One of the greatest hymn writers, poets and authors was a man by the name of William Cowper. He struggled with severe depression and anxiety (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/depression-fought-hard-to-have-him). The reason I mention him is because the article John Piper wrote is called “Depression fought hard to have him.”
Recently I experienced the “darkest night” of my entire life. I honestly felt everything collapsed. After what happened, that very evening, my son-in-law and I went for a walk. I knew why he asked me to walk … it was because of my wife taking a serious downward turn. Her dementia, although largely controlled by medication, does at times cause mood swings. On this day it was the worst in the three years of my awareness of her illness.
In speaking to me, Roy asked how I felt and my only response to the question was … “my life blood has left me.” I cannot articulate what happened to me other than to share a few Scriptures, where the Psalmists seem to captivate the experience. In their case, the cause would likely be different to mine.
Before I go on … I love my wife. We have been married for more than 52 years and have known each other for 58 years this month. She has been a good wife and mother, sacrificing, loving, caring and supportive. The truth be said … I’d rather have her as she is than not at all. After the Lord Jesus, she is number one in my life. I try my hardest to love, care, provide, protect and serve her for the glory of God and in honor of our marital vows. Her condition could have been mine … as it could fall upon anyone.
For this Daily Note, please join me in reading a few verses from different Psalms and perhaps I can make sense of what happened to me and it might be helpful to you too.
A Psalm of Asaph
Ps 77:1 I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. 2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. 3 I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. 4 You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. 5 I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; 6 I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired: 7 “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? 8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
(1) The Psalmist describes his condition as “distress” in verse 2. The word means “narrow or confining”. It is being squashed or squeezed. Today we would say … “stressed out”. It was so bad that he could not sleep nor even speak … verse 4.
(2) He did the right thing. He cried out to God. See verse 1. He needed help and the only place he could get help from was having an audience with God. In verse 2 we see him seeking (sought) the Lord to the point of praying throughout the night. His hands were stretched out in prayer. It was “untiring hands” … an all-night activity.
(3) Help evaded him. Verse 2 tells us that his soul “refused to be comforted”. Verse 3 says he groaned and mused (he constantly thought about his condition) to the point of spiritual fatigue … end of verse 4. By this time his physical and emotional energy was drained.
(4) The darkest night. In verses 5-9 he seems to imply that God deserted him. This is where Asaph. Have you been there? I was there!
A Psalm of the Sons of Korah
Ps 88:1 O LORD, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. 2 May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. 3 For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength. 5 I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. 6 You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. 7 Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
Remember the passages I am using are God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible and authoritative Word. This is a true reflection of a real experience.
(1) A soul full of trouble. One of Korah’s sons is in serious need. His soul he says is “full of trouble and my life draws near the grave.” It’s as though he is at death’s door without God. He is in the lowest pit … in the darkest depths … with the dead (unsaved) … and the worst of it all is, he feels he is “cut off from your (God’s) care.” He is at the point where he sees his condition caused by sin because God’s “wrath lies heavily upon” him. He experiences God’s “waves” of punishment overwhelming him.
(2) Forgotten by God. He knows God saves. He prays day and night yet God can’t hear (he feels) … implied in the words “turn your ear to my cry.” This son of Korah experienced this. Have you? I have!
A Psalm of David
Ps 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
Just as Asaph recalled his singing to God, his Lord. Just as Korah knew God saves … So David has faith that the Lord is his Shepherd! Whatever the “valley of the shadow of death” was to David as he penned this poem … God, his Lord, the Great Shepherd of his soul was with him. I must be true to God and to you. This was my “darkest night” … the valley of the shadow of death. I cannot describe it better that Asaph and Korah’s son. The hole was deep. The pain was immense. The claws of the enemy (satan) were real. The hopelessness, worthlessness and uselessness was that dismal valley. Never, never have I been there and never … never again do I want to be there again. I lay on my bed groaning to God and for the first time in my life did Paul’s inspired words make sense:
Ro 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
A Psalm of David
Ps 40:1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. 4 Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.
It is true the sun does come out again. The darkness does depart … but it was not an immediate thing, nor has it gone completely … but with the Shepherd of the soul, I am almost there.
(1) David was patient. Patience means prayer. Ongoing prayer and ongoing searching of the heart for personal sin to confess and rid oneself of.
(2) David found help. God took him out of the dismal darkness of “the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire.” What few people grasp is that depression and everything associated with depression, where it can be chemical, is mostly sin. With all the opening of the heart, confessing sin, God stretched out His powerful hand and rescued me from that pitch black hole.
(3) David was restored. God lifted him “out of” and “set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand”. The “Rock” is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus. In God’s goodness He reminded me whom my Lord is and who should rule me.
(4) David’s joy was restored. Once out of the mud and mire, there is light and Jesus is the Light of the World and He is Light to our souls.
He restored and is restoring me. I stand back and thank God for this experience. It has been beneficial to me spiritually. If you experience what I have been through, this Note serves to be your help back to Jesus.
Our merciful Father, knower of all things, helper in all ways, hearer of all prayers and love of the souls of all Your beloved children, thank You for the comfort You provide as we cast ourselves upon Your mercies and find them new every morning. Help us, sustain us and cause us to keep close to You. Amen.