Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Sometimes it’s called “having the blues.” Sometimes, “down in the dumps.” And sometimes, it is called “depression.”
Winston Churchill called it “the black dog.”
He is famous for inspiring Britain during the dark days of World War II. He is remembered for his stirring speeches urging his countrymen to “Never, never, never give in.”
If he had not told us himself, we might never have guessed that, at times, he lived under a cloud of gloom and near-despair. He called them the days “when the black dog returned.”
He is not the only person who has had such days. He is not the only one who struggled to overcome them.
Some people assume that this will never happen to those who put their trust in the Lord. Thus, they infer that having to struggle must mean weak faith.
The Bible does not support that judgment any more than it says a strong faith will keep a person from getting the flu.
The feeling of hopelessness, the feeling of being useless and defeated, is just that—a feeling.
Saving faith is not a feeling. It is a creation of God that grabs hold of his promises as true and lasting. Those promises assure that sin has been paid for by Jesus, the sinless Son of God.
The gospel is the good news of rescue and protection by the Lord Almighty, leading to a future of endless joy and glory.
To a man sick of the palsy, Jesus said, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matthew 9:2 KJV).
Knowing that one’s sin is forgiven is bound to cheer a person up. It removes the greatest threat one can face. There is no more reason to fear even death.
Yet, we note that at this time, the man’s paralysis remained. He possessed saving faith, but he still lived with an affliction. Only when Jesus was accused of blasphemy for claiming to forgive sins did Jesus free him of the affliction to show that he was, indeed, the Son of God.
So it is with all the followers of Jesus on this side of eternity.
Their solid, saving faith does not exempt them from living in a sin-cursed world. Weeds grow up in their gardens, winds blow down their trees, their eyesight may fail them, and their emotions may turn against them.
It is a special gift of God if emotions are not put through a wringer, just as it is a special gift if they never come down with cancer or get into a car wreck.
Emotional adversity is not a sign of weak faith or God’s judgment. It can happen to any believer.
It happened to the writer of this psalm. He was disturbed. He felt depressed. But he was not overcome by these things.
The devil would quickly point to his despondency and claim it as proof that God did not care or that faith in him was useless.
He knew better. He knew things like this happen in the vale of tears.
“Put your hope in God!” he tells himself. The Lord God is his Savior.
Our sinful human nature is often doubting the Lord God’s promises. It may not be able to throw out saving faith, but it surely can put a dent in our ability to live a cheerful life.
If we lose the confidence that God is with us in days of trouble and doubt, the powers of hell have robbed us of some of the joyful blessings the Lord intends for us.
Killing our saving faith is hell’s next objective.
That we dare not allow!
The psalmist is right. “Put your hope in God!”
The hymnist is right. “Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end” (Christian Worship 847:1).
The black dog may visit us as we walk along the path of life, but it cannot and will not follow us home.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, restore unto us the joy of your salvation and uphold us with your free Spirit. Amen.
Points to ponder:
- How can dark and troubled days end up being a blessing for us?
- Why is feeling depressed so painful at times?
- Why can the advice “Look on the bright side!” lead to resentment?
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.