Psalm 88. When Darkness Is My Only Friend.


Today’s Lectio Divina: Excerpts from Psalm 88. (MsgB)

A Korah Prayer of Heman

Why, God, do You turn a deaf ear? Why do You make Yourself scarce?
For as long as I remember I’ve been hurting;
I’ve taken the worst You can hand out, and I’ve had it.
Your wildfire anger has blazed through my life; I’m bleeding, black-and-blue.
You’ve attacked me fiercely from every side, raining down blows till I’m nearly dead.
You made lover and neighbor alike dump me; the only friend I have left is Darkness.


Depression.

A disease common to the common man. An estimated 19 million Americans are living with what doctors call clinical depression. Millions more struggle with it to lesser degrees.

When a person battles with depression, it’s more than just feeling a bit melancholy or having the blues. Depression is a real medical illness, and not just a sign of weakness.

In helping to diagnose major depression, doctors ask the following question:

Have you experienced five or more of the following for at least a two-week period?

  • Persistent sadness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, including sex
  • Difficulty concentrating and complaints of poor memory
  • Worsening of co-existing chronic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Fatigue, lack of energy
  • Anxiety, agitation, irritability
  • Thoughts of suicide or death
  • Slow speech; slow movements
  • Headache, stomach ache, and digestive problems

As I read Psalm 88, I’m guessing that Heman, one of the sons of Korah, would have answered this questionnaire with at least seven or eight of these telltale signs of clinical depression. How do I know?

Cause folks; I’m one of those 18 million Americans who battle with clinical depression. My grandfather had the disease, though back then, doctors didn’t diagnose it, and he died from it at a young age. My dad struggled with this demon his entire life and both my brother and I have had our share of living out our years with Darkness being our only friend at times.

And all the while, well-meaning Christians come to many of us who struggle with depression and tell us to ‘just get over it.’ I’ve actually had good friends approach me over the years and tell me that if I just believed and trusted God more, I’d not be so depressed. Yikes.

So here’s the deal, folks.

Let’s still believe that God can lift the weight of clinical depression off our shoulders, but let’s become a wiser, more gentle people by being much more compassionate and kind with those who struggle with this disease in their lives.  Yes, prayer works. I can’t imagine how my life might have turned out if I hadn’t had some powerful prayer from supportive friends back when I was first married. I had been fired from my first job, our first baby was on the way, and like Heman, the writer of Psalm 88, I was scared to death that God had left me to fend for myself. Darkness was so close at that moment, I could feel its cold, icy breath breathing down my neck.

God did a miracle back then and lifted my depression to such a degree that I know I’ve been much freer since. But healed 100%? No.

So I take great hope in the fact that God hears the song-prayers of a clinically depressed man like Heman, a son of Korah. I rejoice to know that many great men and women have gone before me, struggling with depression but still finding a way to make a difference in this world. Look at just a few of the literally thousands of famous names of those who struggled yet still prevailed over this ugly disease.

John Adams, 2nd President of the United States and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Buzz Aldrin, astronaut and 2nd man to set foot on the moon.

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England during World War II.

Princess Diana, Princess of Wales and supporter of children’s rights worldwide.

Charles Dickens, devout Christian and writer of some of the world’s best literature.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, author of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Martin Luther, Christian pastor, credited with fathering the Protestant Reformation.

Isaac Newton, Christian and British physicist credited with discovering the law of gravity.

Mark Twain, 19th Century American author and humorist.

Oprah Winfrey, American entertainer and activist for children’s and women’s rights.

So, in the light of countless others who have gone before us, I say, like Heman, the depressed son of Korah…

I’m standing my ground, God, shouting for help, at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak.

My prayer: God, I hate depression. I know, with certainty that I will not have to battle this demon on the other side. But here, on this fallen planet called earth, depression is here to stay. I choose, like Heman, to keep looking at You when all hell breaks loose and Darkness becomes my closest friend. I choose to believe that despite my illness, You can still work wonders through me. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So how can I continually walk in faith that God can lift the veil of depression over my life, but yet accept the fact that, in this lifetime, depression will still be a medical disease that dwells in my body? How can I take the amazing stories of others who have overcome their disease to the degree that they still accomplished something great in this world, despite their personal, on-going battles with the demons of depression?

So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Psalms?


Over a 50-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Psalms: God’s Songbook of Prayers. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Psalms home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

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