most being gush out of his heart in the presence of God. If we do not face our real emotions and give them over to God, we are not giving His Spirit the space to heal us and rescue us from our depressed state.
3. Do not isolate yourself. Stay in the family of God (Psalm 42:4).
The Psalmist understood the power of fellowshipping with other believers. The worst thing we can do when we are depressed is to isolate ourselves from the church and other Christians. The power of community is vital. Even the remembrance of it strengthened the Psalmist and helped get him out of his funk. “Two are better than one… for if they fall, one will lift his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
4. Get to the root of the problem by asking yourself the right questions (Psalm 42:5).
The Psalmist knew that a depressed emotional state is a sign of a more significant problem inside his heart. He did not ignore or deny these feelings. but asked himself the right questions to detect his soul’s real issues. Hence, being self-aware is a key to getting out of depression. Once we know what we are dealing with, we can apply God’s word to it so we can view our situation from His perspective instead of our own.
5. Remember what God has already done for you in the past (Psalm 42:6).
It is important to journal so we can recount all the miracles, answers to prayer, and providential guidance God has accomplished on your behalf. Remembering what God did for us in the past will help us have faith when faced with great challenges that cause emotional distress. The Bible tells us not to forget His benefits so we can bless the Lord (Psalm 103:2). The children of Israel rebelled against God because they forgot His works (Psalm 78:8-9). The Psalmist said that he would intentionally remember Him while his soul was downcast within him. Consequently, it’s important to keep a record and review all God has done for you when you are in the midst of fiery trials. As a faith builder, you can hold on to that, and it can pull you out of the shadows of mental gloom.
6. Allow God to go deep within you (Psalm 42:7).
Those who seek God are not interested in mere religion but want to go deep with Him. During the Psalmist’s severe emotional trial, he knew it was an opportunity for Him to touch the depths of his soul. This is why he said “deep calls unto deep.” Thus, every crisis of the soul is an opportunity for us to go to another level of spiritual formation that can redeem our emotional discouragement and depression.
7. Ask God what He is working inside of you and what is happening (Psalm 42:9).
While in a state of being downcast, the Psalmist went to God with questions about his condition. Hence, while depression is a sign that something is wrong in our soul, it is also an opportunity for God to give us greater insight into His ways and His dealings with us.
The Bible promises us that if we lack wisdom, we can ask God who gives to all without finding fault (James 1:5).
8. Put your ultimate trust in God for your future (Psalm 42:11).
Amid great emotional turmoil, the Psalmist gathered all of his internal strength and said that his hope was still in God, whom he will praise in his eventual victory. He had to go against his feelings to anchor his heart in the divine hope (Hebrews 6:19). Not only that, but he knew God was also the help of his countenance, which was his outlook in life framed by his oppressed mental state. Thus, going against his feelings by putting his trust in God, was the key to escaping the miry clay of depression (Psalm 40:2).
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By Dr. Joseph Mattera