Why Depression is so Rampant

April 2, 2014

Psalm 102

Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry for speedy help come unto Thee;
When I am faint and in distress, O do not hide Your face from me.

Hear when I call to You, that day an answer speedily return:
My days, like smoke, consume away; my bones, like glowing embers burn.

My heart is wounded, very sore; and withered, like the grass unfed;
I have forgetful grown, therefore, to take and eat my daily bread.

By reason of distress within, and voice of my most grievous groans,
My life’s consumed, what’s left of skin is parched and cleaves unto my bones.

I’m like the bird in wilderness, the owl in desert ruins bare;
I lie awake, like bird’s distress, upon the roof, so lonely there.

And all day long, I’m made a scorn, reproached by my malicious foes;
They have against me a curse sworn, the men against me that arose.

For I eat ashes as my bread, and mingle drink with tears all day;
Because of Your wrath, I’m as dead; You lift me up, cast me away.

My days are like an evening shade, like shadows which do swiftly pass;
And I am withered all away, much like unto the fading grass.

But You, O Lord, do still endure, enthroned forever shall You be;
And to all generations sure, Your mem’ry and renown shall be.

You will arise, compassion show; to Zion mercy You’ll extend;
Her time for favor she will know; her waiting has come to an end.

Your saints take pleasure in her stones; her very dust to them is dear.
All nations and all kingly thrones on earth Your glorious name shall fear.

God, in His glory shall appear, when Zion He builds and repairs.
He will regard and lend his ear, unto the needy’s humble prayers.

The needy’s plea, He will not scorn; For future ones do this record:
That generations yet unborn may praise and magnify the Lord.

He from His holy place looked down; the earth He viewed from heav’n on high;
To hear the prisoners’ groaning sound, and free them that are doomed to die.

So Zion, and Jerus’lem too, His name and praise may well record;
When people and the kingdoms do assemble all to praise the Lord.

My strength He weakened in the way, and He cut short my length of days;
I said, “My God, take not away my life in midst of all my days.”

Your years throughout all ages last; in the beginning, Lord, You laid
the earth’s foundation firm and fast; Your mighty hands the heavens made.

They all will perish, but not You; You shall forevermore endure;
Like garments You will change them too; they’ll be discarded, worn no more.

But You remain the same, and live; Your endless years will never end;
Your servants, and the seed You give, will be established to the end.


He’s at it again. Another bad day. Our singer finds himself back in the depths of despair. . . again. But again we must note his medication of choice: Lament.

SIDEBAR: Now that’s not a veiled knock on anti-depressants, which are very helpful in many cases. Sometimes the inner chemistry of a person can be so confounded that it takes a chemical intervention to get them to a stable enough place where they can lament. As a wise pastor once told me, medication will not solve your problems but it can help you fight your battles. SIDEBAR OVER.

In a world that values the pursuit of happiness above all else, (and who misdefines happiness in every conceivable way) lament is a non-value. It is impossible to overestimate how much this “pursuit of happiness” shapes everything about us. The standard greeting of the day, “How are you doing?” is met with the standard answer, “Fine.” (I once heard that defined as an acronym for Frustrated, Insecure, Nervous and Exhausted!)

I am becoming convinced that depression is so rampant precisely because lament is so repressed. Think about it. Years and years of life’s ordinary disappointments, woundings, broken relationships, lost opportunities, sinful mistakes, grievous losses, deaths, and on we could go– UN-LAMENTED, HELD INSIDE, SLOWLY REPRESSED AND EXILED TO THE SIBERIAN WASTELAND OF OUR SOUL– it’s enough to permanently alter the internal brain chemistry of a person. This is what causes so much depression.

Consider this. A full one third of all of the 150 Psalms (by my count 58) are songs of lament. It strikes me that we should “normalize” that about one third of our life is going to be a disappointing mess that many times cannot be resolved: only lamented. Might it be a revolutionary strategy to re-set our expectations in light of this and to learn how to lament? Think about how this might impact the other two thirds of our lives. It strikes me as another example of the counterintuitive logic of the Cross. The way of death and resurrection. . . endings and beginnings.

In closing, let me once again point you to where the singer winds up in Song #102– the victory of God. I can hear Freddy Mercury warming up. . . . “And we’ll keep on fighting to the end. . . . .”

As a Lenten practice, try singing the Psalm. After all, they were written to be sung. We’ll even provide you the musical accompaniment. CLICK HERE.

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at

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