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When My Heart is Overwhelmed

On Sundays I have begun a journey with my church family through scenes from the life of David. This means that much of my week has been spent studying the grand king of the Jews and immersing myself in the Psalms he composed. I love his adoration, confessions, Divine descriptions, desperate attestations, and his raw vulnerability. It’s admirable and encouraging that a brazen, pretty, stone-slinging teen who severed the giant’s head and slung it heavenward, could also, embarrassingly so, pen words of deep contrition and soul-wrenching woe. The warrior king, chased by his own son, will write in the 61st Psalm: When my heart is overwhelmed… And his heart was overwhelmed…frequently. This was his reality and that reality did not make him less a man after the Lord’s own heart. His confessions should encourage us to confess. His vulnerability should lead us to open up rather than to shut down.

Over the past four months I have found myself in unchartered waters. I have oft times counseled others dealing with melancholy but I have never myself wrestled through the darkness until recently. As the fractured complexities of life mount, I have felt the powerful tentacles of discouragement and depression tightening. True to the proclivity of my heart, I have raced for isolation, gravitating away from community and toward seclusion. I have witnessed my heart growing colder in service, more cynical in friendship, and more jaded than hopeful.

Maybe you too are struggling through currently. Perhaps you feel overwhelmed and the arms of depression, discouragement, or even despair have you in a strangle-hold. What I am learning personally through this season is the counsel I have given many times before: when darkness descends don’t run from the truth but rather – despite everything that screams to the contrary – run toward it. You and I need the church. We need the Word. We need the Spirit of God. We need the encouragement of friends. We need rest. We need the strength that truly only the Gospel can deliver. I am still learning to lean into these realities and I hope you are as well.

The following prayer from the puritans has soothed my soul recently and reminded me of how God works in the valleys of our days. Hopefully it will encourage and medicate your soul as well:

You have brought me to the valley of vision
Where I live in the depths but see you in the heights;
Hemmed in by the mountains of sin
I behold Your Glory
Let me learn by paradox
That the way down is the way up
That to be low is to be high
That the broken heart is the healed heart
That the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit
That the repenting soul is the victorious soul
That to have nothing is to possess all
That to bear the cross is to wear the crown
That to give is to receive
That the valley is the place of vision

Lord, in the daytime, stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter your stars shine.
Let me find your light in my darkness
Your life in my death
Your joy in my sorrow
Your grace in my sin
Your riches in my poverty
Your glory in my valley.

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock.

Semper Reformanda. 

  • Renee Gottman Middleton

    Beautifully written and well thought out. I suffer from depression and this was VERY encouraging to me. I have always said that I can relate to David. I too, love his Psalms…they help me pray. Thanks for sharing and for being REAL!
    Renee Gottman Middleton

  • Vanessa Rivera

    As someone diagnosed with bipolar type 2, ptsd, bpd and mdd, I am so glad you emphasize the importance of running to the truth and being surrounded by the church. When animals are ill and dying they crawl into isolation in the dark. Isolation can be spiritually fatal. In my sickness I have come to appreciate the chance to worship in health rather than look at the sky through hospital windows. Worshipping and hearing fellow believers rejoice soothes me. Praying your heart has softened.

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