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Looking Around: Antidote to Depression

Here's how to keep circumstances from overwhelming you.

Hope for Then and Now (5)

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And
why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.
O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You…
Psalm 42.5, 6

Looking around
The living hope that finds us standing in and longing for the glory of God comes from looking back, up, and ahead to our Lord Jesus Christ – all that He is, has done, is doing, and will do to bring glory to God, and us into God’s Presence.

As long as we are focused on Jesus, our hope can grow and be lively, so that it fills us with joy, courage, faith, and readiness to obey the Lord. A heart filled with the hope of God and His glory affects everything about us, so much so, Peter says, that others will not fail to see the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3.15).

The more focus on the unseen things of Christ, the more faith grows, and the evidence of faith with it (Heb.  11.1).

The problem, of course, is that it can be difficult to continue focusing on unseen things, like Jesus exalted in glory, or His Kingdom-advancing work in the world. Too often what happens is, like Peter, walking on the water, we become distracted by things that seem new and unfamiliar, or that threaten us in some way, and we take our eyes off Jesus and focus our hope on circumstances and conditions. As we look around at our world and our circumstances in it, we realize, if only at the unconscious level, that we cannot control our circumstances; we are not sufficient for everything that comes at us every day; and we are therefore always at the point of losing our hope, our joy, and our peace.

That’s when we start to feel downcast or even depressed. Instead of looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12.1, 2), we look to our circumstances, and our own limited resources, and we conclude that, well, we’re not going to make it. Or at least, we’re not going to be as happy and fulfilled as we’d hoped, given the uncertainty of our circumstances.

Soul check
Whenever you begin to feel “cast down” in your soul – your heart sinks, you can only think dark and negative thoughts, and you feel like your inner person is shutting down – it’s because you’ve lost your focus. You have let your concentration drift from our unchanging, indestructible King, to your changeable, uncertain, and potentially threatening circumstances. Instead of being buoyed by the strong weight of glory, emanating from the face of Jesus, your soul sinks under the weight of uncertainty, deriving from your circumstances.

What do you do then?

Follow the counsel of the psalmists: “Hope in God!” The reason you are feeling cast down in your soul is that as you look around at your life and all the uncertainties and disagreeable conditions of it, you have not continued looking up and ahead at the Lord. The antidote to your rising depression is to renew your hope in the Lord. Only then will your looking around take on its proper aspect of hope and rejoicing.

Getting back to hope
So how can you do that? The sons of Korah, who wrote Psalm 42, can guide us here. First, you need to recognize that you’re out of focus, and, if necessary, chastise yourself for allowing your focus to drift (v. 5). It doesn’t really matter why your soul is cast down. Whatever may be threatening your peace or obscuring your living hope, it’s neither stronger nor greater nor more durable than Jesus. It has simply diverted your attention from Him for now, and the first step to getting back on track is to acknowledge that by confessing your sin and turning back to the Lord.

We need to walk circumspectly, it’s true – paying careful attention to all that’s going on around us and all that requires of us (Eph. 5.15-17). But we’ll only succeed in redeeming our present moments if we continue looking up to the Lord to renew our hope and continue in His will.

The quickest way to renew your hope in God is to begin praising Him (v. 5). Here there is a distinct advantage to being familiar with the psalms of praise to God, for you can call them to mind, or otherwise resort to them, to enumerate the many excellent virtues and magnificent powers of our Lord. To pray or sing through a psalm like Psalm 103, Psalm 104, or Psalm 136, can bring your focus back to the Lord with renewed vigor. Give praise to God for all the ways He is making Himself known to you in your immediate environment – creation, food, clothes, work, tools, home, family, resources: all these are good gifts from our good God, and by praising Him for them, you remind yourself of His greatness, goodness, constant care, and love.

Third, call out to God to let His face shine upon you again (v. 5). There is help to be found in seeing the face of our Lord, like John did in Revelation 1. Focusing on the glory that is to be found in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ – His penetrating eyes, steady and loving gaze, truthful and grace-laced mouth, holy visage, and thorn-scarred brow – can renew your living hope, because it focuses you on the very Source of that hope (2 Cor. 4.6). As we mentioned previously, everyone holds some vision of Jesus in mind. The more you concentrate on Him, and allow Scripture to flesh out that vision more clearly, the more your hope will revive, and with it, the joy of your salvation.

Finally, recall the ways God has blessed and been good to you – and to all His people – in times past (v. 6). Remember especially His great work of redemption in Jesus Christ. Sing the Gospel to yourself. Use a psalm to review your own salvation. List the many ways God has blessed and cared for His people in the past, and for you as one of His people, then praise Him for being the God Who never changes and Who will never fail us nor forsake us.

Your circumstances may not change as you turn from them to hope in God, but as you are renewed in your living hope, they won’t matter. At least, they won’t matter as much as they did, because you will have the focus of your heart renewed on the living hope of the glory of God, and you’ll be able to say, no matter how disagreeable or uncertain your circumstances, “It is well with my soul.”

It’s up to you to take this refocusing step toward a well-kept heart and a strong soul. Will you do so?

For reflection
1.  What kinds of things typically tend to cause you to get a little “down”? Why?

2.  Meditate on Hebrews 12.1, 2. How did Jesus deal with the adverse circumstances of the cross? How does the writer counsel us to “run our race” with all its difficulties and diversions? How can we do that?

3.  How can Christians encourage one another to hope in God whenever we’re feeling a bit low?

Next steps – Transformation: Recall our teaching on giving thanks in everything. Can you see now why mastering the discipline of thanksgiving helps us in nurturing right affections, such as hope? What can you give thanks for right now?

T. M. Moore

Focusing on Jesus
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.

How can we increase in the knowledge of God and the living hope of His glory? Our book, To Know Him, can help you become more focused and active in seeking the knowledge of the Lord. Order your free copy by clicking here. You can see Jesus more clearly by understanding what He’s doing in heaven at the right hand of God. Our book, What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth?, can help you to focus more clearly on our living hope. Order your free copy by clicking here.

Thanks for your prayers and support
If you find ReVision helpful in your walk with the Lord, please seek the Lord, asking Him whether you should contribute to the support of this ministry with your financial gifts. As the Lord leads, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

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