“I cry aloud to God that He may hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretching out; my soul refuses to be comforted” (Psalm 77:1-2).
Most of us can identify with the Psalmist when it comes to “crying out for the Lord”. Sometimes that’s the only thing we know how to do. The only trouble is when you feel you’re in a ‘black hole’, as one friend put it, it’s easy to feel that your prayers don’t go higher than the ceiling. The Psalmist must have felt this way.
Our world suffers not only economic depression, but an epidemic of emotional “downers”. It seems that the daily news is usually negative, and we begin to wonder whether things will ever change for the better. All that talk about nuclear testing and which country has the most deadly weapons can certainly lead to the cosmic “jitters”. Whether depression comes from a chemical imbalance, a life situation, or world news, it is still depression, and not to be taken lightly. Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness often abound for whatever reason. One person put it this way: “I feel I don’t have any control for things that are out of control.” Of course, life without any stress or tension would be flat and boring. But too much change too soon, plus bad news can leave us drained and discouraged. Daily news can promote fear and pessimism about the world’s future.
This sort of thing can get personal. Back in the early 1960s, I had just begun my ministry when one of my parishioners called me early one morning and told me that he was going to kill himself. Alcohol, marital and financial problems had hounded him for a long time. I hurried to his home only to find him leaning on his shotgun, pointing to his heart. I tried to reason with him, but he interrupted, “I’m no good, and never amounted to anything, etc, etc. So will you pray for me?” When I prayed and said, “Amen”, he pulled the trigger and I watched him die, leaving a wife and four kids. This was so traumatic that I went back to school to learn more about suicide and how to prevent it. I learned a lot about suicide, but there is much to know and to be done about suicide prevention. It took a long time before I could get a good night’s sleep, and not feel depressed.
Taylor Caldwell put it like this: “The most desperate need to day is not a new vaccine for any disease, or a new religion, or a new way of life. We don’t need to go to the moon or build bigger barns. Our real need is for someone to listen to us, not as patient, but as a human soul.” There are no magic keys to learning to cope creatively with life’s difficulties or bad news, but let me make a few suggestions.
It is helpful for me to ventilate my feelings. Unless we can express our innermost feeling to someone we trust, our feelings could be a ticking time bomb. We need people in whom we can confide without feeling threatened. It would be good to keep their phone number handy. If you feel unloved or unworthy, talk with someone who will listen with compassion. Thousands of people commit suicide each year, and it is believed that many of these do not really want to die. Rather, they are calling out for help.
In a workshop, I heard a psychiatrist say, “Listen to your downers. They may tell you what’s wrong or what to do about it. Your body, emotions, feelings, etc. are always telling you something. If you are suffering from feelings of hopelessness, you may need some form of counseling to get to the roots of the problem. It may be “buried anger” from some childhood abuse or neglect. You may need anti-depressants. Seeing a competent therapist could be the road to wellness. Hope may return even as you begin to reach out for it—not by denying the situation—but by knowing that even in the pain of today, there is tomorrow.”
When you realize that you are not alone, you may gain a fresh awareness of God’s presence. Realizing that God knows all about us—and loves us anyway—can help us have a personal relationship with God. This is a sure source of strength and comfort. Furthermore, we may need to make different decisions and choices about life. Much depression comes as the result of poor choices. God gives us the ability to find the help we need, but we must take action.
Activity comes before feelings. That is, being involved in some creative and interesting activity could cause more positive and healthier feelings. Helping others in their personal struggles can be therapeutic. So, get up and get going. Find the help you need.
The Psalmist said, “I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications; because He inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call on Him as long as I live” (Psalm 116:1-2).