My parents in-law are going through tough times with weakness because of chemotherapy and confusion because of dementia. We can all experience such internal problems, which can be physical or mental. After all, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:33NIV).
Twelve of the psalms are prayers for God’s help for illness or depression (See Appendix; Ps 6, 13, 16, 30, 38, 41, 42, 43, 71, 88, 102, 116). In these lament psalms the psalmist brings their problems to God. But most of them (83%) end with praise to God. For example, Psalm 13 describes David’s suffering:
1How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts [he was depressed]
and day after day have sorrow in my heart [soul, spirit]?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes [restore me], or I will sleep in death [he feared death],
4 and my enemy [perhaps Saul] will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
He feels as though God is distant, that God has forgotten him, and that God is inactive in not punishing evil. And he suffered the constant humiliation of being on the losing side. But it ends with David’s joy as he anticipates God’s love and deliverance:
5But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for He has been good to me.
He is confident in God’s protection because of his past experience that God has been good to him. He feels assured that the prayer will be or has been heard.
How do we respond to personal problems? Let’s be like David and not be ruled by our personal circumstances. He was a man of prayer and praise who remembered God’s love and God’s deliverance. When we look to God to help us see beyond our troubles, they won’t dominate our perspective. Then our personal circumstances won’t stop us remembering what God has done or stop us praising God. And our feelings won’t stop us remembering what God has done or stop us praising God. So let’s remember God’s love and God’s salvation in all situations.
The Jews had to travel to Jerusalem three times a year for corporate praise and worship (Ex. 23:14-17; Dt. 16:16-17). We don’t have to travel that far, but the pattern set for corporate praise and worship in the New Testament for the Christian church is weekly. Let’s attend church regularly so we can offer praise and worship to God together and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. And don’t stay away because of our feelings or personal problems. It’s only through God that we can see these in proper perspective.
Appendix: Twelve Psalms on God’s help for illness or depression
Psalm 6 Double trouble – Illness and enemies
David was weak and in agony due to illness. He prays for deliverance.
Ends with confidence that his prayer has been heard (v.8-10).
Psalm 13 How long will I suffer?
David was depressed. He prays for deliverance.
Because he anticipated deliverance, he finishes with an expression of confidence that he will be delivered (v.5-6).
Psalm 16 Trust in God when facing death
David continues to trust God when facing death.
Finishes with joy (v.9-11).
Psalm 30 A song of healing
A song for the dedication of the temple. David prays and praises for healing.
Finishes with praise (v.11-12).
“You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever. (v.11-12)
Psalm 38 Prayer for deliverance from illness and enemies
David prays for deliverance from serious illness. Has no positive statements.
Psalm 41 Prayer for deliverance from illness
David prays for deliverance from illness.
Finishes with a doxology (v.13).
Psalm 42 Prayer and praise for the downcast
By the Sons of Korah.
Prays for deliverance from depression.
Ends in praise (v.11b).
Psalm 43 Prayer and praise for the downcast
Prays for deliverance from depression.
Ends in praise (v.5b).
Psalm 71 Prayer for help in old age
Prayer for help in old age.
Ends in praise v.22-24).
Psalm 88 Prayer for deliverance from constant suffering
Prayer for deliverance from constant suffering, near death. “Lord, you are the one who saves me” is the only positive statement (v.1).
Psalm 102 The prayer of one dying in the prime of life
Author afflicted and weak.
The prayer of one dying in the prime of life.
Gives reasons to praise the Lord (v. 25-27).
Psalm 116 Praise for deliverance from death
Prayer for deliverance from death.
Ends in praise (v.12-19).
83% (10/12) of these psalms end with confidence in God (praise or joy) and assurance that the prayer will be or has been heard. The remaining 17% (2/12) lacked any such confidence and assurance.
Written, January 2019