Monday: An Upward Look by a Downcast Soul, Scene 1
Theme: When Christians Are Depressed
In this week’s lessons we learn from the psalmist some reasons why the Lord’s people get depressed, and what their spiritual response needs to be.
Scripture: Psalms 42-43
It is hard for me to imagine that a book about depression would be very popular, but in 1965 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, published a book entitled Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, which turned out to be one of the most highly valued and widely circulated books he ever wrote.1 Perhaps you have seen it. The only conceivable reason it has been so popular is not that the subject itself is attractive, but that so many people, including Christians, are depressed and looking for solutions.2
We are all depressed at times. We get down in the dumps. We sing the blues. Spiritually we feel that God has forgotten us and that we will never be able to get on track with God again. It is a condition the old mystics accurately labeled “the dark night of the soul.”
It is a puzzling condition too. We wonder why it is happening, above all if we are Christians. We identify with Erma Bombeck who asks in the title of one of her best-selling books, If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, Why Am I Living in the Pits? Haven’t you often felt that way? I am sure you have. Perhaps you are feeling that way now.
Psalms 42 and 43, which open the second section (Book Two) of the Psalms, are about depression. And I suppose the facts that have made D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book so popular are the same facts that have made these among the best loved and most frequently consulted of the psalms. Since most of us are downcast at some time or another, we turn naturally to a psalm that asks honestly and forthrightly, “Why are you so downcast, O my soul?” And we are encouraged when it answers hopefully, “Put your trust in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (42:5, 11; 43:5). “I will yet praise him”! The words mean that my present downcast mood is not the final act of my life’s drama.
Psalms 42 and 43 need to be taken together for several reasons: 1) in a number of the Hebrew manuscripts the psalms are joined together as one unit; 2) Psalm 43 has no introductory title, while every other psalm in Book Two, except for Psalm 71, does; and 3) the thrice-repeated refrain links the compositions (42:5, 11; 43:5).3 However, the chief reason for taking the psalms together is that both deal with spiritual depression.
Study Questions:

Why do Psalms 42 and 43 need to be treated together?
What are some reasons Christians experience depression?

1D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965).2This seems always to have been the case, accounting for William Bridge’s masterpiece of 1649, A Lifting Up for the Downcast (Edinburgh and Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1979), a 287-page study of Psalm 42:11, as well as Sherwood Eliot Wirt’s more recent study, A Thirst for God: Reflections on the Forty-second and Forty-third Psalms (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1970).3Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983), p. 325.

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