Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When Suffering or Depression Distorts our Perspective

I have read that some Christians find certain Psalms disturbing, so much so that those Psalms have been dubbed the “uncomfortable Psalms.” In these Psalms, we see the writers lamenting over grievances and apparent injustices, describing the pits of despair and anguish, and even crying out to God and questioning His decisions, actions or apparent lack or action. I think many find these Psalms uncomfortable because they cannot accept that all people will go through periods of suffering.

Having had a difficult, sickly childhood, and later suffering from depression, otosclerosis and epilepsy, I have found great comfort from the uncomfortable Psalms.

Psalm 77, written by Asaph, is one of those Psalms. Asaph is so disturbed that he cannot sleep and spends the night crying out to God. Even so, he cannot find any comfort and only grows weaker. Smitten by chronic insomnia during the early days of depression, I too spent many a night begging God to hear my plea to end my suffering.

Psalm 77:1-3
I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands
and my soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
I mused, and my spirit grew faint.

The weight of Asaph’s troubles is so great that he can no longer see God as a loving God who shows favour to His children. Asaph thinks of better times when He could feel God’s presence and love, and he begins to direct accusing questions towards God. “Will you reject me forever? Will you never show your favour to me again? Has your love for me disappeared forever too? What of your mercy and compassion – are you angry with me?” These are all common reactions for someone suffering from depression.

The fact is that acute suffering such as depression destroys our worldview - we look at everything through depression-coloured glasses. Everything, including our perception of God, looks bleak.

Psalm 77:4-9
You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart mused and my spirit inquired:
"Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"

But Asaph does not stop there, and neither should we. Well aware that he cannot feel God’s favour, love, mercy and compassion because of the severity of his sufferings, Asaph responds by reminding himself of God’s past faithfulness. He starts to recall and meditate on the miracles God did in setting Israel free from slavery when He brought them out of Egypt. That is something that we can do too. We can think back to when we placed our faith in Christ, of the times God provided for our needs, when we found comfort in His Word, when we basked in the knowledge of His love and presence. We can also reflect upon the miracles of God's provision recorded in the Bible, of the way in which Jesus ministered to and cared for the lost and hurting when He came to the world. We can remember Christ's death and resurrection, and what this means to us personally.

Psalm 77:10-15
Then I thought, "To this I will appeal:
the years of the right hand of the Most High."
I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, O God, are holy.
What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

And as we remind ourselves of God’s past faithfulness, we need to remind ourselves that He has not changed - the only thing that has changed is our perception of Him. God is the same God today as He was before we suffered from depression, and will be the same God when we have recovered. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8.

So let our reflections upon His past faithfulness and the knowledge that He has not changed, not only encourage us in the here and now, but also give us hope for the future. Jesus will never let go of us, He will never abandon us, and although we cannot see His footprints, He is there leading us by the hand.

Psalm 77:16-20
The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." John 10:27-29

All verses from the NIV.


  1. Peter thank you for sharing. Psalms is always a comforting book to go to when we are depressed or hurting emotionally. Thank you for sharing those particular scripture verses! Blessings dear one.

  2. Peter, you can delete this comment if you choose to.

    I just want to say I took your advice and found BurnE. What a delightful short. Thanks for the suggestion. In fact, now I might as well look at all that is available.

  3. I love the Book of Psalms. I get a mix of emotions as I read distress, depression, anger, etc. but I learn so much from the message of hope, God's protection, God's enduring love and that's what matters to me. That no matter what goes on in this world, like what you posted, God doesn't change. What security we have in Jesus! God bless you and your family.

  4. Thank you, Peter. Once again your writing from your experiences brings encouragement. I just love the Psalms, and even the 'lamenting' ones bring comfort. Keep writing as the Lord leads, dear friend.

  5. You're most welcome, JBR. And glad you liked BurnE too. I love watching the Pixar movies & shorts, especially with my kids. I can't wait to watch Wall-e again.

    Hi RCUBEs. The Psalms really are so amazing. Recently I've been reading devotions by Selwyn Hughes on the Psalms, and I've been getting so much out of them.

    Thanks for dropping by again, Lynne.

  6. This psalm speaks to me so much - and even more so after reading your thoughts on it. Thank you.

  7. Big fan of the psalms myself. Currently I'm working through Nancy Leigh DeMoss's 30day psalm study. I love how the writers pour their heart out - without holding anything back. I love being brutally honest with God. It helps to "get it all out"! =)

  8. Hey Peter - what's the title on the devotional you're reading? Thanks!

  9. Thanks Joanne, I'm so blessed to hear you share that. I read Psalm 77 (again!) a few days ago, and the Lord showed me show much through it. A very encouraging Psalm.

    Hi Shane, I left a note on your FB page that the Psalm's devotional I've been reading is Every Day with Jesus, Finding Yourself in the Psalms, Jul/Aug 2000 issue, by Selwyn Hughes.
    I also really relate to the Psalms because of the way the writers pour their hearts out to God. So many of the things I wrote during depression are so much like the "uncomfortable" Psalms.
    I too believe God wants us to be brutally honest, as you said. (And of course, we need to do so respectfully, remembering who He is.)

  10. Thank you for your kind, supportive comment at my blog the other day. I like when you said: "Children are the most precious part of creation." Could not have said that better myself. Blessings to you!

  11. Thanks, Marj aka Thriver, you're most welcome.
    God bless :)

  12. Powerful, comforting, beautiful Truth. Love this post, Peter.

  13. After Issiah, psalms is the best. Sarah

  14. Peter, just checking in. Blessings dear one.

  15. Hi JBR, thanks for checking in on me.
    A combination of working through some issues, not getting much sleep (thanks to my kids...), having a bit of a break, and also pondering what to write about next.
    God bless :)

  16. All in God's timing.... take your time dear one....

  17. Dear Peter,
    I've missed your blog. Hmmm, this post is a tough one. I find comfort in the "uncomfortable Psalms" because I like to know that even great men of God went through tough times. And that is the point, that they went through (got through it).

    In service today, our pastor said that there are 2 types of people in life: (i) those who've been through it & (ii) those who were kept from it. I conclude that sometimes it is important to have gone through something because if we are always sheltered from "situations" then our experience and consequent growth potential might be limited in that area. Of course, other times we are better off being spared some traumas. Nevertheless, God works all things out for our greatest good.

    Regarding what you went through, a scripture comes to mind: some sicknesses are not unto death, rather for the glory of God [Jesus's words at Lazarus' death].
    I imagine that your life has brought Him much glory. Although I don't know you, I suddenly feel a strong sense that God has a calling on your life (a deep purpose).

    Be blessed in your continued walk with Him. And thanks for being a blessing to me.

  18. Peter, I have referred 4 people to your blog since I found it in the middle of the night! You are a great thinker/writer, putting into words so well what others feel but can't find words for.
    I THANK YOU for saying in your profile that you have an
    "International marriage". That's how I will describe mine from now on. I have lost friends and family this week since announcing my international marriage, but the only way I knew how to describe it was "inter-racial".
    Saying "International" seems it will not anger prejudiced people. It's SO awesome how God sees our every need and sends "earthly angels" to answer prayers and help with each trial (stepping stone). Gos dends each person into our life for a purpose!

  19. Great to hear from you again, Lilly, how have things been?
    I'm all for being spared traumas, LOL, but I also praise the Lord for those He has lead me through.

    That sounded like a great sermon, and thanks for that scripture. That God can use my sicknesses for His glory is very comforting, and thank you also for your words of encouragement.

    God bless :)

    Welcome to the blog, Sheila, and thanks for the info about the book. My family certainly has had a tendancy to be on the sensitive side. Thanks for recommending others to the blog, and so glad my writings could be of help today.

  20. Peter

    Many thanks in the Lords name for your writings and those that have replied. These comments are beyond value to me in a time when depression would almost seem to sweep me away. Please keep writing and may our precious Lord bless you and yours and all. Those that have replied.


  21. Peter

    Thankyou in His name, also thanks to all those who commented.

    Your help is invaluable as I struggle with the big D.

    I feel my depression is insulting to the Lord but when I read all on this blog I gain confidence.


  22. Thanks I just feel I faild in this ,I guess keep going till he comes