It’s Okay to Struggle

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you…” Psalm 42:5-6

I’ve been reading through a book called Breathe: 40 Days of Prayer In the Psalms with my Grace Group, and as I was reading Psalm 42 the words flowed like a melody in my mind until I could picture David intently singing these words to the Lord as he struggles with feeling downcast.  All throughout the Psalms we see David pouring his emotions out to God like this; we see him in deep depression, we see him in desperate trouble fleeing enemies, and we see him as he struggles with the guilt of his own sin.  We also see him when he is full of joy, singing praises to God.  The beautiful thing is that David is often working through multiple feelings throughout the same chapter!  Here are some truths I take away from this:

It’s okay to struggle.  David was called a man after God’s own heart. He definitely wasn’t a perfect person, but he knew that regardless of his sin or his feelings, God was unchanging.  He would cry out to God “How long?” and beg for deliverance, but then he would acknowledge that the Lord heard him.  He was honest about his struggles, but he always followed it up with trusting God: “The LORD has heard my plea. The LORD accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:9 ).

David’s example shows us how to be honest about our struggles and feelings while also trusting God regardless of them:  “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation” (Psalm 13:6).

Remembering what God has done for us in the past can encourage us when our present circumstances are hard.  Every time David struggled, trusted, and overcame he had one more memory of God rescuing him.  We often see David reminding himself of what God had done for him in the past to encourage himself that God would do it again. I love journaling, and I have a shelf of my journals filled with detailed prayers and notes that cover the past 15 years of my life.  I’ve found the number one benefit of journaling is being able to go back and read how the Lord has helped or blessed me in the past, especially when I’m feeling depressed or struggling in some way.  I can see His comfort and support through deaths, relationship struggles, financial difficulties, physical hardships, and emotional distress. Rereading my journals gives me hope that God will bring me through any current struggles I am facing in the same way He has in the past.

God is always worthy of our praise. Regardless of our feelings or circumstances, God is with us, and He still created everything around us.  The beauty of nature should bring us hope and remind us that He is still active and moving!  He gives us every day, every breath, and every relationship we currently have, and the existence of these things are daily reminders that He has not forgotten us.  Every single time David complains or worries to God, he also voices thanksgiving, trust, and awe at what the Lord has done.  “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1).

Praising God through hard times can help put our problems into focus and shift our perspective.  God is big and doing big things beyond us, but we are still important to Him.

NOTHING can separate us from God.  When David committed adultery and had Bathsheba’s husband sent into battle to die, he turned to God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51). When he struggled with feeling alone and depressed, he turned to God, “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!” (Psalm 43:3).  David trusted that the Lord would renew a right spirit in him after he sinned, and he trusted that the Lord would shine light into his downcast spirit.  No matter what, David was continuously crying out to God with a trusting spirit because that is what a man after God’s own heart does.  Imperfection, sin, and depression do not separate us from God; even feeling distant from God does not separate us from Him.  God doesn’t want us to be perfect, He just wants us to trust Him and glorify Him.  David shows us how to keep our eyes on God through all of life’s ups and downs. 

“I lift my eyes up to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (Psalm 121).

- Miranda Madsen