1 As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, Where is your God? 4 I remember this as I pour out my heart: how I walked with many, leading the festive procession to the house of God, with joyful and thankful shouts. 5 Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God. 6 I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me. 8 The Lord will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night— prayer to the God of my life. 9 I will say to God, my rock, Why have You forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression? 10 My adversaries taunt me, as if crushing my bones, while all day long they say to me, Where is your God? 11 Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
In this Psalm, we find the writer lamenting that he is depressed because he feels that God is far off. His sense of disconnection is aggravated by the fact that he is in a foreign land, somewhere north of the Sea of Galilee, and his enemies taunt him (see Ps. 42:3, 10). He has no opportunity to be in corporate worship in Jerusalem with fellow believers, and this causes him to feel spiritually dry and downcast.
Whatever the reasons, the refrain is the same: “Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.”
I have never been diagnosed with clinical depression, but I have enough of a melancholy disposition that I have gone through seasons of what I would call “low-grade” depression. I think about being a sophomore in high school and trying to figure out life and my place in the world, and suffering through some dark days. The storm clouds would occasionally reappear in high school and college. I remember having a young family and navigating the financial pressures, work responsibilities, and the joys and challenges of trying to survive fatherhood, marriage, and pastoring at a church plant. There were many days when it was all I could do just to keep going.
Like the Psalmist, I remember spending time in a foreign land (Portugal in my case) where it took some time to find a community of believers where I could experience the communal aspect of our faith. Believe me, with so many good churches in our area, we take this for granted. Even when I found this group of Christ followers, there was still something of a barrier, because the different culture and language prevented me from expressing myself in deeper ways. There were times when my heart was thirsty and I was longing for more.
Some Christians over-spiritualize depression, and I would encourage anyone who suffers from clinical depression to seek professional help. Still, there are many ways this Psalm can give insight to our inner turmoil and can voice our prayers when we are downcast.
Recognize your thirst.“Everybody’s got a hungry heart,” the old song says. Notice, the Psalmist is not a stoic who compares himself to a camel who can survive on little water. He has a thirsty heart, just like a deer who needs regular refreshment. Are you aware of your thirst? Do you recognize that the deepest longings of your heart are ultimately satisfied by Christ and not by the counterfeit water of the world?
REFLECT ON THE CAUSE OF YOUR DISCOURAGEMENT OR DEPRESSION. “Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me?” These questions are a good place to start. The causes may be physical, mental, spiritual, social, financial, or relational, and they may come from a variety of different circumstances.
REMEMBER THE LORD’S PAST FAITHFULNESS.When God feels distant, look back and remember how He has been faithful to you in the past (see vv. 4; 6-8). God’s past faithfulness can give you hope in your present circumstances.
REFOCUS YOUR HOPE ON GOD. “Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.” Talking to yourself does not make you crazy. There is such a thing as “holy self-talk.” Speak to your heart and to your depression. Turn your focus on God who is your deliverer and the “lifter of your head.”
Whatever the source of your depression, don’t let it have the last word. Seek whatever professional help you may need, but most of all, turn your heart, thoughts, and prayers upward to God. I have found that praising and worshiping God in prayer often has a way of lifting me out of the doldrums.
- Do you recognize the thirst of your heart? What do you long for? What causes you to get discouraged or anxious? Where do you find your thoughts drifting in those quiet moments? How does God relate to these longings, or the things you hope for? Are you seeking the “living water” or are you trying to build “cracked cisterns that can hold no water” (See Jeremiah 2:13 and Isaiah 55:1-2)?
- Can you recall a season of life where you felt depressed or very discouraged? Did God seem near or distant? Why?
- Think of some potential discouragements you will face today or this week. Name one specific way that turning your thoughts Godward can help you address these.