Shine a Light
From Psalm 69
Let me start by saying I realize depression, for some, is less mental and more medical. Chemicals misfire in the brain, and medication is necessary to restore balance. I get that. But for others, I think depression is a choice. A mental fog we choose to embrace. And here’s how I think it works, or at least, here’s how I’ve seen it work in me:
Some occurrence or circumstance in my life inspires a thought. For example, I lose it with my daughter one morning because she spills red Gatorade on the living room carpet. It was an accident, clearly, but still, I yell and scold and make her sit in the timeout chair until I finally cool down enough to see the situation for what it is. And then, totally embarrassed, I apologize and kiss her sweet face.
This could have been the end of it. I made a mistake, I asked for forgiveness, we moved on. But instead, that night (my negative thoughts have the opposite schedule of the morning fog), I replay the scene in my head, and the thought forms: I’m a terrible mother.
On the outside, I’m brushing my teeth and washing my face, but inside, I’m thinking it again and again. I read her a Bible story, say prayers, and it’s there the whole time, swirling and growing and descending on me like a storm. I kiss her good night, and by this time, I’m fighting tears. Climbing into bed moments later, the thought comes with me. I’ve let it hang around so long now it’s taken firm root in my head and heart. I believe it, fully. And I go to sleep watering its dark, tangled roots with my tears.
Do you see what I’ve done? I made a terrible mistake, yes. But no, I am not a terrible mother. Yet choosing to believe the thought allowed it to depress my mind and spirit.
In Psalm 69, David is struggling: “I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me” (v. 2 ESV). This is what depression is, literally: it’s sinking, slipping, being pressed down into a sunken place or pit. For David, it was caused by attacks from enemies: he was being shamed, dishonored, covered in reproach. I think our enemy does the same to us.
Known as “the accuser” (Revelation 12:10), our enemy tries to shame us with any mangled version of the truth he can get us to believe. I’m a terrible mother. I’m a terrible Christian. I’m a terrible person. These untruths, typically, are grounded in something real: we made a terrible mistake. But then, we let the enemy interpret that mistake however he wants. We let him go to extremes. We let him tell us what it means or who we are instead of doing what Paul said:
“Whatever things are true … noble … just … pure … lovely … meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8). This includes the many lovely things that are true about you.
David says, after letting his thoughts get the best of him for a portion of this psalm, “I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high!” (Psalm 69:29). Can we try this prayer for our thought lives? It worked for David—immediately after these words, his thoughts turned from pain to praise.
O God, set me on high! Try them when the mental fog begins to descend, when the enemy begins to accuse, when accidents and mistakes consume your mind like dark smoke filling a room. They might be just the words you need to shine a light in those blackened corridors and, once again, see, embrace, and believe what’s true.
“Seek God,“ friends, “and let your hearts revive” (Psalm 69:32). This is my prayer for you.
Next week’s reading: Psalm 71–77.