The War Against Despondency | Psalm 43, Matthew 26:36-38

/, Psalms: Real Comfort from a Powerful God, Sermons/The War Against Despondency | Psalm 43, Matthew 26:36-38

The War Against Despondency | Psalm 43, Matthew 26:36-38

The Bible tells us to fight hard against downcast feelings and despondency.   There is a range of discouragement that begins at a feeling of momentary blues over a temporary setback – like Sonic ran out of your favorite ice cream flavor.  It extends through a vast array of more serious, long term issues ranging from bereavement, career frustration, loss of a job or divorce.  At the opposite extreme there is full blown clinical depression.

This whole range of discouragement is often referred to as “depression,” but, technically speaking, depression is a clinical condition that only lies at the far end of this scale.  If you have clinical depression, there are many principles for you in our passage today, but I also recognize that you might need additional medical assistance.

People often say, “I’m so depressed,” but most people who say they are “depressed” are really feeling downcast.    They are somewhere in the WIDE middle area that is more than a temporary setback but falls short of clinical depression.

“Despondency” is not a very common word today, but I think the word “despondency” best expresses this middle range of feelings. Winston Churchill often suffered from long seasons of despondency that were brought on by a combination of personal misfortune and thwarted ambitions combined with drinking too much alcohol, not getting enough sleep and taking amphetamines.  (The physical, spiritual and emotional aspects of our lives are all interconnected)

He referred to these dark moods as “My black dog.”  There is some debate among biographers about exactly how black the black dog was.  Secular diagnoses ranges from anxiety to a bipolar disorder but we can say that he often felt despondent.[1]  When he felt despondent, he said that it was like all the colors had been ripped out of his life.  Anyone who has walked through a battle with despondency can identify with Churchill’s imagery.  The “black dog” is what the psalmist is referring to when he speaks of being“downcast” in Psalm 43:5.

 

This morning, I want to speak frankly about these common emotions and encourage you and me to declare war on despondency with the weapons that God provides.

Main Idea: Declare war on despondency with the weapons that God provides.  Psalm 42-43

 

Our text for today is Psalm 43, but Psalm 42 and 43 are connected in some way.  They seem to be written by the same author, both psalms share a similar cadence and verse 5 of Psalm 43 is repeated twice in Psalm 42.

Remember that chapter designations in the Bible were not part of the original manuscript, but were added at a later time.  Psalm 43 may have been an additional verse written to accompany Psalm 42 or perhaps they were all originally one Psalm and early scribes found a reason to split it into two pieces or maybe the writer liked 42 so much that he wrote another song just like it.  I mention this fact because the combination of chapters 42 and 43 together give us some information about the author and setting of this psalm.

It is unlikely that David wrote Psalms 42 and 43.  It was more likely that these psalms were written by a descendant of Korah.  The descendants of Korah usually spent their lives serving in the Temple.  Psalm 42:4 indicates that he used to lead pilgrims in “procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise…” In the past, he may have led, “a multitude keeping festival.”

Apparently he had been exiled and as a result he had been denied the privilege of serving in the Temple.  In some way, he was being kept in exile in the country near Mount Hermon.  At the end of verse 5, he mentions that he remembers God “from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar…”   Mount Hermon is about 100 miles north of J

  erusalem.  It is a snowcapped mountain located in modern day Lebanon. 

Instead of being in the temple and hearing the praises of God, he is now living in exile and subjected to the ridicule and insults hurled upon him by ungodly people.  In this dark hour of exile, the unbelievers around this man claimed that his God had failed to protect, to keep and to bless him.

In Psalm 42:3 he writes, “My tears have been my food     day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?””  In his frustration and despair over his difficult situation, this temple servant cries out to God.  Coming into our text, listen to his frustration in Psalm 43:1-2,

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;    why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?

You might be able to relate to his feelings.  Many people have gone through a dark time in their lives where they didn’t understand why God was allowing them to suffer.  Some people will cry out to God and ask Him, “Where are you?  Don’t you care about me at all?”

The psalmist has a good desire to be able to go back to his position at the temple and to once again enjoy the fellowship with other worshippers.  Look at verses 3-4:

Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.

He wants to worship God and worship with God’s people again.  He has a good desire to pull out his lyre and lead God’s people in a time of corporate singing, but right now he can’t.  His desires are good, but the situation is keeping him from doing the good things he longs to do.  Faced with this frustration, you can sense from this psalm that he is torn between his good desire to lead worship and feeling downcast because of the difficult situation he’s in.

So what does he do?  Does he wallow in self-pity?  We can learn a lot from the words in verse 5.   In verse 5, we see that when we are faced with difficult times, the Bible calls for us to declare war on despondency with the weapons that God provides.  Listen to how the psalmist takes control of his emotions and turns his attention and affections back to the Lord.  Verse 5:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

This morning, I want to spend the rest of our time focusing on what it means to “hope in God” during difficult times and then we’ll turn over to the gospels to see how Jesus modeled the battle against despondency perfectly.

Despondency is a complicated matter.  There are not any pat answers to battle the waves of attacks it brings against us and our faith.  However, the fact remains that the onslaught of melancholy demands that we fight and not succumb to its blows.

The Bible gives a prescription for the blues.  It’s more powerful and more hope-filled than any pill you can buy at the pharmacy.  It’s more effective than the drinks and drugs that are so common in our town.  According to Psalm 43, our first weapon against despondency is “hope in God.”

Hope in God is our first line of defense against despondency, Psalm 43, 73, 19, 23, John 8:44, 2 Corinthians 4:17

In Psalm 43:2, the writer asks,

“For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”

He is discouraged.  He was wrecked.  But… just as quickly as he cried out to God, he began battling discouragement by reminding himself about the truths of God’s Word and the track record he’s had with God over his lifetime.  Let’s go to verse 5 again and we’ll see that he battled his feelings by reminding himself about his past experiences with God:

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”

The psalms are filled with songwriters who were struggling against despondency.  Turn over a couple of pages to Psalm 73.  Asaph wrote this Psalm and he was the Chris Tomlin of his day.  He was the main worship leader in the Temple.  In Psalm 73:26, he also cried out to God and said, “My flesh and my heart may fail…”  Asaph is telling God, “I am despondent!  I feel dejected!”

But… look at the next line of that psalm.  As soon as he recognizes the black dog creeping into his heart, he fires against it and says, “  but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Asaph does not let his situation rob him of Hope.  He battled his feelings by declaring truths about God.

In essence, Asaph was saying:

“In myself, I’m done.
I’m overwhelmed, tired and burned out.
My body is shot.
My heart is half-dead.
But… whatever may be the real reason behind these feelings, I refuse to question the character of God.
He is perfectly trustworthy.
He is my strength and my portion forever.”

Turn in your Bibles back a few pages to Psalm 19.  In Psalm 19:7, David is writing and he says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul…”  A soul only needs to be revived if it is in dire-straits.  In a sense, he was saying that his soul was growing weak and losing resolve.  Revival came through reading, trusting and following the perfect law of the Lord.

Turn with me a few pages ahead to Psalm 23.  David uses similar language in verse 3 when he says that the Lord, “restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”  Here we see that the soul of the man (who was called in 1 Samuel 13:14,  the ‘man after God’s own heart’) needed to be restored.  He felt like he was dying spiritually and needed to be lead again to refreshment in the Good Shepherd’s “still waters.”

God has placed these real and vivid feelings in the Bible so that we might know how to battle against despondency and discouragement when it comes our way.  Wherever your feelings may have originated, keep in mind that Satan will often attempt to use your feelings to fuel an attack against God in your heart.

In John 8:44, Jesus called Satan “a liar and the father of lies.”  When we start feeling down in the dumps, he will often tell us a lie that says, something like:

“This is it.  You’re done.
You’ll never be happy again.
Your strength is completely spent.
You’ve lost and can never recover from this one.
There is just weeping in your future.
There is no joy to be had.  It will just keep getting darker and darker from here.
This is not a tunnel with a light at the end.
This is a bottomless cave that gets blacker and blacker with each passing day.
Just lie down and give up.”

When Satan gets a hold of the black dog of despondency, he paints it with ever increasing darkness and gloom.  Our God has woven together the scriptures with strands of truth that are carefully crafted to oppose Satan’s dark lies:

    • The law of God does revive our souls (Psalm 19:7)
    • He does lead us beside still waters (Psalm 23:2)
    • He does restore our soul (Psalm 23:3)

 

  • He does show us the path of life (Psalm 16:11)
  • He does send joy in the morning (Psalm 30:6)
  • He is our strength and portion forever (Psalm 73:26)
  • He is the author and source of hope (Psalm 43:5)

 Faith is believing that God will fulfill his promises.

  • God promises that He will be strong for us now when we hope in Him.
  • He promises that He has a purpose for our lives and for our suffering.
  • He promises that we have a future hope in heaven that is so glorious that it will make anything we face now seems like nothing more than a “light and momentary affliction.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

 Faith in God’s character and promises compels us to declare war on despondency with the weapons that God provides. 

  • A fight against discouragement and despondency is a fight for faith.
  • It is a fight to maintain our testimony.
  • It is a fight to prove that God is strong even when we are feeling defeated.

Turn back to our text in Psalm 43.  The psalmist was in mourning.  In verse 2 he asks, “Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” The Hebrew in verse 2 literally means “to be dark” or “to walk about in darkness.”  When he felt the “black dog” showing up, he turned and preached to himself in verse 5 saying,

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God”

Controlling your mind is a powerful weapon against despondency – Psalm 43:5, 1 Corinthians 10:4-5

He’s actually scolding himself in Psalm 43:5.  He is arguing against the lies Satan is planting in his mind.  In 1 Corinthians, Paul talked about the battle with our mind as well.  Listen to how he instructs us to declare war against despondency with the mental and spiritual weapons God provides.  1 Corinthians 10:4-5 says,

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”

Satan is trying to pull you and me off track.  He often plants thoughts in our minds in order to make us question God’s character and ability.  The answer to these lies is simple: HOPE IN GOD!

  • Trust in what God has planned for you in the future.
  • Trust that God’s purposes in your life are good
  • Trust that God is present during the difficult times and that He really provides you with the strength that you need

Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones was a medical doctor who became a well-known preacher later in his life.  He refers to despondency as “spiritual depression.”  As a doctor, he believes that this issue of preaching truth to ourselves is one of the weapons God provides as we declare war on despondency.  Listen to what he wrote in his book called “Spiritual Depression.”

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?

“Take those thoughts that come to you when you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Yourself is talking to you.

(Speaking of David in Psalm 42:5, 11, 43:5) Now this man’s treatment is this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, oh my soul?’ he asks. His soul has been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment and I will speak to you.’

“The whole art in spiritual living is knowing how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself.

You must say ‘Why art thou cast down? What business do you have to be disquieted?’ You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself and say to yourself ‘Put your hope in God!’ – instead of muttering in this depressed and unhappy way.

And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, What God is and What God has done and What God has pledged Himself to do. Then, having done that, end on this great note – defy yourself and defy other people and defy the devil and the whole world and say with this man, ‘I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance and my God.’”

We declare war on despondency by firmly placing our hope back in God.  In faith, we think in a way that is placing hope in God’s promises.  Today’s teaching is not about how to avoid despondency, but how to fight it when it comes.  I think the very best example in scripture of a man who declared war on despondency with the weapons that God provided was Jesus Himself.

Jesus was the perfect soldier in the battle against despondency – Matthew 26:36-38, Ephesians 6:16

Turn in Your Bibles to Matthew 26.  Jesus fought a number of difficult spiritual battles, but probably the most intense spiritual battle He faced happened on the night that He was betrayed.  Satan and his demons gathered to fight that night.  In Ephesians 6:16, Paul talks about the “flaming darts of the evil one.”  Whatever those darts might include, you can be sure that Jesus was hit with volley after volley.  We get a glimpse of this spiritual battle in Matthew 26:36-38:

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

What was Jesus so “sorrowful and troubled” about?  I think that the “flaming darts of the evil one” were flying against Him at that hour.  Satan may have been trying to knock Jesus off mission like he had tried many times before.  We can’t know what exactly was in the mind of Christ that night in Gethsemane, but perhaps Jesus was struggling with thoughts like:

  • The cross is going to be extraordinarily painful – both physically and spiritually
  • Are these people really worth it?
  • Do I really want to go through with this plan?

Whatever his thoughts were, it made him “very sorrowful, even to death.”  Now let’s consider for a minute the fact the Jesus was a sinless man.  His sinlessness means that the emotional turmoil was proper and fitting for what He was experiencing.

The first shock waves of despondency are not sin.  Whatever made Him feel sorrowful, was not sin in itself.  It could have become sin, but Jesus didn’t let it.

When those “sorrowful and troubled” feelings began to come in, Jesus fought back.  Jesus declared war on despondency with the weapons that God provided Him.  When Satan dropped a bomb on His peace, Jesus spiritually turned on the air-raid sirens and gathered his troops and headed for refuge.

We have to guard ourselves from thinking that it’s ok to wallow, down in the dumps, because Jesus felt sorrowful in Gethsemane.  When Jesus felt sorrow, He went to war against it so that He would not fall into sin.  He set a perfect example for us to follow.  Let’s quickly look at the 6 tools Jesus used to fight against despondency that dark night.

Application: How to fight despondency like Jesus fought it

There were several tactics that Jesus used to place His hope back in God when He was downcast.

#1 He confided in some good friends. – Matthew 26:37

Matthew 26:37 says that He took, “with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee…”

#2 He was transparent with those friends – Matthew 26:38a

He shows remarkable vulnerability for a man who is the Son of God.  He turns to His two friends and says (in verse 38), “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

#3 He asked for his friends to pray with him – Matthew 26:38b

This was a man who is the standard for a perfect prayer life and yet He asked his friends to “remain here, and watch with me.”  He valued the prayers of these men and didn’t try to face His sorrow alone.

#4 He personally poured out his heart to God in prayer – Matthew 26:39a

Jesus was honest and didn’t try to hide His feelings from God.  He admitted that He was struggling against sorrow and said to God, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…”

#5 He placed his hope in God’s character – Matthew 26:39b

In the midst of His sorrow, Jesus placed His “hope in God” and trusted that God’s way is always the best way.  He said to God, “not as I will, but as you will.”

#6 He placed his hope in the future joy God promised – Hebrews 12:2

The writer of Hebrews tells us to look to Jesus as an example because He is the “founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

When something hits you out of left field and threatens to deaden all the joy in your future, remember that the first volley of Satan’s fiery darts are not sin.  The real danger is laying down on the battlefield.  When we feel downcast, discouraged, sorrowful or despondent, the Bible calls us to stand up and declare war with the weapons that God provides. 

Jesus showed us that the war against despondency is not passive and it’s not painless.  It’s active and intentional.  He encouraged us to find some trusted, godly friends and to be transparent with them.  Ask them to pray with you and for you.  Then spend time in honest prayer before God yourself.  God is good.  We can trust God’s wisdom for today and those who persevere are assured of joy forever in the future.

 

 

The War Against Despondency

| Psalm 43, Matthew 26:36-38

Main Idea: Declare war on despondency with the weapons that God provides.  Psalm 42-43

Hope in God is our first line of defense against despondency, Psalm 43, 73, 19, 23, John 8:44, 2 Corinthians 4:17

Controlling your mind is a powerful weapon against despondency – Psalm 43:5, 1 Corinthians 10:4-5

Jesus was the perfect soldier in the battle against despondency – Matthew 26:36-38, Ephesians 6:16

Application: How to fight despondency like Jesus fought it

#1 He confided in some good friends. – Matthew 26:37

#2 He was transparent with those friends – Matthew 26:38a

#3 He asked for his friends to pray with him – Matthew 26:38b

#4 He personally poured out his heart to God in prayer – Matthew 26:39a

#5 He placed his hope in God’s character – Matthew 26:39b

#6 He placed his hope in the future joy God promised – Hebrews 12:2

 

[1] https://winstonchurchill.hillsdale.edu/winston-churchill-and-the-black-dog-of-depression-by-wilfred-attenborough/

Mark Stafford

Senior Pastor

Canyon Bible Church of Verde Valley

mstafford@canyonbiblechurch.org

By | 2017-07-19T15:01:06+00:00 July 19th, 2017|Psalms, Psalms: Real Comfort from a Powerful God, Sermons|0 Comments

About the Author:

Leave A Comment