There are days that I struggle with being down. One may look at me and my situation and say, “Well, you have a right to be.” However, there are many who have much more right than I do. There are those who have experienced horrific trauma. There are brothers and sisters in Christ who face real persecution and threats of violence, because they follow Jesus. There are others who because chemical imbalances in their body need medical intervention to help them with their depression.
None of those situations describe me. God has blessed me beyond what I deserve. So, what right do I have to feel depressed? I can ask with the Psalmist, “Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”
That question is a repeated refrain in Psalms 42 and 43. The Psalmist answers his own question: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Apart from circumstances such as those I mentioned above, feeling down can be a sign of a misplaced hope. We hope for change in circumstances, for change in someone else, for someone to notice, for help to come, or any number of things. But God asks us—commands us—to hope in Him.
The first step out of a downcast spirit is toward God. Psalm 42 begins with the Psalmist expressing his absolute desperation to restore nearness with God. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”
Being downcast is a sign that we desperately need to draw close to God. When I struggle with being down, it is warning light that I need to renew my thirst for God. It is sign that I have misplaced hope. Every disciple’s first urge of each day should be to drink deeply in God’s presence. It is there that we move our hope back to Him. It is there that we look beyond a nearsighted view of our circumstances toward the long view of an eternity that is in God’s hands. Even those experiencing trauma, persecution, and clinical depression have hope when they begin there.
If that is where their hope begins, can the rest of us believe that we can start someplace else? Let us look up from our circumstances, look away from misplaced sources of hope, and toward our hope found in God alone through His Son, Jesus Christ. Let us help others find eternal hope in Him as well.