Society of Fellows
Rick Majerus, the men's basketball coach at the University of Utah, recently captured a common concern. He said, "Everyone's worried about the economy this year. Hey, my hairline is in recession. My waistline is in inflation and altogether, I'm in depression." Coach Majerus was expressing something from which we as Christians are not immune.
It is possible for believers to have a downcast spirit. We can be depressed or feel down in the dumps. A downcast spirit is no respecter of person or age. It can affect both males and females. It affects the young as well as the old.
I believe a downcast spirit, depression or discouragement is one of the greatest tools of Satan. A downcast spirit causes us to lose the joy of our salvation, it hinders us in our service, it detours us from witnessing and it casts a shadow upon our prayer life. Sooner or later most believers go through a period in which they feel helpless and hopeless.
That is the mood found in Psalm 42. David is sharing about his own personal struggle with a downcast spirit. He is experiencing a period of sadness in which nothing feels good or looks good. Some of the greatest saints in the Bible had similar feelings of despair. Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah and John the Baptist battled with a downcast spirit.
The Bible says that David was a man after God's own heart. However, David testifies of his own frailties. Follow along as we get a glimpse into his life.
I. Indications of a Downcast Spirit
Every vehicle has lights on the dash. These lights indicate and warn that there is a problem. So it is with human beings. We have certain indicators which help us identify when something is wrong. David shares those indicators in his life, which revealed a downcast spirit.
Spiritual dryness is one of those indicators. In Psalm 42:1-2. David writes, "My soul thirsts for God." He feels far from God.
Outwardly, David had every reason to be depressed. Many believe this Psalm was written when Absalom, David’s son, was leading a revolt against his father. David’s life and his nation were in turmoil and chaos. The fact that he felt that God was far away only added to David’s suffering. As a matter of fact, David felt that he had been forgotten by God (Psalm 42:9). Spiritually, David was struggling.
Emotionally, David was drained. He said, “My tears have been my meat day and night” (Psalm 42:3). Some people weep and cry when they are depressed. David went on to say that it was continuous. He could not stop. The wounds got a little deeper each time someone asked him, “Where is thy God?” David was almost at his breaking point emotionally.
The indicators of a downcast spirit were very strong in David’s life. He felt spiritually dry, emotionally drained and continually overwhelmed. David wrote, “All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me” (Psalm 42:7). It is as if he stands watching the waterfalls and sees the water pouring out in an overwhelming way and says, “That’s how I feel. I feel so engulfed and overwhelmed in trouble that I see no hope." So we see how David felt and we see the indications of a downcast spirit.
II. Instructions for a Downcast Spirit
How did David deal with such a dark period in his life? This chapter tells us not only how David felt but also what David did. Notice the actions he took when he found himself with a downcast spirit.
First he made a choice about himself. This is evident when David asked himself, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me?” (Psalm 42:11). David talked to himself and he made a choice.
Problems come to all of us. Some people allow their problems to make them bitter while some allow their problems to make them better. I have seen people face similar types of problems yet their responses to those problems were quite different. How is that so? The bottom line is the choice each makes. One’s outlook greatly determines one’s outcome.
Everyone has a decision to make every day. One can wake up and say “Good morning, Lord” or say “Good Lord, it’s morning.” I believe David made the choice to rejoice. It is as if he said, “Okay soul, let’s try to get a better perspective on this.” He had a good long talk with himself.
Whenever you find yourself with a downcast spirit, do as David did and ask yourself these important questions.
1. Is it a physical problem? A few years ago, my wife and I went through a difficult eighteen months. I knew she was not herself and she knew she was not herself. Doctors discovered she had some health problems which required surgery. She was a different person after her surgery. You might be down because of a physical problem.
2. Is it an emotional problem? Sometimes we are carrying emotional baggage that has become emotional bondage. Are there some things you have not worked through in your life? It could be guilt, grudges or grief. The situation may be that you have allowed yourself to become emotionally depleted.
3. Finally, is it a spiritual problem? An older couple was taking a drive one Sunday afternoon. The wife said, “Honey, remember when we were young and so in love? We always sat close together in the vehicle. Do you remember that?” He looked at her and said, “I have not moved!” If the problem is a spiritual problem, guess who moved? The Bible says, “Draw near unto God and he will draw near unto you” (James 4:8).
Sin in our lives creates a distance between us and God. Being out of the Lord’s will can dampen our spirits. When we neglect the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study and worship, it is so easy to feel far from God. Sometimes we do not trust God and we carry the load on our own shoulders. Having a downcast spirit may be the direct result of a spiritual problem.
How did David deal with a downcast spirit? First, he made a choice about himself. Secondly, notice his communication with God. He talks to himself and then he talks to the Lord (vs. 6, 9, 10).
David is not using a bunch of religious jargon. Instead, he pours his heart out to God and tells Him how he feels. He looked to the one who is, “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). David found God to be “the health of my countenance” (Psalm 42:11).
One of my favorite hymns is, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Pay attention to the words of this song:
“What a friend we have
Do you have a downcast spirit? Do not turn away from God but turn to Him. You will find he is “a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Seek God’s face so that yours will not have to be downcast.
David concluded that, “I shall yet praise him” (Psalm 42:11). Putting on the garment of praise always does one good. Dr. R.G. Lee tells how in 1918, Sgt. Major Robert S. MacCormack saved the life of his commanding officer, Major Harry D. Parkin, on a battlefield in France. Parkin made it a point to send an annual letter of thanks to MacCormack. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the rescue, Parkin wrote the following note, “Dear Bob, I want to thank you for the twenty-five years of life which ordinarily I would not have had were it not for you. I am grateful to you.” Dr. Lee went on to say that for our salvation through trust in Christ we should give thanks, not twenty-five times but 25,000 times.1
With David we should say, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” When we do that, our spirit will change.
Written by Rev. Eddie
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rev. Eddie Mallonee has been the pastor of Second Baptist Church, Union City, TN since 1997. He is a 1981 graduate of Union University and received the masters of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Cathy have two children, Amber and Joseph.
1. R. G. Lee, Choice Pickings(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961)