Breaking Free From an Emotional Funk, Part Two
Discouragement is inevitable; defeat is optional. We all visit the valley of despondency at least occasionally. Some get stuck in the dark abyss for weeks, months – even years. As we saw in the previous devotional, even some of the great biblical characters struggled with emotional defeat.
Discouragement is inevitable; defeat is optional.
The Scriptures provide real-life examples and practical instruction about the pathway through and beyond the darkness of discouragement, even depression. One of many instructive passages is found in Psalm 13. As we look at this psalm, we discover three vital steps to working through an emotional funk. They are:
- Tell the Lord
- Turn to the Lord
- Trust in the Lord
To review, (see Part One from last week) David probably wrote this psalm during that season of extreme stress and confusion when King Saul and his men were in pursuit of David with the intention of killing him. For those of us in a season of distress, we can relate immediately to his raw expressions and struggles to make sense of it all.
Step One – Tell the Lord
When our bodies try to process food or some other ingredient that is threatening to our health, the natural physical response is to vomit. While an unpleasant illustration, this is similar to our spiritual and emotional well-being. Sometimes, we simply have to get the pain, confusion, and doubt out of our system.
Mistakenly, we think the answer is to dump our emotional toxins on a spouse, family member, or friend. This can damage the relationship and cause the recipient to withdraw and feel significant frustration with their inability to provide appropriate help.
The best recourse is to “let it all hang out” in the Lord’s presence. Complaining to God is not a sin. To complain about God is. We must learn the difference and find the value of opening wide our hearts in His presence.
Complaining to God is not a sin. To complain about God is. We must learn the difference and find the value of opening wide our hearts in His presence.
Psalm 13:1-2 express the unfiltered emotion of this would-be king. He exclaims, “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)
Of course, God knew David’s emotions long before he expressed them. The Lord knows our innermost thoughts and feelings (Psalm 139:1-4; Hebrews 4:13). We are not informing God. Rather, we are honestly acknowledging the troubles and toxins of our soul in His presence.
Four Common Expressions of a Depressed Soul
In Psalm 13, David expressed some of the common subjective feelings of a despondent soul.
We often feel deserted – David cried out, “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?” He felt alone and forsaken by God. This is similar to the prophet Elijah, feeling suicidal and declaring that he was the only prophet left in Israel (1 Kings 19:4-10). These feelings can often be fueled by the tendency of depressed people to isolate themselves and withdraw. Sometimes their negativity repulses others. Whatever the reasons, the sense of loneliness can be overwhelming.
We often feel deprived – David’s cry reflects his sense of feeling far from God: “How long will You hide Your face from me?” He felt deprived of God’s presence. Our seasons of despondency can reflect similar sentiments. There are times when we do not recognize God’s nearness or the support and care of friends. When we are in this “scarcity” mindset, we should open up to the Lord for encouragement and perspective.
We often feel defective – David asked the question, “How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?” Another version says, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?” I have a sense that David was wondering, “What is wrong with me?” or “I can’t figure out why I am in this constant sorrow.” Our subjective internal dialogue leaves us wondering why we feel the way we do. Inviting the Lord into the conversation is a vital step to a renewed sense of hope.
Our subjective internal dialogue leaves us wondering why we feel the way we do. Inviting the Lord into the conversation is a vital step to a renewed sense of hope.
We often feel defeated – In telling the Lord of his troubles David also exclaims, “How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” David felt defeated by Saul and his men, even though he was actually surviving their aggressive pursuits. He wondered if he would endure these onslaughts even though God had promised David that he would someday be the king. When we focus more on our problems than God’s promises we lose heart and hope.
When we focus more on our problems than God’s promises we lose heart and hope.
The Scriptures are so helpful in allowing us to observe the deep struggles of our Savior as He approached the agony of the cross. In the garden, He expressed the distress of His soul in view of the cup of suffering He would endure. On the cross, His heart is open before the Father and the world, as He prayed and cried out during the hours of His suffering. Our daily struggles do not even compare to the pain and burden of His sacrificial death. Yet, we learn from His transparency before the Father that we must also keep our hearts wide open before God.
Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” David needed mercy and grace in Psalm 13. Now, in light of the cross, we come with the same need in confidence before the One who knows the depth of our struggle and waits for us to pour out our hearts in His presence.
Back to Emotional Reality
One of the board members at a church I served often said, “Emotions have no brains.” Emotions are a gift from God but must be handled with care and wisdom. Our subjective response to problems can feed spiritual defeat and threaten physical well-being. A bold and transparent declaration to God of our pain and perplexity is the first step to acknowledging our need for His truth and grace. It is the act of directing our heart to rely on the Lord, even in the confusion of our situation and the consternation of day-to-day struggle.
A bold and transparent declaration to God of our pain and perplexity is the first step to acknowledging our need for His truth and grace. It is the act of directing our heart to rely on the Lord, even in the confusion of our situation and the consternation of day-to-day struggle.
David exemplified this raw transparency in the Psalms: “I cry out to the LORD with my voice; with my voice to the LORD I make my supplication. I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare before Him my trouble” (Psalm 142:1-2). Today, we can follow his example and heed his exhortation: “Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8).
Copyright © 2020 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.