Article by: Erika Rachelle Anderson
I vividly remember what it feels like. The constant heaviness. The tasks that piled up because it was all I could do to feed, clothe, and try to be nurturing for my children.
The lack of joy.
The constant overwhelm.
I retreated into social isolation to hide my brokenness; a canopy of death hung over my soul.
There is no denying that what I was experiencing was real.
This depression could be neither a sole spiritual reality that could be prayed away nor a longitudinal neuro-chemical limp needing lifetime medication.
There had to be a middle ground.
I knew Jesus. Though I was unsure why He wouldn’t speak my freedom into existence, I knew He could proclaim a word, and the suffocating gloom would dissipate.
It is frustrating to be friends with Freedom, yet find no relief from depression.It is frustrating to be friends with Freedom, yet find no relief from depression.
I knew Psalms to be a book of grief, yet I found it to be trite.
I didn’t fully understand the power of the Psalms until my depression got so bad that they became my crutch, my guide, and my handbook.
The only way I could get through a day was to sit with that book every morning before work and every night before sleep.
Search for Peace in the Psalms
Although I didn’t stop taking the medicine that my doctor prescribed, David’s prayers worked infinitely better to quiet the dark and break forth comfort.
David’s words explained where I was and how my heart felt. They taught me how to squint through the darkness and usher in the dawn.
Minstrel of the king.
David’s couch was drenched with tears, and his nights were sleepless (Ps 6:6). He felt the cords of the grave coiled around him; he cried in distress (Ps 18:4-6).
He was lonely and alienated from his friends and family (Ps 69:8). He endlessly wrestled with his thoughts and was overcome by sorrow (Ps 13:2).
Yes, David knew the clinical feelings of depression. But somehow, in his blinding sorrow, David managed to reflect God’s character and image.Somehow, in his blinding sorrow, David managed to reflect God’s character and image.
I needed to learn that. Because if all this sorrow was supposed to be producing something beautiful in me, I was sorrowing entirely wrong.
I began analyzing the brutally honest descriptions of his felt reality that seamlessly flowed into grandiose proclamations of God’s protection and goodness.
I found patterns.
And thank goodness, I slowly began blinking into the same dawn that David found.
Cleave to God’s Goodness and Authority
David possessed an unwavering belief in God’s goodness. He clung to it. Nothing could falsify it.
God is good.
David intentionally set this truth before him all day every day.
He trained his mind to see his Father’s face through the shadows of darkness and any pattern of thought the shadowlands might have set.
“You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing…I have set the Lord always before me…” (Ps 16:2,8).
This was his choice, much as we have. We can lay under the reality of God’s goodness or allow ourselves to be smothered by the oppressive reality of darkness.We can lay under the reality of God’s goodness or allow ourselves to be smothered by the oppressive reality of darkness.
In David choosing to hold fast to the goodness of God, he claimed the Authority of all the Father’s goodness and love over his darkness.
On his own strength of mind, David did not feel better.
On medication alone, I did not feel better.
Only by cleaving to our Father—allowing his Good Authority to be bigger than all the dark—will space to breathe again open.
Connect with God to Find Joy
Though David was pre-scientific method, he observed something significant about brain chemistry.
He says, “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound” (Ps 4:7).
Even without realizing the scientific profundity of his observation, it wasn’t any less accurate.
Neuroscience has found there to be two reward pathways: one from dopamine, one from serotonin. Activating a reward pathway is the way we feel ‘happy.’
Food, shopping, alcohol, sugar, drugs, Netflix, social media—anything we can become addicted to—those all activate the dopamine pathway.
But real human connection, trust, love, sacrifice, friendship—those all activate the serotonin pathway.
Dopamine creates short-term pleasure while serotonin creates long-term contentment.
David observed that he felt more contentment from proximity to his Good Father than from the best food and wine.
Connection with God—attachment to a Good and Loving Father—neurochemically manufactures joy.David observed that he felt more contentment from proximity to his Good Father than from the best food and wine.
Accept the Coexistence of Sorrow and Contentment
David’s immediate feelings and reality were bleak; simultaneously, he acknowledged the goodness of his Father.
Darkness and light. The coexisting contours of human life.
David did not allow the presence of darkness to disprove the light. To do so would have been to deny the goodness and authority of God.
Instead, right there in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death, in the middle of the darkest dark, He found peace in God.
God does not promise that darkness will disappear. He promises a plenteous feast right in the middle of it.God does not promise that darkness will disappear. He promises a plenteous feast right in the middle of it.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Ps 23:5).
Rest and refreshment occur in the presence of darkness, not after it has passed.
Our immediate circumstance doesn’t have to change to enjoy this pocket of nourishing protection. The reality is, it often won’t.
Learn to stay at the table. Learn to fix your spiritual gaze on our Father, rather than the darkness and beady eyes beyond.
Doing so will force the crushing dark to sink back into its own shadow. It will invite calm into the chaos.
Embrace the Community of Sorrow
You are not alone in your darkness. Your sorrow is not unique. This is where your pain begins to breathe purpose.
David turned his soul-deep torment into a prayer for freedom of an entire nation (Ps 25:22). For the justice of those in distress, both physical and spiritual. For freedom now and in the future.
When I was battling depression, I wasted much sorrow by focusing on myself. Just like a papercut stings and throbs and occupies your mind all day, my pain consumed my thoughts.
Yet, when I looked up from my pain to see the hurting faces of others, I learned to pray for their deliverance as well as my own.
Actively Wait for the Dawn
David played a part in his deliverance from darkness. He was not passive; he allowed the tears that soaked his couch to be turned into a song.
He instructed both his instruments and soul to wake up. He resolutely proclaimed, “I will awaken the dawn” (Ps57:8).
David intoning the power and goodness of God caused the darkness to recoil.
When your heart hurts, singing is unthinkable. It’s ok to borrow the songs of others.
Let the strains of comfort and love flow from iTunes or YouTube into your soul until you have strength to sing on your own.
This darkness will not last forever. Your God has not forsaken you. He will restore your soul (Ps 23:3).This darkness will not last forever. Your God has not forsaken you. He will restore your soul (Ps 23:3).
You will make it through to dawn.
And until you get there, feel free to borrow this prayer.
A Christian’s Prayer in Depression
You, O Lord, are my God. You are Good. I set you ever before me, above me, behind me. I lay myself down, sheltered under your Goodness. Your Power and Authority are greater than the crushing darkness I feel. Awake my soul. Rouse my heart to sing. Be here with me in my grave. Use my sorrow to dig trenches that will flow rich with your love. And deliver from oppression those who feel the same. Thank you, Father. You are Good.
-Erika Rachelle Anderson
Erika is an elementary school teacher, recently turned stay-at-home mom. She and her husband of ten years have three beautiful girls (ages 3, 5, and 6). She writes about finding calm in the chaos, focusing on faith, parenting, and mental health at erikarachelleanderson.com. You can also connect with Erika on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.