Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Therefore, let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.
Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart! (New International Version)
Depression is downright awful. It is the leading cause of disability in the Unites States among people ages 15-45. More sobering is the fact that two-thirds of all persons with depression have not yet sought help.
The psalmist was once one of those persons. When he kept silent, it was as if his bones went limp and wasted away inside him. The emotional pain of such an experience transcends our language.
David, the psalmist, had every reason to feel deeply about the circumstances of his life. He had been both the victim and even the perpetrator in all kinds of very troubling situations. Yet, as the king of Israel and Judah, he kept the stiff-upper-lip of stubbornly holding everything inside.
The very word “depression” literally means to depress or stuff the emotions down inside and keep them tightly held within, not allowing them to see the light of day. Deep inside, those feelings don’t just go away. Instead, they sit, not going anywhere, and eventually rot the soul.
“It’s so difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling — that really hollowed-out feeling.”J. K. Rowling
There was a time in my past in which I was so good at stuffing my feelings that one night when my neighbor had a blow-out of a party at two o’clock in the morning, I actually felt no anger. Just so you know: That’s not healthy. I had an anger problem. Not the kind where you explode, but just the opposite – the kind where you stuff every unwanted feeling in the book.
Recovery, for me, meant first recognizing that I was depressed and had a lot to be angry about. Next, I began to let myself feel the past situations of my life. And I need to tell you that what was inside me wasn’t at all pretty.
Like a wound that needs peroxide, dealing with depression hurt like hell. But I couldn’t heal without it. I couldn’t go around it or avoid it; I had to go through it.
Finally, I learned to not only identify my feelings, but take charge of them. I discovered I could choose to say how I feel without apology, and I could say it all in a way that helped others, as well as myself. Like David of old, I had to get what was inside on the outside.
The Christian season of Lent is an appropriate time to do this sort of internal work. This is no time to sit on neglected feelings or stuff emotions. It may seem as if opening up will cause internal shame, outward regret, or judgment from others.
But that would be a lie.
Shame cannot survive the light of day; regret typically happens when we fail to do something; and millions of others are struggling with the very same sort of things you are.
What’s more, God is patiently awaiting for us to break our silence and tell what’s troubling us. With the Lord, there is bountiful grace, unconditional forgiveness, and emotional healing.
I don’t believe depression is a sin which needs to be confessed but rather a terrible condition of the spirit that must be named and dealt with. So, if you are experiencing:
- Feelings of sadness or a depressed mood that lingers for weeks, even months
- A loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- A loss of energy or increased fatigue
- An increase in useless activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, or guilt
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Then, it is high time to get help. A place to start can be with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or online at findtreatment.samhsa.gov
It is also wise to speak with a trusted family member or friend about the need for help and support, as well as a safe faith leader, pastor, or chaplain. There is no reason for anyone to have to live with crushing emotional and/or spiritual pain day after day.
Gracious God, your stamp of approval is on the penitent – those who are brutally honest with the inner self and receive your mercy. I will not keep silent. I will declare to you the current state of my life and not run away from the ugliness within. Through the gracious Name of Jesus, I pray with thanksgiving. Amen.