Sing When You're Down in the Depths

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems. It is reckoned to affect one in six people in the UK at some point, and that 5% will experience major, or clinical, depression. I am one of the 5%, although in Northern Ireland, this figure is probably higher.  A 2001 survey revealed that those directly affected by the Troubles were twice as likely to show signs of depression and other mental health issues as others. 
Depression is, however, one of those illnesses that sits uncomfortably with Christian faith. Tony Campolo writes that years ago, one of his students tried to explain that he had been too depressed to study and asked to be excused from a scheduled exam. He refused and told him to get over it. Only hours afterward, the student jumped to his death from a high-rise apartment building, leaving behind a suicide note telling his parents that he just couldn’t endure the sadness that had been torturing his soul. Campolo never took depression glibly again.
Many Christian leaders have wrestled with depression, including the hymn-writers William Cowper and John Newton. But long before them, another hymnwriter, the Psalmist responsible for Psalms 42 & 43, which almost certainly were originally intended to go together, probably wrote them in the midst of depression.
What follows is a reblog of a paraphrase of these Psalms, as the first of a weekly series of studies of the Psalms which I have called "Songs of Experience" stealing the title for Roy Clement's book. If you want to join us in Dundonald Methodist for them at 8pm each Wednesday night for the next 8 weeks... Alternatively you can wait for the weekly update!

As a wanderer in the desert gasps for water, 
so my soul is gasping for you, O God, 
My heart thirsts for God, the real God
for the living God of action,
instead of the dead God of empty words,
a life-giving oasis,
rather than the mirage that is always just out of reach.
I long to leave this earth and live with God.
My only drink is my tears,
I eat myself up from the inside out,
Three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
While I hear myself saying,"What sort of a man of God are you?"
Here I am pouring out my heart and soul to you:
The shadow behind the masked-man who leads your people,
Standing smiling at the front of your house, O God,
Singing songs of joy and leading the people in prayers of thanksgiving.
Why are you down in the depths, my soul?
Why so unsettled and unsure?
Focus on God, and praise him;
Praise him until you mean it…
my Saviour and Sustainer.

My soul is weighed down within me;
therefore I will go over and over all that you have done…
remember your deeds from the dawn of time...
Reflect on your works from one end of the world to the other.
But I heard the turbulent depths within me
echoing the roaring depths at the foot of Niagara;
I felt myself being knocked over and broken by breakers,
washed away by waves like those in the Atlantic Ocean.
I found myself buried up to the neck, and more
by the encroaching dunes of the desert wastes.
I know the LORD loves me night and day
We sing of his everlasting love all the time.
But I pray to the God of my life,
I say to God, my Rock
"Why do I feel like you have forgotten me?
Why do I feel like I am mourning,
Deserted by friends, surrounded by enemies?"
My health is failing as my mind turns rebel
and joins the other side saying,
"Where is this God you’re always talking about?"
Why are you down in the depths, my soul?
Why so unsettled and unsure?
Focus on God, and praise him;
Praise him until you mean it…
my Saviour and Sustainer.

Prove me right, O God,
Make your presence felt in the midst of this godless nation;
Prove yourself to the secular scoffers, and to me.
You are supposed to be God, my stronghold,
So why do I feel that I’m standing on the wrong side of the moat
and the drawbridge has been pulled up?
Again, why do I feel like I am mourning,
Deserted by friends, surrounded by enemies? 
Send your love light as a torch and your truth as a compass,
So I can hike back up, through the low-lying clouds,
to the heights of holiness, to the place where you dwell.
I want to go to the throne of God,
My God, the wellspring of joy and source of delight.
Then I will recover my voice
My whole being will become an instrument of praise, 
O God, my God.
Why are you down in the depths, my soul?
Why so unsettled and unsure?
Focus on God, and praise him;
Praise him until you mean it…
my Saviour and Sustainer.
 Selah

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Woman of no Distinction

An Epistle To Our Elected Leaders

Advent Candle Liturgy 5: Christmas