Dealing with Depression
(Encouragement from Psalms)
Author’s note: The following article was birthed from my own experiences with depression. It is not meant to take the place of professional counseling or medical attention. If depression is preventing you from undertaking and enjoying normal daily activities, or if you are experiencing self-destructive thoughts, then you should seek professional help immediately. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to get it. (Are we ashamed to go to a medical doctor when we have the flu or a broken bone?) Just make sure the help you receive comes from someone who will offer solid, Biblical answers.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” ~ Jesus Christ
(Matthew 11: 28 & 29)
The circumstances surrounding my own bout with depression aren’t really important. Suffice it to say that I had experienced one too many life changes that left me feeling overwhelmed and disoriented. Some days were better than others, and though I was able to continue with my daily activities, my vision and joy were gone. Tears continually lingered just below the surface. I was snappy and negative. Everything seemed dark and hopeless. There were actually some days I thought, “If this is all there is to life, then what’s the use in going on?” For nearly two years this cloud of darkness hovered close to me. Too close. I was a Christian. I read my Bible nearly daily and spent a lot of time crying out to God in prayer, yet no answers seemed to come. Every now and then I caught a glimpse of His light - just enough to keep me going and praying. I was in survival mode when I wanted to soar like the eagles.
During this time my husband gave me a new Bible for Christmas. I decided to start at Genesis and read straight through, something I hadn’t done in years. When I finally arrived in Psalms I found all my feelings, darkness, and concerns poured out in its pages, as if it were written just for me. I read each one eagerly, careful not to miss a thing. I was falling in love with Psalms; hope was sparked once again in my heart. I began memorizing promises and claiming them as my own. When I felt like life was crushing in I would say those verses over and over. Slowly, yet miraculously, I began feeling better. I gained new perspective and life, the world seemed brighter, and I was rediscovering joy.
It wasn’t merely the power of positive thinking. It was the power of omnipotent God and His mighty Word. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Most of the Psalms were written by King David - the greatest king of Israel - a man after God’s own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14) Yet many times David suffered with depression and seemingly hopeless situations. In despair he cried out to God for relief, and God gave it.
Help from Psalms
If you are suffering from depression and/or deep discouragement, if the circumstances of your life weigh you down, if all seems dark and hopeless, if you want to pray but just don’t know how, let me direct you to the book of Psalms where you will find prayers, praises, and promises to claim as your own. God will use them to illuminate your path. (Psalm 119:105)
Here are some things to consider and verses to hold on to:
1. Relief from enemies. Psalms contains numerous references to enemies of which David had many. He often cried to God for intervention. You may think, “I don’t have any enemies; these verses really don’t apply to me.” Don’t be fooled, we all have a very real and powerful enemy named Satan. (Ephesians 6:12) As you claim those verses referring to deliverance from enemies, know that you are speaking with power against Satan and all his demons. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8) “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)
Here are some “enemy” Psalms to get you started: Psalm 6: 9 & 10, Psalm 18: 16 – 19, Psalm 25:19 & 20, Psalm 30:1, Psalm 31:15, Psalm 59:1, Psalm 69:18, Psalm 138:7 & 8*, Psalm 143:9 & 12.
2. Power of praise. You can never underestimate the power praise has. Satan hates it when we praise the Lord and claim the name of Jesus. Read these passages and claim the power of praise: 2 Chronicles 20:21-22, Psalm 8:2, Psalm 18:1 – 3*, Psalm 32:7 and Psalm 44:5. Even when you don’t feel like it (especially when you don’t feel like it) quote a Psalm of Praise, listen to worshipful music, and begin a “Blessings Journal” (see Psalm 78:3 & 4) where you record the good things God has done for you and prayers He has answered. Review it often.
Here are some Psalms of Praise to get you started: Psalm 8, Psalm 19*, Psalm 33, Psalm 36:5 – 11, Psalm 63:1, Psalm 67, Psalm 71:14 -19, Psalm 84*, Psalm 89:1 – 9, Psalm 93, Psalm 95 – 97, Psalm 100*, Psalm 103: 1-5, Psalm 104, Psalm 112 & 113, Psalm 145 & 146, and Psalm 148 & 150.
3. Pray the Psalms. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14 & 15) What better way to pray His will than to pray His Word?!?!
Here are some Psalms to pray: Psalm 25:4 – 7 (for guidance), Psalm 27 (in times of trouble), Psalm 31: 3 – 5 (for help), Psalm 51* (of repentance), 55:1-3; 16-18 (for help against dark forces), Psalm 61:1-4 (for help), Psalm 69:13 – 18 (for help), Psalm 69:29 (for protection), Psalm 86 (for help), and Psalm 143:8 – 12* (for guidance and help).
4. Claim God’s promises. God never lies, what He says He will do (1 Corinthians 1:9). “As for God, his way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.” (Psalm 18:30 New Living Translation)
Here are some promises to claim: Psalm 9:10, Psalm 16: 7, 8 & 11, Psalm 23*, Psalm 34: 4 – 7, Psalm 40: 1-3 *, Psalm 46:1 – 3, Psalm 55:16 – 18 & 22, Psalm 56: 3 & 4*, Psalm 62: 1 & 2, Psalm 68:19, Psalm 73: 23 – 26*, Psalm 91* Psalm 94:18 & 19, Psalm 103:10 – 13, Psalm 108:12 – 13, Psalm 118: 5 – 7, Psalm 119:105, Psalm 121, Psalm 139 *, Psalm 141 * 8 & 9, and Psalm 147:3
1. This extensive, but not exhaustive, list of Psalms was not meant to overwhelm you, but to guide you through them if you’ve never been there before, or if you, like me, tend to become mentally “scattered” when you are under stress. Don’t try to read them all in one sitting or one day or even one week. Start with one or two. Read them, think on them, and memorize the ones that particularly speak to you, and then go on to more verses. In essence, camp out in the Psalms and stay a while. (You may even want to start at the beginning and read straight through.)
2. The enemy doesn’t always attack when our Bible is handy. Memorizing Scripture is the only way to hide them in your heart where they are always available and yours forever. Even Jesus quoted Scripture when faced with temptation. (See Matthew 4:4, 7, & 10)
3. In an attempt to simplify using Psalms I’ve put them into the above categories. Many of them belong in several places. For example: Psalm 40 is listed under “Promise”, but it can easily be used for prayer and praise.
4. While I recommend beginning in the Psalms, the entire Bible is filled with prayers, promises, and praises. Use a concordance or go to www.crosswalk.com and search for other verses that will minister to your heart.
5. Perhaps you read this article because someone you love is suffering from depression or deep discouragement. You still have the power of prayer, praise, and promises on your side. Stand in the gap for your loved one (see Ezekiel 22:30). Pray, claim, and praise on their behalf.
6. Those marked * are some of my particularly favorite Psalms.
7. An entire article could be written on the role diet, exercise, and rest play in maintaining good mental health, but I will save that for someone else.
In closing, let me leave you with this prayer from Ephesians 3:16 -19 (NIV):
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
© Drewe Llyn Jeffcoat 2005