Breaking Free From an Emotional Funk, Part Three
Psalm 13 is just one of dozens of psalms that offer a transparent look at the emotional struggles common to us all. Here, David opens his heart to the Lord, unloading his pain, confusion, doubt, and despondency. In all likelihood, he is penning these words while on the run. The paranoid King Saul was determined to annihilate David. Unsure of his very survival, let alone his confidence in God’s promise that he would someday be king, David cries out to the Lord and experiences a breakthrough in his heart and mind.
The three stages of his journey in this psalm provide some key steps each of us must take in seasons of despair. Like David, we must:
- Tell the Lord
- Turn to the Lord
- Trust the Lord
A Timely Turn
After unloading the raw emotion of his questions and fears (vv. 1 & 2), David begins to turn his thoughts toward the Lord in recognition of his need for the help and illumination of His God. “Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him’; Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.” He knows his only hope is the Lord and is able to turn his focus off himself and toward his Deliverer.
For many of us, spiritual depression is rooted in a preoccupation with self. This inward focus might be spurred by anger, rejection, grief, loss, or other hard experiences. Depression sets in when we stop trusting God and start questioning His character, doubting His love, or suspecting His justice. Despondency rules us when we fixate on ourselves, our difficulties, our circumstances, and our misfortunes. The pathway to deliverance is to turn away from self and toward God and others.
For many of us, spiritual depression is rooted in a preoccupation with self. This inward focus might be spurred by anger, rejection, grief, loss, or other hard experiences.
Despondency rules us when we fixate on ourselves, our difficulties, our circumstances, and our misfortunes. The pathway to deliverance is to turn away from self and toward God and others.
We see this illustrated throughout the Bible. In Psalm 73, the writer is focused on the prosperity of the wicked and the problems of the righteous. These grievances consumed him to the point that his thoughts are treacherous to his faith and the faith of others. Everything changed when he went into the sanctuary of God. By focusing on the Lord, His presence, and His promises – everything became clear (see Psalms 16-28).
The prophet Jeremiah experienced a similar turnaround. In Lamentations 3:14-20 he openly declared his misery, feelings of rejection, and overwhelming afflictions. But in verse 21, he calls to mind the truth about God. Suddenly, he bursts forth with praise to his God for the mercies that are new every morning, His great faithfulness, and His goodness toward those who wait for Him (vv. 22-26).
Like the biblical writers, we all need a “change of mind” – perhaps repentance – when we are depressed. We need the grace to turn our thoughts away from our self-consumed focus and toward the reality and character of God.
Bold, Empowering Trust
David’s ultimate liberation from the emotional pit came as he made the deliberate choice to trust the Lord’s character and promise. You can sense his resolve as he writes, “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” David comes to amazing clarity and truth. In essence, he is able to say:
- I can trust His unfailing love even though I am experiencing painful rejection at this moment;
- I can choose joy because of His sure salvation even though circumstances appear to be bleak;
- I can sing His praise even though my mind and heart are tempted to flow toward the negative aspects of my present circumstances;
- I can focus on the sure goodness of God, even though this present moment seems pretty bad and painful.
I can focus on the sure goodness of God, even though this present moment seems pretty bad and painful.
Another Old Testament writer illustrates this for us well. Habakkuk was feeling incredible angst as he tried to understand the justice of God in dealing with the sinful Jewish nation. Circumstantially, things seemed very bleak. Yet, his final chapter is a prayer of trust. The culmination of that prayer has become well-known to our minds and cherished in our hearts:
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” Habakkuk 3:17-19
Grace to Choose
Today, God can give every one of us the grace to choose to trust. As it was for David, sometimes it involves a process of telling the Lord in raw and transparent language of our turmoil and pain. Then, we must receive the grace to change our focus from self to God. With our eyes fixed, we can then choose to trust His sure character and promise.
One of my pastoral friends says that we must “focus on doing good, not feeling good.” I have learned that we must act our way into feeling rather than feel our way into acting. Just as He did for David, many biblical writers, and countless faithful followers, God can empower you to break free from the chronic defeat of an emotional funk to serve Christ with joy and follow Him in believing faith.
One of my pastoral friends says that we must “focus on doing good, not feeling good.” I have learned that we must act our way into feeling rather than feel our way into acting.
Copyright © 2020 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.