A glimpse into the pain of depression, from Psalm 142

Have you ever wondered if you have depression? Perhaps you’re positive of it, and have been struggling for a long time. 

Depression is a very common mental illness in today’s world, with great treatments available. For folks who have never experienced depression, it can be difficult to imagine the pain – physical, emotional, and mental pain – that can feel so overwhelming. 

We see a clear and helpful picture of depression right in the pages of Scripture. 

Psalm 142 was written while David was hiding in a cave. He was alone, scared, trapped. This is not a claim that David had the modern-day diagnosis of major depressive disorder, but rather that this psalm paints a clear picture of that diagnosis – and of our way out. 

The full psalm is at the bottom of this post, but let us zoom in on a few key elements of depression from David’s own words.

  • “my spirit grows faint within me”
  • “no one is concerned for me… no one cares for my life” 
  • “I am in desperate need”
  • “rescue me”
  • “set me free from my prison”

This is how depression feels. We believe these things are true (no one care for me…) and we feel trapped, weak, and hopeless. 

But look at how David responds to these overwhelming feelings! Every single verse highlights his reliance on the Lord God Almighty. “I cry aloud to the Lord” starts the psalm. He acknowledges God watches over his way (v3). He expects that God is listening (v2) and looking (v4) at what is happening to him. And He gives praise to God, expectant of his faithfulness and his response to this pain. 

Whether you know someone with depression, struggle with it yourself, wonder about it, or simply want to love your neighbor well as Jesus commands us, take time to meditate and reflect on Psalm 142 below. Can you imagine this pain? Can you trust the Holy Lord to rescue you?

I cry aloud to the Lord;
    I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint;
    before him I tell my trouble.
When my spirit grows faint within me,
    it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
    people have hidden a snare for me.
Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
    no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
    no one cares for my life.
I cry to you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my refuge,
    my portion in the land of the living.”
Listen to my cry,
    for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
    for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
    that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
    because of your goodness to me.

Psalm 142 (NIV)