The Cave of Depression

Text: Psalm 142:1-7, 1 John 5:1-5

“When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!” —Psalm 142:3

At 15-years old, I found myself in a cave of utter depression. The feelings of helplessness and purposelessness caused me to lose all hope, as I inevitably became a prisoner of impulse. I came to a place where I didn’t want to live any longer. A desperate suicide attempt left me in a Baltimore intensive care unit for many days. I survived, undoubtedly, only by the mercy of God—and even though I found a new hope in Christ a year later while locked up in a juvenile center, the depression didn’t go away over night. I battled with it for many years.

Many who wrestle with depression often feel alone in their struggle. I certainly did. More than three decades later, I’ve often thought of what I would say if I were to write a letter to that suicidal 15-year old self. What might I say? Would it be received? Could I convince that hurting and despairing kid that there truly is a “living hope” and that overcoming stories are REAL? (1 Peter 1:3, 1 John 5:4-5)

I can’t say for sure, but one thing I do know: if it were not for the grace of God, I would’ve never lived to see so many redemption stories in my life—including marrying an amazing woman and fathering three children who flood my heart with pride and joy every day. We have heard countless testimonies of readers who have found healing and renewed hope from my book, 13 Foot Coffins, as well as stories of young people who have overcome unimaginable despair through the ministry of Breakaway Outreach.

One of the aspects of the Bible that has always comforted me is the fact that it is filled not only with the overcoming narrative, but also with the transparency of the struggle.

Joseph was unjustly imprisoned before becoming second in command over Egypt. He appeared to be forgotten for a season. Moses was in an obscure desert place for forty years before leading Israel out of slavery. Rahab was stuck in a dignity-robbing prostitution ring before finding her redemptive place in Christ’s genealogy. Jeremiah had a lonely pit. Daniel was surrounded by flesh-eating lions. Esther dealt with the trauma of being orphaned before she became a saving queen. Even Jesus had his wilderness to overcome.

In Psalm 142, David is in a cave. A narcissistic madman is hunting his life. Like the spiritual enemy of every child of God, this dignity-thief has come to steal, kill, and destroy. David is lonely—“there is none who takes notice of me… no one cares for my soul” (v.4). He feels cornered and powerless. His spirit faints. He is separated from every form of dependence, until all that is left is God himself. He is broken down in order to be built up. The cave is not the end for David, it’s just part of the process—a few years later he will be dancing immodestly and unembarrassingly in the streets of Jerusalem, celebrating all that God has done to redeem this story and establish his kingdom. (2 Samuel 6:12-15)

David’s vulnerability in the cave reminds us that the struggle is real, but that’s what makes his dancing so special. He doesn’t dance that way if you take the cave out of the story. God must’ve seemed idle to David while he was in the cave. The silence alone was vexing. But the story didn’t end there. Neither does yours!

A celebration is coming, my friend. A victory is looming. It is inevitable! The struggle is real, but so is the overcoming life. Through Christ’s redemption, we will all one day be able to sing, “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.” (Psalm 30:11)

PRAYER

God, help us to be reminded that you have never—ever—left any of your children in the cave. You’ve never abandoned your own. Remind us that our dance is surely coming—and it will be glorious and shameless in your presence. For you will deal bountifully with your children. This I believe, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. How would you describe some of the cave experiences in your life?
  2. What would you say is the main theme of David’s prayer? (Psalm 142)
  3. How did David feel about his own ability to save himself? (v.6)
  4. How did David promise to respond to God’s deliverance? (v.7)
  5. In what specific areas of your life could you depend on the Lord more?

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