In this section from “Meet yourself in the Psalms”, Dr. Wiersbe deals with the problem of emotional depression, which is rapidly becoming a major health problem, by examining Psalms 42 and 43. He suggests that to overcome depression, you must make some radical changes in your outlook on life. In “Uplook for the Downcast” the following points are developed to help us keep the proper perspective on life: Stop looking at yourself and start looking at God! Stop looking at the past and start looking at the future. We must stop searching for reasons and start resting on promises. There are 51 personal pronouns In Psalms 42 and 43. The writer uses ‘T’ 14 times, “me’ 16 times, and “my” 21 times. He mentions “God” only 20 times, and once he mentions ‘the lord.” We get the impression that life was a mirror and the writer was looking only at himself.
Certainly there are various causes for depression, some of them physical, but basically, depression is selfish. You can see this illustrated in the experience of the psalmist. For one thing, he was discouraged because his plans had not been fulfilled. He wanted to join the pilgrims in their annual trip to the temple, but he could not go (42:4). When you have eagerly anticipated some event, and have had to change your plans, this can be discouraging. However, who are we that God should always work things out to please us? Even when we don’t have our way, Romans 8:28 is still in the Bible!
Not only had his plans not been fulfilled, but his feelings had not been relieved (42:3). He was “feeding on tears” instead of eating his meals. The enemy was taunting him and nobody was sympathizing with him. (We wonder if the writer had ever sympathized with somebody else in his troubles!) He was surrounded by people, yet he felt very much alone.
Furthermore, his questions had not been answered “Why art thou cast down?”/”When shall I come and appear before God?” /”Why hast Thou forgotten me?”/”Why go I mourning?”/’ ‘Why dost Thou cast me off?” Then there is the repeated jibe of the enemy, “Where is thy God?” Ten times the psalmist asked “Why?” and we have no record that God ever gave him an answer!
It is easy to see that self lies at the heart of the writer’s complaint. He wants his plans to be fulfilled, his feelings improved, his questions answered. He is so busy looking at himself that he forgets to look at God! The Prophet Elijah made the same mistake when he fled from Jezebel (1 Kings 19). He thought that the victory on Mt. Carmel would result in national revival, but it did not. “I am not better than my fathers!” he lamented (19:4); and he even asked to die!
While there are times when God’s people need to examine themselves and confess their sins, it is a dangerous thing to look at yourself too much. One evidence of this selfish pride (or proud selfishness) is that we see ourselves no matter where we look. This explains why a change in circumstances cannot of itself cure depression: we take our hearts with us. The psalmist saw a deer drinking at a brook and yet was reminded of his own yearning for God (Ps. 42:1). He saw and heard the cataracts booming on the river and thought only of his own deep needs and the fact that he was “drowning” in trials and troubles (42:6-7). Even nature’s beauty fails to give peace to the troubled heart, if we are thinking only of ourselves and not of others and God.
When our Lord looked at nature He saw the Father’s love and care (Matt 6:24-34; 10:28-31). The Father cares for the birds, even the little sparrows that fall. He looks after the flowers. The world of nature was a window through which Jesus saw the Father. Because we are human, it is natural for us to think mainly of ourselves when we are going through difficult times. We must constantly remind ourselves to walk by faith and to see God in the picture. After all, God is in control of this universe! “Yet the Lord [Jehovah God] will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life” (42:8). God is in command! We can pray to Him and He will give us a song, even in the night. (See Job 35:10.) The living God is the “God of my life,” and I must daily look to Him.
The most important thing about any difficult experience is not that we get out of it, but what we get out of it. If we are truly thirsting after God, and not just His help and deliverance, then the experience that could tear us down will actually build us up. Instead of complaining, we will be praying and praising God. Life will not be a mirror in which we see only ourselves; it will be a window through which we see God.
From Meet Yourself in the Psalms Copyright ©1983 Used By Permission
Uplook for the Downcast – A Look a Psalms 42 and 43
by Warren Wiersbe
Emotional depression has rapidly become a major health problem, not only among adults1 but even among children and teenagers. It is reported that there are two thousand suicides a day around the world, and many of these are caused by depression. More than four million people In the United States each year need special medical attention be-cause of severe depression.
In my pastoral ministry, I have learned that even Christians are not immune to this affliction. Our enemy, Satan, wants to discourage us in every way possible and our having to live in a hostile world does not make the situation easier. Often, discouraged Christians add to their problems by feeling guilty because they are depressed. They need to remember that even great men of God like Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah had times of discouragement mid seeming defeat.
One thing is certain: as Christians we have divine resources available that the world cannot see or even understand. When unsaved people are discouraged or depressed, they often resort to various means of escape-drugs, alcohol, entertainment -but then discover that they have not really escaped themselves! When the show is over or the “high” is ended, they are worse off than before. Their “escape” only forges another link in the chains that imprison.
We really do not know who wrote these two very personal psalms, but, whoever he was, he certainly was discouraged! Some students think that David penned these psalms during the time his son Absalom led a revolution against him (2 Sam. 14-18). However the geography mentioned in Psalm 42:6 does not parallel David’s experience and the word translated “nation” in 45:1 is the usual word for Gentiles. As you read these two psalms, you learn that the writer was being taunted by the enemy, “Where is thy God?” (42:3,10) and this was not David’s experience. It makes little difference who wrote the psalms or what his personal situation was. What is important is that the psalms help point the way to victory over discouragement and depression. From his own experience, the writer says to us “If you want to overcome depression, then you must make some radical changes in your outlook on life”.
From Meet Yourself in the Psalms Copyright ©1983 Used By Permission
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).