, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,





Memory is a curious thing when it comes to depression: Depression has the effect of muddling up our memory. When a depressed person attempts to remember things going on in the recent past, they tend make mistakes.[1]

Yet, depression also feeds upon memory.  Emily Dickinson wrote a poem which begins, “Remorse is memory awake”. In the final stanza she writes

Remorse is cureless,—the disease

Not even God can heal;

For ’t is His institution,—

The complement of hell.


A 14th Century book from England is entitled Ayenbite of Inwyt – the Again-bite of In-wit [one’s inner thoughts]. One of the great pains of life is not our mere present circumstances, but our memory of how we came to this place.

For example, imagine a man in living alone in an apartment in Hollywood. If the man had recently immigrated from rural Laos, the apartment and the city might seem a wonder and joy.

Now consider another man: Six months earlier he had been married and living in Bell Aire. However, through a series of foolish and wicked choices he now finds himself divorced and living in an apartment in Hollywood.

The difference between the two is not their circumstance but their memory of how they came to this place. One man has hope and the other is broken by remorse. For the fallen man, his conscience (his in-wit) plagues him like a spider who comes to bite him repeatedly throughout the night. It hurts so badly he cannot sleep, and when day comes he cannot awake.

In Psalm 42-43, the greatest pain is not his circumstance per se, but rather his memory compared to his circumstance.  We need to understand this pain, so that we can also understand the nature of the cure: hope.

  1. Memory as the Cause of Pain[2]

In verses 2 and 3, the Psalmist wrestles with the absence of God. In verse 2 he wonders when he will be permitted to return to God. In verse 3, his enemies ask, “Where is your God?” In verse 4, he explains that his sorrow is one which flows out of memory, “These things I remember ….”

It is interesting that the Psalmist never explains how he fell to such pain, only that he remembers and is in pain. We never learn why or how the Psalmist lost his place in the worshipping community; only that he is gone. Spurgeon quotes Timothy Rogers as follows:

To a person in misery it is a great increase of misery to have been once happy: it was to David an occasion of new tears when he remembered his former joys. Time was, says the poor soul, when I thought of God with comfort, and when I thought of him as my own God; and to lose a God that I once enjoyed is the loss of all my losses, and of all my terrors the most terrible. Time was when I could go and pray to him, and ease myself in prayer; but now I have no boldness, no hope, no success in prayer. I cannot call him my Father any more. Time was when I could read the Bible and treasure up the promises, and survey the land of Canaan as my own inheritance; but now I dare not look into the Word lest I read my own condemnation there. The Sabbath was formerly to me as one of the days of heaven, but now it is also, as well as the rest, a sad and mournful day. I formerly rejoiced in the name of Christ, “I sat under his shadow.” So 2:3. I was in his eyes as one that found favour; but now my soul is like the deserts of Arabia, I am scorched with burning heat. From how great a height have I fallen! How fair was I once for heaven and for salvation, and now am like to come short of it! I once was flourishing in the courts of the Lord, and now all my fruit is blasted and withered away: “his dew lay all night upon my branches, “but now I am like the mountains of Gilboa, no rain falls upon me. Had I never heard of heaven I could not have been so miserable as I now am: had I never known God, the loss of him had not been so terrible as now it is like to be. Job 29:2-3. Timothy Rogers. [Treasury of David]

The pain is sharper because it contrasts with his past. Yet, this is also the place at which the Psalmist begins roust himself: “He now bestirs himself in an effort to throw off wretchedness” (Leupold, 338). He steels himself to wait on God – until he comes to “the land of Jordan and of Hermon” (42:6).

Therefore, he seeks to hope and almost immediately sinks:

Psalm 42:6–7 (ESV)

My soul is cast down within me;

therefore I remember you

from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,

from Mount Mizar.

7       Deep calls to deep

at the roar of your waterfalls;

all your breakers and your waves

have gone over me.

Note the language here: He is downcast, therefore he turns his thoughts to God. He is seeking to raise himself by means of remembering God – yet the result is great pain:

But the thought of God causes new anxiety in him. He does not respond to the powerful beauty of the vast scenery which spreads before his eyes – to the Spring of the River Jordan whose waters rush down from rock to rock with ferocious force – but stands still and looks fixedly at his own calamity so that even the thunder of the torrents becomes to him a symbol of his own adversity, a symbol in which he cannot help seeing a punishment which the hand of God has inflicted upon him. (Weiser, 350).

Thus, the point of his hope and the point of his pain come together in a single action: memory.

  1. Interlude, a Hymn by Henry March

Henry March wrote a hymn based upon this passage, which shows a way to rightly think of troubles – even the worst of trials:

Deep to deep incessant calling,
Tossed by furious tempests’ roll,
Endless waves and billows falling,
Overwhelm my fainting soul.

Yet I see a Power presiding
Mid the tumult of the storm,
Ever ruling, ever guiding,
Love’s intentions to perform.

Yes, mid sorrows most distressing,
Faith contemplates thy design,
Humbly bowing, and confessing
All the waves and billows THINE.

We must understand that even times of greatest pain and sorrow can be times of the greatest advance in our Christian life. God can do many good things through a depression, in particular throw us off of ourselves and onto him, alone. Therefore, we must think that a depression necessarily indicates any sin:

The Christian life is a riddle, and most surely are God’s people familiar with that riddle in their experience. They must work it out before they can understand it. So I say again that this casting down is consistent with the most elevated degree of piety. Depression of spirit is no index of declining grace; the very loss of joy and the absence of assurance may be accompanied by the greatest advancement in the spiritual life. Mark you, if it continues month after month, and even year after year, then it is a sign of great weakness of faith; but if it cometh only occasionally, as clouds pass over our sky, it is well. We do not want rain all the days of the week, and all the weeks of the year; but if the rain comes sometimes, it makes the fields fertile, and fills the waterbrooks; and after the shower has fallen, and the sun shines out again, it puts a new brightness upon the face of nature, and makes the birds clear their throats, and sing a new song. The earth never looks so beautiful as when she riseth up like one that hath laved his face in the brook, and, in the shining water, showeth the freshness of her verdure, and telleth of the wondrous skill with which God hath been pleased to adorn her. [3]

Memory as a Cause for Hope

To think rightly about memory, we need to perhaps change how we think about time and causation. This might seem a little strange at first, so stay with me.

  1. History All Belongs to God

If you were to remember something in the past, you would rightly think, “X happened in the past and that will not change.” For instance, George Washington will always be the first President of the United States of America. You may also think that such things as happened in the past may have effect upon the present, because one thing caused another thing and so on. We can’t change the past and we can do little to change the present (because so many things which take place now were caused by the past).

Memory works a bit differently in the Bible.

God is the God of all history. Indeed for God, the future is present with him:

Isaiah 48:5–7 (ESV)

5       I declared them to you from of old,

before they came to pass I announced them to you,

lest you should say, ‘My idol did them,

my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’


6       “You have heard; now see all this;

and will you not declare it?

From this time forth I announce to you new things,

hidden things that you have not known.

7       They are created now, not long ago;

before today you have never heard of them,

lest you should say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’


God is the ultimate cause of all that takes place; that does not mean that human beings do not have the ability to make choices (we do all the time). That does not mean our choices are not real (they are). Rather, it means that God oversees all things so that everything which takes place is what God has determined. For example, in Isaiah 45, God explains that Cyrus, the King of Persia, is going to do precisely what God has called him to do.

The trouble we have is that we tend to think of history as something which just sort of happens, whether it is some great powerful person or impersonal “forces” (like economics or politics) which cause things to happen. Yet as Christians, we must understand history as something God is doing.

  1. What This Has to do With Memory

Memory is calling something from the past to mind. If the past were merely in the past, our memory might depress us (because now is worse) or cheer us up (because now is better), but the value would be slight.

However, the Scripture often calls us to remember some-thing. We are to remember, because the past tells us what God does. It is a demonstration of God’s working and God’s character. The person (God) who did something in the past is the one who is doing all-things in the present.

Therefore, when we remember, we are not merely thinking of what God did but rather of who God is now. Our past and present are both present to God.

  1. The Command to Remember

The Scripture contains many commands to remember.

We must remember God, himself. Thus, in Deuteronomy 18:8, God commands the Israelites to remember him.  It was in his distress that Jonah turned his thoughts to God:

            7       When my life was fainting away,

I remembered the LORD,

and my prayer came to you,

into your holy temple. Jonah 2:7 (ESV)

Here we see one reason for memory: it prods us to action. Since God is forever the same, he is a rock in the midst of our upheavals.

Remembering God also leads to obedience,

            55       I remember your name in the night, O LORD,

and keep your law. Psalm 119:55 (ESV)

Conversely, forgetting God leads to disobedience. Deuteronomy 8:10-18.

In Exodus 13:3, God commands the Israelites to remember this day on which God rescued them. God then institutes the Passover as memorial for the remembrance of God’s rescue. In Deuteronomy, we see that the command to remember is shown to tie directly to the fact of faith:

17 “If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ 18 you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So will the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. Deuteronomy 7:17–19 (ESV)

God commands us to remember what God has done to lead us to prayer, obedience, and faith in the present. Since God has not changed, his actions in the past give us reason to hope for his action in the present and future.

Indeed, Christianity has at its center a repeated act of remembrance which points to the future:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23–26 (ESV)

  1. Memory and Depression

Memory can be a cause for depression, as we saw above. Depression damages and twists memory.

Yet, such thinking is antithetical to a Scriptural understanding of memory. We look into the past and see remorse and regret; we think of the good in the past and makes the present bitter. Such thoughts are precise the opposite of what we are commanded in Scripture.

A theme in many stories is the power to change the past. We like such stories because we all need to change the past. All of human history has taken place on the wrong side of the Fall. We see ourselves trapped by history. In his great novel Ulysses, James Joyce has his alter-ego say, “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake” (Ulysses, 28).

We not only have the trouble of all human history, we have the trouble of our own history: We have many regrets, sins, errors, acts of foolishness. We sin – and we must either beat back our conscience or be consumed with it:

            3       For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

4       For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah Psalm 32:3–4 (ESV)

This is the great trouble of memory and depression: We all too easily remember our sins —  but fail to remember our savior. Satan may even take a hand in tormenting us by waiving our sins before our eyes. As Thomas Brooks wrote, “Before we sin, Satan is a parasite; when we have sinned he is a tyrant.” He lures us onto sin and mocks us that we have sinned.

In Pilgrim’s Progress, Apollyon stops Christian in the way and tries to turn him back. When Christian refuses to go, Apollyon taunts Christian by asking whether he really thinks the Lord will receive him: after all, Christian has sinned so many times before. There is the terror of memory. We see our sin, guilt, shame and think, I can never be rid of my disgrace.

Notice what Christian says in response to Apollyon: Christian does not defend himself or lessen his sin:

All this is true, and much more which thou hast left out; but the Prince whom I serve and honor is merciful, and ready to forgive. But besides, these infirmities possessed me in thy country, for there I sucked them in, and I have groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon of my Prince.

Here is the right use of memory: I have obtained pardon of my Prince. Our trouble with memory is we remember too little. We remember our sins and forget our Savior; we remember our follies and forget our Lord’s resurrection is a promise to make all things new. We think too much of our sins and too little of our Savoir.

When we fall into depression – which so easily comes in after sin – we must remember: Not merely remember our sin, but more so remember our Savior.

No condemnation now I dread;

Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;

Alive in Him, my living Head,

And clothed in righteousness divine,

Bold I approach th’eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Bold I approach th’eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Preach to Yourself

Nothing another says can have effect until you say it to yourself. The Gospel does no good outside a man. It is not until we appropriate the Gospel, until we confess and believe the Resurrection and Lordship of Christ, that the saving effects of the Gospel will do us good.

  1. What You Think and What You Feel.

We need to think about emotions for a moment. There are two basic ways of understanding emotions: First, emotions just happen. Emotions are spontaneous and beyond our control. However, the Scripture makes such an understanding impossible. In many places God prescribes particular emotions:

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 (ESV)

How can God say that we should weep or rejoice at any particular time if we have no ability to affect our emotions?

The Scripture presents us with a different understanding of emotions: emotions are the result of knowledge and judgment. What we know and what think about what we know will change how we feel.

Let us pretend that you are watching a slap-stick comedy. You watch a character bounce and fall down an entire set of stairs. You laugh because you know that the actor is not really being hurt. But if you were to see a real-life fall where someone fell down the stairs in the same way, you would be shocked and frightened for them. In the second case, you know that the person has been hurt. You form a judgment about their injury and you then express concern for them.

The same pattern exists in the Scripture. We are frequently commanded to express certain emotions, but at the same time God always gives us the rationale for the emotion and the means to achieve it.

  1. Why Then is it Difficult to Feel the Right Emotions

Sin has disordered the human heart; we cannot think or feel rightly. After we come to a saving knowledge of God in Jesus Christ, God begins to rework our minds:

2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 (ESV)

Part of that renewal will result in transformed emotions. Therefore, as part of our maturity in Christ, God not only prescribes behaviors, God also prescribes emotions. As John Piper explains in his sermon on Romans 12:9-13:

This way of thinking happens so fast, that it is scarcely noticed. We just keep on reading. I urge you to stop right now and reconsider. Very seriously. This is a deeply defective way of seeing God and of understanding your own emotions. The truth is that God does have a right to command that we feel anything we ought to feel. If we ought to feel joy in the Lord, he commands, “Rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4). If we ought to feel the sorrow of sympathy, he commands, “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). If we ought to feel gratitude for a great gift, he commands, “Be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). If we should feel remorse for our sin, he commands, “Be miserable and mourn and weep” (James 4:9). If we should feel fear of sin, he commands, “Fear the one who after he has killed has the power to cast into hell” (Luke 12:5). And so on.

The fact that our hearts are so distorted by sin that we don’t feel what we ought to feel does not mean that God cannot command what is right and good and fitting for us to feel. We are responsible to feel what God commands us to feel. So I plead with you, be more serious when you read these commands than you might be if you thought God has no right to tell you what you should feel toward others, and that you have no accountability for your emotions.[4]

  1. How do We Change Our Emotions?

It would be very cruel and stupid to simply and baldly command emotions. Only a very skilled actor is capable of pretending to have an emotion. But the actual experience of an emotion takes more than play-acting.

Emotions cannot be changed directly. Rather, we must change how we think and understand and only then can we change how we feel. Take Romans 12, for example. The commands to emotions come in the 12th chapter of the book. Paul has been explained the Gospel in a very systematic matter for 11 chapters. When get to the 12th chapter Paul teaches that one implication of the Gospel is the profound interrelationship between believers. We are members of the same body and have received gifts for the purpose of blessing the entire body. We have a bent toward thinking too highly of ourselves.  Only after he has given instruction on who we are who other people are, does he give the command to love one-another.

Our emotions will change in response to our thinking.

Contemporary science is beginning to catch with the biblical insight:

In this context, it is helpful to think about the renewal of the mind in light of recent advancements in our understanding of the brain. Jeffery Schwartz has shown that the body actually rewires our brains when we exert conscious effort. Neurological pathways are built and reinforced as a result of what we choose to concentrate on. Researchers have successfully taught people to alleviate depression and compulsive behavior by choosing how and what to think about the truth of the situation. As they focused on the truth, rather than the feeling, they literally rewired their emotional response. He concludes, “Through changes in the way we focus attention, we have the capacity to make choices about what mental direction we will take; more than that, we also change, in scientifically demonstrable ways, the systematic functioning of the neural circuitry.” By forcefully changing our focus to the things of God, we can rewire our emotional responses.[5]

  1. Cite Your Soul

In Psalm 42:5, the depressed psalmist turns to himself and says:

            5       Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.


This refrain is repeated in 42:11 & 43:5. The Psalmist response is to address his soul. Richard Sibbes in The Soul’s Conflict With Itself  writes, “One way to raise a dejected soul is to cite it before itself, and, as it were, reasons the case” (144). We need to take the soul to court and demand an explanation: What reason do you have for this depression?

  1. Self-Preaching

This is how God deals with us. Consider the example of Jonah. Jonah has become angry with God because killed a plant which had given Jonah shade. Jonah was also angry that God had not destroyed Nineveh. God brings Jonah’s emotions to court and asks for the reason for Jonah’s anger. God also gives Jonah the right way of thinking about the circumstance – which will in turn address Jonah’s anger:

9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” Jonah 4:9–11 (ESV)

Now we do not typically have the advantage of such a direct auditory communication with God. But we do have God’s Word and we do have the ability to speak to ourselves – as the Psalmist does.

Martyn Llloyd-Jones in his book Spiritual Depression took this understanding of emotions and put into a very memorable phrase. In fact, most of you have heard this phrase even though few of you have read the book:

The main art in the manner of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, you have to preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul, “Why art thou cast down?” — what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: “Hope thou in God” — instead of muttering in this depressed unhappy way. And you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.”[6]

  1. What to Say When You Preach

The content of the sermon is very direct.

  1. A Challenge

The Psalmist first challenges his soul, “Why are you downcast?”

But David here represents himself as if he formed two opposing parties. In so far as in the exercise of faith he relied upon the promises of God, being armed with the Spirit of invincible fortitude, he set himself, in opposition to the affections of his flesh, to restrain and subdue them; and, at the same time, he rebuked his own cowardice and imbecility of heart. Moreover, although he carried on war against the devil and the world, yet he does not enter into open and direct conflict with them, but rather regards himself as the enemy against whom he desires chiefly to contend. And doubtless the best way to overcome Satan is, not to go out of ourselves, but to maintain an internal conflict against he desires of our own hearts. It ought, however, to be observed, that David confesses that his soul was cast down within him: for when our infirmities rise up in vast array, and, like the waves of the sea, are ready to overwhelm us, our faith seems to us to fail, and, in consequence we are so overcome by mere fear, that we lack courage, and are afraid to enter into the conflict. Whenever, therefore, such a state of indifference and faint-heartedness shall seize upon us, let us remember, that to govern and subdue the desires of their hearts, and especially to contend against the feelings of distrust which are natural to all, is a conflict to which the godly are not unfrequently called. But here there are two evils specified, which, however apparently different, yet assail our hearts at the same time; the one is discouragement, and the other disquietude. When we are quite downcast, we are not free of a feeling of disquietude, which leads us to murmur and complain. The remedy to both of them is here added, hope in God, which alone inspires our minds, in the first place, with confidence in the midst of the greatest troubles; and, secondly, by the exercise of patience, preserves them in peace. [7]

  1. Hope in God

Having challenged his soul to present its reasons, the Psalmist then gives instruction to his soul. First a command and a reason:

Hope in God.

First, we must direct our soul to hope. The word here for hope contains a very strong idea of waiting. Hope is an anticipation. Biblical hope is hope directed towards God’s future action (which we can trust to be true, in part, because God has in the past brought salvation [memory] therefore in the future he will again bring salvation, as He has promised).

24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:24–25 (ESV)

Hope will necessarily leave us waiting. Hope is a state of expectant faith. We believe that God will relieve us there we will rest in that hope.

The only means of remedying discouragements and unquietness of mind, is to set faith on work to go to God and take hold on him, and to cast anchor within the vail, hoping for, and expecting, relief from him: hope thou in God.[8]

Perform an experiment. I want you to imagine being both hopeful and depressed at the same time. You can be hurt, you can have difficulty and be hopeful; but, you cannot be depressed and hopeful at once. The final closing of the door which is the deepest dungeon of depression is hopelessness. Therefore, our remedy must begin with hope.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (ESV)

In his spiritual autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, speaks of how he survived prison and the very real possibility of death. He did so by first rejecting all hope for anything in this life; secondly, by setting his hope solely upon God:

 Before I came to prison, I saw what was coming, and had especially two considerations warm upon my heart; the first was, how to be able to encounter death, should that be here my portion. For the first of these, that scripture, Col. i. 11, was great information to me, namely, to pray to God to be strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness.  I could seldom go to prayer before I was imprisoned; but for not so little as a year together, this sentence, or sweet petition would, as it were, thrust itself into my mind, and persuade me, that if ever I would go through long-suffering, I must have all patience, especially if I would endure it joyfully.


  1. As to the second consideration, that saying (2 Cor. i. 9) was of great use to me, But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, which raiseth the dead. By this scripture I was made to see, That if ever I would suffer rightly, I must first pass a sentence of death upon every thing that can properly be called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyments, and all as dead to me, and myself as dead to them.


  1. The second was to live upon God that is invisible, as Paul said in another place; the way not to faint is, To look not on the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal. And thus I reasoned with myself, if I provide only for a prison, then the whip comes at unawares; and so doth also the pillory: Again, if I only provide for these, then I am not fit for banishment.  Further, if I conclude that banishment is the worst, then if death comes, I am surprised: so that I see, the best way to go through sufferings, is to trust in God through Christ, as touching the world to come; and as touching this world, to count the grave my house, to make my bed in darkness; to say to corruption, Thou art my father, and to the worm, Thou art my mother and sister: that is, to familiarize these things to me.

  2. Praise

Consider the phrase more fully:

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him

That is a curious thing. It is not “hope in God because one day I will be out of this circumstance”. Rather, it is hope in God, for one day I will praise him openly, in his temple. This is a thing which we do not well understand.

The great promise of the Scripture is the hope of eternally praising Jesus, in his presence. We were created to worship God; that is our purpose. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Thomas Watson wrote in  A Body of Divinity, “Man’s chief end is to enjoy God forever.” (22).

To enjoy God and to praise God are one in the same. Think of it: Those things we most enjoy, we most praise. We praise things we enjoy to further increase our enjoyment.

Now God is the greatest good possible; all the creation in a ball is not even a candle to the blazing star of God’s beauty and glory.

Our hope is to praise God for ever. If that sounds like it would be boring, then the fault lies in our slight understanding of the beauty and grace of God. I once saw a pianist put on such a show at the Hollywood that he came out repeatedly to receive the applause of the audience who happily praised him. It was not a chore to praise the young man for his extraordinary work. I cheered wildly and happily for Gibson’s homerun in the World Series – even though Gibson could not hear me.

Praise is easy and automatic when we see something worthy of praise:

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,


“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”


13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,


“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”


14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. Revelation 5:11–14 (ESV)


No depression could stand in the midst of such a scene.


The 43rd Psalm directly takes the case to God. The Psalmist does not merely address his own soul but he also addresses his God.

The Psalmist has suffered injustice, so he pleads with God for justice, “Vindicate me.”

The Psalmist has suffered trial, so he pleads with God for deliverance, “Deliver me!”

The Psalmist does not understand his pain, so he brings his questions to God, “Why have you rejected me?”

The Palmist feels himself in darkness, so he pleads for light, “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me.”

The Psalmist desires nothing than God himself, so he pleads “let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.”

Prayer is the match of preaching to ourselves. We cite our soul and instruct ourselves in the truth of God; but we must also go to for it does no good to preach without the Word and Spirit. Only a work of God will stand:

The first remedy for soul-dejection is, a reference of ourselves to God, as David says, “O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee.” If thou hast a trouble to bear, the best thing for thee to do is not to try to bear it at all, but to cast it upon the shoulders of the Eternal. If thou hast anything that perplexes thee, the simplest plan for thee will be, not to try to solve the difficulty, but to seek direction from heaven concerning it. If thou hast, at this moment, some doubt that is troubling thee, thy wisest plan will be, not to combat the doubt, but to come to Christ just as thou art, and to refer the doubt to him. Remember how men act when they are concerned in a lawsuit; if they are wise, they do not undertake the case themselves. They know our familiar proverb, “He who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client;” so they take their case to someone who is able to deal with it, and leave it with him. Well, now, if men have not sufficient skill to deal with matters that come before our courts of law, do you think that you have skill enough to plead in the court of heaven against such a cunning old attorney as the devil, who has earned the name of “the accuser of the brethren,” and well deserves the title? Never try to plead against him, but put your case into the hands of our great Advocate, for, “if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” So, refer your case to him; he will plead for you, and win the day. If you should attempt to plead for yourself, it will cause you a vast amount of trouble, and then you will lose the day after all.

Often, when I call to see a troubled Christian, do you know what he is almost sure to say? “Oh, sir, I do not feel this,—and I do fear that,—and I cannot help thinking the other!” That great I is the root of all our sorrows, what I feel, or what I do not feel; that is enough to make anyone miserable. It is a wise plan to say to such an one, “Oh, yes! I know that all you say about yourself is only too true; but, now, let me hear what you have to say about Christ. For the next twenty-four hours at least, leave off thinking about yourself, and think only of Christ.” O my dear friends, what a change would come over our spirits if we were all to act thus! For, when we have done with self, and cast all our care upon Christ, there remains no reason for us to care, or trouble, or fret. That saying of Jack the Huckster, which I have often repeated,—


“I’m a poor sinner, and nothing at all,

But Jesus Christ is my All-in-all;”—


describes the highest experience, though it is also the lowest. It is so simple, and yet so safe, to live day by day by faith upon the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me; to be a little child,—not a strong man, but a little child, who cannot fight his own battles, but who gets Jesus to fight them for him; to be a little weak one, who cannot run alone, but who must be carried in the arms of the good Shepherd. We are never so strong as when we are weak, as Paul wrote, “When I am weak, then am I strong;” and we are never so weak as when we are strong, never so foolish as when we are wise in our own conceit, and never so dark as when we think we are full of light. We are generally best when we think we are worst; when we are empty, we are full; when we are full, we are empty; when we have nothing, we have all things; but when we fancy that we are “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing,” we are like the Laodiceans, and know not that we are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Oh, for grace to solve these riddles, and so to live, day by day, out of self, and upon the Lord Jesus Christ![9]



[1] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267039.php and http://www.popsci.com/article/science/why-depression-ruins-your-memory-0

[2] Again, let us be careful to not reduce every “depression” to a single cause; and let us be careful to not deny physical aspects. As Spurgeon says in his sermon “Sweet Stimulants for a Fainting Soul” (vol. 48, no. 2798):


The causes of our being cast down are very numerous. Sometimes, it is pain of body; peradventure, a wearing pain, which tries the nerves, prevents sleep, distracts our attention, drives away comfort, and hides contentment from our eyes. Often, too, has it been debility of body; some secret disease has been sapping and undermining the very strength of our life, and we knew not that it was there, while we have been drawing nigh insensibly to the gates of death. We have wondered that we were low in spirits, whereas it would have been a thousand wonders if we had not been depressed. We have marvelled that we have been cast down, whereas the physician would tell us that this was but one of many symptoms which proved that we were not right as to our bodily health. Not unfrequently has some crushing calamity been the cause of depression of spirit. Trial has succeeded trial, all your hopes have been blasted, your very means of sustenance have been suddenly snatched from you; while all your needs have remained, the supplies have been withdrawn from you. At other times, it has been bereavement that has brought you down very low. The axe has been at work in the forest of your domestic joys. Tree after tree has fallen; those from whom you plucked the ripest fruits of sweet society and kindred fellowship have been cut down by the ruthless woodman; you have seen them taken away from you for ever so far as this world is concerned. Or else it may be that you have been slandered,—your good has been evil spoken of, your holiest motives have been misinterpreted, your divinest aspirations have been misrepresented, and you have gone about as with a sword in your bones while the malicious have taunted you, saying, “Where is now thy God?” The cases of depression of spirit are so various that it must be indeed a rare panacea, a marvellous remedy, which would suit them all. Yet, when we come to speak of the remedies mentioned in our text, we shall find them suitable to most of these cases, if not to all;—and to all in a degree, if not to the fullest extent.


  1. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 48 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1902), 458.

[3] C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 48 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1902), 461.

[4] http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/love-one-another-with-tender-affection

[5] Matthew Elliott, Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2006), 255.

[6] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, “General Consideration”

[7] John Calvin, Psalms, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), Ps 42:5.

[8] David Dickson, A Brief Explication of the Psalms, vol. 1 (Glasgow; Edinburgh; London: John Dow; Waugh and Innes; R. Ogle; James Darling; Richard Baynes, 1834), 237.

[9] C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 48 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1902), 463–465.