For this week’s Sanity Sunday, Psalm 31 (Amplified):
In You, O Lord, I have placed my trust and taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed;
In Your righteousness rescue me.
Incline Your ear to me, deliver me quickly;
Be my rock of refuge,
And a strong fortress to save me.
Yes, You are my rock and my fortress;
For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.
You will draw me out of the net that they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength and my stronghold.
Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth and faithfulness.
I hate those who pay regard to vain (empty, worthless) idols;
But I trust in the Lord [and rely on Him with unwavering confidence].
I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love,
Because You have seen my affliction;
You have taken note of my life’s distresses,
And You have not given me into the hand of the enemy;
You have set my feet in a broad place.
Be gracious and compassionate to me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;
My eye is clouded and weakened by grief, my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow
And my years with sighing;
My strength has failed because of my iniquity,
And even my body has wasted away.
Because of all my enemies I have become a reproach and disgrace,
Especially to my neighbors,
And an object of dread to my acquaintances;
Those who see me on the street run from me.
I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;
I am like a broken vessel.
For I have heard the slander and whispering of many,
Terror is on every side;
While they schemed together against me,
They plotted to take away my life.
But as for me, I trust [confidently] in You and Your greatness, O Lord;
I said, “You are my God.”
My times are in Your hands;
Rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from those who pursue and persecute me.
Make Your face shine upon Your servant;
Save me in Your lovingkindness.
Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I call on You;
Let the wicked (godless) be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead).
Let the lying lips be mute,
Which speak insolently and arrogantly against the [consistently] righteous
With pride and contempt.
How great is Your goodness,
Which You have stored up for those who [reverently] fear You,
Which You have prepared for those who take refuge in You,
Before the sons of man!
In the secret place of Your presence You hide them from the plots and conspiracies of man;
You keep them secretly in a shelter (pavilion) from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the Lord,
For He has shown His marvelous favor and lovingkindness to me [when I was assailed] in a besieged city.
As for me, I said in my alarm,
“I am cut off from Your eyes.”
Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications (specific requests)
When I cried to You [for help].
O love the Lord, all you His godly ones!
The Lord preserves the faithful [those with moral and spiritual integrity]
And fully repays the [self-righteousness of the] arrogant.
Be strong and let your hearts take courage,
All you who wait for and confidently expect the Lord.
So much of the language in this psalm resonates with me: the sheer exhaustion of depression, the helplessness, the guilt, the fear. Most of all, though, the loneliness. Depression is a disease of isolation. On the one hand you’re too tired to socialise, to express the hows and whys of your emotional state. On the other, there’s this pervasive paranoia that people don’t want to be around you. That they don’t want to know you, that they – like you – think you should just about get over this now and move on. That you need to stop making things so difficult for others, that you need to stop being so selfish.
Christians with depression have yet another added dimension to deal with – the question of God and sin. Is depression punishment for sin? The Psalter makes this conclusion: My strength has failed because of my iniquity. Nowadays, though, depression isn’t seen as a punishment for sin, depression itself is treated like sin. In the sea of Christianese, Christians with depression are told to pursue the “joy of the Lord” like Ahab pursued Moby Dick. We are told that Jesus will heal us. That antidepressants turn people into alcoholics, and other such nonsense. In essence, we are told to try harder, to try more, because in today’s consumer-churches there is no longer room for emotions that do not immediately communicate ecstatic worship. There is no room for the messiness of depression – at least, not at this inn. But if there’s no room for depression in our places of worship, where will we find room for it? Who will take us in?
For me, Psalm 31 answers this question, and answers it boldly. God doesn’t reject the hurt, the lost, the wandering. Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications. Where our depression tries to silence us, God listens for our call. Where our churches try to drown out our pain with the cacophony of the untroubled, God listens for our voices. God inclines his ear to us, to our very lips if necessary. And no, this won’t always make you feel better. But it’s a truth to hang on to: Blessed be the Lord, For He has shown His marvelous favor and lovingkindness to me [when I was assailed] in a besieged city. Amen, amen.