A Psalm for Your Calm: Psalm 40

A Psalm for Your Calm: Psalm 40

At the moment, depression and anxiety rates are rising due to the present pandemic and measures that are being taken to combat it. Suicide hotlines are busier than ever as our nation grapples with the emotional toll of this ordeal. Even Christians—faithful, loving Christians—are fighting these battles. Sadly, these same Christians are sometimes made to feel guilty by other saints because they struggle with such thoughts; lack of understanding often leads to lack of empathy. They fail to recognize that from Job, to Elijah, to David, some of the greatest figures in Biblical history have struggled with depression. Depression and anxiety are common struggles within our fallen world; emotional turmoil is an aftershock of the brokenness we witness in creation.

Within the Psalms David sometimes speaks of his soul being “cast down” (Psa. 42:5; 43:5). This language invites the image of something outside of David throwing him to the ground and overpowering him; similar, maybe, to being bested in a wrestling match. David struggles with this and simply asks, “Why is this happening to me?” I think many of my friends struggling with depression wonder the same. Every day they are confused as to why they can’t come out of this darkness that constantly surrounds them. This emotional toll effects them socially, emotionally, and relationally and they would like nothing more than to just “snap out of it”—but they can’t.

While David may not be speaking in reference to depression in Psalm 40, his description of his struggles is one of the best in scripture to describe this mental battle:

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.” (v. 1-2).

The description of a “miry bog” is, I think, an appropriate description of depression and anxiety: it’s like a mossy, boggy swamp land that you attempt to wade through but only sink deeper and deeper the more you try to get out. What the Psalmist needs—and what those struggling with this desperately need—is some stability. In his moment of need God grants such: “He set my feet on a rock.” Not only that, but he infused joy into his heart:

“He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.” (v. 3)

For anyone going through depression right now, nothing seems more foreign than singing joyfully and genuinely. Yet, for David, this was the result of trusting and waiting on God. He cried out to God, and although he had to wait patiently, the Lord eventually brought him through the swampland.

I don’t pretend to know all of the answers—or any answers—for depression and anxiety. For my friends who come seeking counsel, I tenderly but cautiously try to give some spiritual guidance where I can. While my knowledge is admittedly limited, there is one thing I know: this world and sin have no absolute and final solution. While our doctors might subscribe medicine, which aid in the fight (which I think can be good and right), they can’t provide a permanent fix. Only our Lord can drag us from this miry bog and set our feet forever on stable ground. When he comes to restore all things, the Lord will restore the broken spirit and the depressed heart. You will never again wake up to another confusing day; you will forever sing with joy without ever looking over your shoulder for the dark cloud or the black dog. This is our hope, and one which I hope will grant you some measure of comfort during your dark hour.