The first time I was blindsided by depression, I was twenty-two years old and living on the other side of the world. I had graduated from Auburn with a journal full of missionary quotes, a well-worn Bible, a call to co-lead a team of fellow recent graduates on a ten month stint in East Asia, and an optimistic vision of what the next year would hold. Four months in, after culture shock, struggles with language learning, team conflict, a broken relationship, and several bouts with food poisoning, I started to unravel. I was fearful and restless at night, weepy and lethargic during the day, overly self-conscious, and having a hard time holding myself together.
It was during that trying season that I discovered the Psalms. It wasn’t my first time reading them--in fact, I had even put a couple to memory--but, it was my first time truly feeling them. It was a completely different experience praying Psalm 6 when I was, like David, “worn out from my groaning” as I “drenched my couch with tears.” When I prayed Psalm 13:2, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” I was looking for tangible answers to those questions.
Ironically, I found comfort in the raw despair of the Psalmists’ laments. There was something reassuring about knowing that there were others who knew God, but also felt as if they were drowning in despair, impatient for relief, and shockingly frank in their desires. It was also comforting that with the exception of Psalm 88, all of the Psalms of lament end with hope and a call to remember who God is and what he has done. I marveled at that hope, and though it was a long process, I was eventually able to also declare, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimey pit, out of the mud and mire.”(Psalm 40:2)
It has been twenty years since those dark days and there have been a few more hard seasons since that time. I’m thankful for Christian counselors, praying friends, and a compassionate husband. I’m thankful for a God who really is big enough to handle the intensity of our myriad emotions. I’m thankful for a big book in the center of the Bible that helps us pray when we are overcome with sorrow and when we are overcome with joy (and reminds us that our lives will have their share of both).
I guess you could say I’m a tad excited about the upcoming sermon series on the Psalms. I pray that we will learn more about ourselves, each other, and, most importantly, God. He certainly is “close to the broken hearted” (Psalm 34:18) and “worthy of praise” (Psalm 145:3).