I have friends in Slovenia who are missionaries and they had something truly sad to report about their church. They said they have begun to meet again after being shut in from the virus but some of their church members have contacted them and said they would not be attending services because they were feeling too sad. They were either too depressed and discouraged to attend or were not ready to go out into the world again just yet. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 42, their soul is “cast down.”My guess is that this is just one example of many. COVID has taken a tole on many people financially, mentally and spiritually.
Here in Ozark, Missouri Spring 2020 has not only had us shut in for weeks at a time but it has been unusually rainy this year. The shelter in place order and this long introduction to Spring may have you feeling cast down in your soul as well. If you can relate to this I just want you to know I’m right there with you, this has been a struggle at times for me too.
In Psalms 42 and 43 David talks about a time when he felt this way too. He has a one sided conversation with his soul where he asks “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?” He feels like he is in a drought, panting for God like a dear pants for water. Then it takes a troubling turn as he goes from drought to feeling like he is drowning. It can happen quickly. A bad day turns in to a bad week, then weeks pass with no improvement.
At this point it feels like there is little we can do about it. We are victims to this crummy mood and we just have to wait it out. Worse yet we might not want to fight to get out of it, because isn’t it just easier to wallow? The truth is there are always choices to be made no matter how small or how intense our blues may be. We can choose to fall further down that spiral of depression or we can choose to fight one step at a time to climb back up.
Step one: Hope in God
One step we can take is to put our hope in God. If our soul is cast down the temptation is to look at our circumstances or even within ourselves to make sense of what’s going on. God is the only anchor we have when it comes to what we place our hope in. We can do this by taking our eyes off of ourselves and put our focus on God. I find it helps to meditate on an attribute of God, or who God is. One verse I love is 1 John 4:8. It simply lets me know that “God is love.” It can be that easy! Take my focus off of my circumstance, off of myself and focus on God’s love.
Step two: Choose Gratitude
Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth has a great book called Choosing Gratitude. Why do we have to choose it? Because when we are cast down our thoughts don’t naturally go there. If we are cast down because of depression, an illness, or isolation we will be tempted to see all that is wrong with our circumstance and with the world. We have to actually look for things through out the day and think grateful and thankful thoughts on purpose. It’s a chore sometimes, but I promise you the chore will turn into a huge blessing if you are diligent in choosing to do it.
Step three: Don’t quit your quiet time
I have noticed a pattern in my life. When ever I feel down, my quiet time suffers. It’s kind of crazy because these are probably the times I need it the most. If we choose to neglect the nourishment that communing with God provides we will just slide further down into our depressed state of mind. I have found that accountability with close friends helps a lot. I check in everyday that I do my devotions with a small group of friends so they know if I have done them or not each day. Another thing that helps when I struggle with my quiet time is to ask my husband or one of my teenagers to read something to me. There are also times where I listen to a sermon or my Bible app for my devotions on days I feel cast down. Some days my only prayer is “Help!”but my encouragement to you is keep going as best as you can during this time.
Step four: Encourage someone else
I love the saying “if your sad, bake a cake for someone”. Have you ever done that before? If you have you know why this is sound advice. Encouraging others not only lifts them up but it lifts us up as well.
Paul writes: In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’Acts 20:35
If your soul is cast down, ask yourself this question: How have I encouraged someone else today? I know how hard it is to want to do something for some one else when you feel like you have so little to give, but it doesn’t have to be big. Today start with one small loving deed for a friend, family member or even a stranger. Try to do something you would not normally do that you know they would appreciate. Then keep this mindset going through out the week.
Keep going one step at a time
This morning I was at my gym and saw one of our sweet senior ladies walking around the track. She was going extremely slow and fighting for each step. But she was there! She wasn’t home on her couch giving up. The image was so inspiring to start my day with. I want to encourage you that no matter where you are on that scale of feeling blue, you can choose to fight this. Just take one step today ,then another tomorrow and then keep going! Have hope in God and choose to think about the gifts He gives you each day. Spend time communing with God each day as your source of strength so that you can then go on to encourage someone else who so desperately needs it. Hang in there and take it one step at a time.