My Help Comes From The Lord

Author’s Note: this article does not attempt to tackle the issues of depression and suicide from an 'objective', medical or counselling standpoint. I am not qualified to do this. My hope is simply that, through reflecting on what has helped me in my relationship with God while being close to those suffering from depression, it might be of help to someone else.

My Help Comes From The Lord

In Jackie's Story, she quoted Psalm 121 verses 1 and 2. In this article we will divide verse 2 into three sections as a basis for our thoughts.

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth

Feelings of dread

It is incredibly hard to watch as someone close descends into what, for them, seems to be a darkness without end. Observing for the first time, panic can arise as a downward spiral seems to be in process and all appears helplessly out of control. As bad – if not worse – is the sense of dread that seeps in as the person slides back into that darkness after a period of respite, again and again; how long will it last this time? What can I do to keep supporting? Have I got the energy to be there day after day? Help is needed daily, and we have a God who is there daily with fresh supplies: ''His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness'' (Lamentations 3:22-23). We can be assured that, with His tender love toward us, God will not and cannot fail.

Seeking distraction

In the face of watching and supporting those struggling with depression there can be the temptation to seek things to distract – to escape. In a study of those who had been bereaved by suicide, 30% reported engaging afterwards in “high risk behaviour”, nearly half of which was drug and alcohol misuse. As one respondent said, “Drinking as a coping strategy - to self-medicate and forget all that had gone on […] I would want to get so drunk to forget” (From Grief to Hope Report, pg. 27)

I “escaped” to the realm of stories – both written and film. In one sense it was harmless, and sometimes there were things within these that helped me understand my circumstances. But distractions can become just that, diverting attention from other things that need to be done. Ultimately the wise preacher of Ecclesiastes reminds us that all the good things God has given for us to enjoy, if experienced without Him at the centre, will only end in ‘’vanity [emptiness]’’ (2:1-11). Treat even legitimate opportunities for relaxation (“distractions”) with caution lest they displace our true source of “help” and perhaps become a problem in themselves.

Showing dependence

We need to recognise that we need help. Why did the all-knowing Lord ask those suffering from obvious needs what they wanted Him to do? Because in their declaration they demonstrated their understanding that they could not help themselves; they needed Him. To such, all the boundless resources of His grace and power were opened. Is it therefore any wonder that, while in His sovereignty He often gives resources without being asked, Hebrews chapter 4 verse 16 reminds us to "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need'' (emboldening added)? Resources are available, but the instruction is to ''come''.

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth 

Facing frustration

"Love suffers long and is kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4). Frustrations can be many: from seeking to give assurance about something for what feels like the millionth time; to the disruption to your plans because of the needs of another; to what can seem like a complete change in the energy and effort level of the sufferer between public and private; to fighting a seeming brick wall in trying to access specialized help. It is good to often remind oneself of the patient love of God. As I think of my own inconsistencies, insecurities, and imperfections, I am reminded of ''the God of patience and comfort'', and Paul's prayer that those who know this God ''be likeminded toward one another'' (Romans 15:5).

Fear and faith

Fears can panic us into doing things without thinking or immobilise us so we do nothing. They can range from things like concern over whether what we say will help or make things worse for our loved one, to worry over whether they will go through with their thoughts/talk of harming themselves. Thankfully, our help is in the One who says ''fear not'' so many times. How wonderful to see the supreme confidence of our Lord to help even in the face of death: to Jairus He could say, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well” (Luke 8:50), and to Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40). Too often I find myself trying to control an outcome – not just my action – and have to remember that, if we want the privilege and peace of ‘’casting all [our] care upon Him, for He cares for [us]'', then we also need to remember to ''humble [ourselves] under the mighty hand of God'' (1 Peter 5:6-7). In times when I fear the future, I have often come back to Matthew chapter 6 verse 34, ''Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." God will not give tomorrow's strength when today has not yet finished. Although it might sound cliched, I think the song writer got it right:

“Yesterday's gone, sweet Jesus

And tomorrow may never be mine
Help me today, show me the way
One day at a time.” (One day at a time, Kris Kristofferson / Marijohn Wilkin)

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth

God's Person

He is the Creator! How privileged we are to be in relationship with the One who made this amazing universe we live in. But more, He is the One who made the body, the brain and the mind, and therefore knows the intricacies and the problems of them all. Where men flounder in a sea of unknown, God is the One of whom it can be said, ''Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counsellor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?'' (Isaiah 40:13-14). It is comforting to me to know that my God, having made me, knew me ''when I was made in secret'' (Psalm 139:15), and continues to ''know my sitting down and my rising up'' and is ''acquainted with all my ways'' (Psalm 139:2-3). When we are struggling as we watch someone with depression, and words fail us to know what to ask for, this personal, creator God has given His people His Spirit who ''helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered'' (Romans 8:26). 

God's Power

The words of Annie J. Flint have been of encouragement to many:

“When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.” (He giveth more grace)

The messages, that many of us have no doubt heard time and again, reminding us that it is in the presence of God that we gain strength, are true. Isaiah’s testimony was trustworthy when he wrote, ‘’But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’’ (Isaiah 40:31). Too often I fail to realise that the lighter heart and the renewing of energy I need is found in His presence rather than in the distractions of the world.

Another well-loved passage is Romans chapter 8 verses 35-39, where Paul surveys the universe for any natural or spiritual force that can overcome God's keeping power and concludes that nothing ''shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord''. When, perhaps, it feels like the person we knew has disappeared through the hold of depression, or sadly literally gone through taking their own life, we can be assured that, when they are the Lord's, then ''no one is able to snatch them out of [His] Father’s hand'' (John 10:29).

God's perspective

When I was younger, I never appreciated the psalms! In them, however, we have a record of the struggles of godly men through the emotional turmoil of life. One of my favourites is Psalm 73, where Asaph battles with understanding the apparent unfairness of life – how we can resonate with this as we look at our own circumstances and ask why we should be the ones to have to walk this pathway. At least two things have helped me with this thought – and perhaps this is one way in which stories have been a help to me! Because it is so easy to read through the stories of characters in the Bible in just a few pages and minutes, it is easy to forget that these few pages cover many years – years of suffering; years of silence from God. Remember Joseph? Roughly one chapter covers thirteen years of his life (Genesis 39): years of separation from family, silence from God, slavery in Egypt and waiting in the prison house. We know the end of the story and the exaltation he enjoyed, so we forget how long thirteen years can feel like! In the middle of suffering let us not forget that our story is not yet finished; that sometimes it is only the end of the story that reveals the purpose; or sometimes, as in the case of Job, the purpose is not knowing the why, but the Who, behind our circumstances.

Secondly, I am encouraged by Asaph (Psalm 73:17), Paul (2 Corinthians 4:7-18), and others to remember that this life is not the focus, is not the end. That God ultimately has in view for His children a place where ''God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away'' (Revelation 21:4).

May these few reflections upon what has helped me, be a stimulus to you to come to God and His Word to find the grace to help that you need at this time (Hebrews 4:16).