A Look at Depression: Naomi

The darkness of grief and depression can smother out the light of any hope and faith we may have.

The story of Naomi and her grief and depression is found in the book of Ruth. Naomi was the wife of a man named Elimilech. Naomi and Elimilech had two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. This family lived in Bethlehem until a famine came to the land and they moved to Moab. There in Moab, the two sons married Moabite women. Mahlon married Ruth and Kilion married Orpah. In the years that followed first Naomi’s husband, Elimilech, died and then Naomi’s sons also died.

Imagine the sorrow in Naomi’s heart losing her husband and sons, and still being in a foreign country. Naomi and her daughters-in-laws lost their providers and protectors. They were suddenly vulnerable with no person to stand up for them or take care of them. Or so it seems when your faith has faded and you see no reason for hope. Naomi only knew bitterness in her heart and the hopelessness of an unknown future.

Naomi came to believe that the Lord was punishing her and blames Him for her sorrow. She grew very bitter. With nowhere else to turn she decided that she would go back to her home country. She was prepared to do the trip alone, but her daughter-in-law Ruth offered to go with. Naomi refused, but Ruth was insistent.

Reading this account of Naomi’s life made me realize how she totally missed the reality of the grief her daughters-in-law must be experiencing. She could only see and feel her own pain.

Yet, Ruth still wanted to go with Naomi, despite Naomi’s bitter attitude. And so the two women returned to Naomi’s home country and were greeted by the local women. Naomi told them not to call her by her name which means “pleasant” but instead to call her Mara which means “bitter.”

Naomi was very depressed. She couldn’t see anything but the darkness, she couldn’t feel anything but the pain within and only responded with blame towards the Lord.

Grief can bring despair and depression, and Naomi had a lot to grieve about, first losing her husband and then her two sons.

When we suffer pain and loss in life it is easy to feel tempted to blame God. It is common to question Him and ask “why.” We often don’t understand His purpose in allowing such deep sorrow in our lives.

My depression stemmed from sorrow that I had buried when I was young. The grief within was hidden away for many years until it was triggered by a friend losing her mom. Then my buried grief spilled out in endless tears and my deep depression became apparent.

The pain of loss, whether it is that of a husband, child, parent, grandparent, or close friend, can be devastating. When your heart is attached to a loved one, the separation of death feels unbearable.

I was able to work through my grief all those years later in therapy. I said goodbye and let the pain spill out for my loss. I also worked through the many issues that the loss had brought about.

My heart wanted the need for the one I lost to be filled with the nurturing love that had been taken away by death. I wanted it to be done my way. But God… yes, He had a different, better plan for me. And that was true for Naomi as well. The Lord brought a man named Boaz into Ruth’s life as she tried to get food for her and Naomi. Boaz ended up marrying Ruth and together they had a child. The Lord blessed them with new hope and new life.

The darkness of grief and depression can smother any hope and faith we may have. We just can’t see how anything good is possible in the midst of the pain. We lose sight of the Lord, the God of the impossible. But He can bring hope, He can heal our hearts and nurture us in our neediness.

Oh, I know the pain is not erased. But the Lord works in and through our pain to help us know Him and His love in greater and deeper ways.

Naomi learned of the Lord’s faithfulness. The Lord supplied her with a “kinsman”. He blessed Boaz and Ruth with a son, and so Naomi had a grandson. It is from this grandson, Obed, that the Messiah would come.

“Kinsman” in these verses of Ruth, is the Hebrew word  “goel” from the root word meaning “to redeem.” “The “goel” among the Hebrews was the nearest male blood relation alive… If anyone from poverty was unable to redeem his inheritance it was the duty of the kinsman to redeem it” (Bible Study Tools).

The Lord gave Ruth and Naomi someone to redeem their inheritance. And through the birth of Obed, God has given us a Redeemer also. Jesus has redeemed our inheritance, in Him we have eternal life and everlasting hope.

Grief and depression affect many of us during the course of our lives, but in Christ there is help and hope. We only have to turn to Him. And as Sheila Walsh says, we only need to pray to Him, to call to Him out of the “cellar of our souls” and tell Him all that we feel. He will hear us and meet us there. He will bring hope and light in the darkness. If you are going through grief and depression, I pray that you find hope in Him.

 

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A Look at Depression; The Psalmist

Have you been in the depths of depression? Are you dealing with it now? You are not alone.

This month I want to look at the topic of depression, particularly depression in men and women in the Bible. Each post will be centered around one person, this week we will focus on the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 42. Many scholars believe that this may have been David, but they are not sure.

We can get a clear picture of the author’s pain by looking at some of the key verses in this Psalm.

  • verse 3 “Day and night I lived on my tears, taunted all day with “where is your God?”
  • verse 4a “My soul is melting with secret sorrow…”
  • verse 5a “Why art thou downcast O my soul? Why so despairing?”
  • verse 9 “Why hast thou forgotten me? Why must I mourn as foes oppress me?”

Reading through these verses give us a good overview of how the Psalmist is feeling. I know depression in a very visceral way. I lived with it for ten months a number of years ago. I cried for hours, felt incredible hopelessness and despair, I lived with dread, lost my appetite, and slept away much of each day.

So I hear the author clearly here in Psalm 42 when he speaks of his soul melting in secret sorrow, feeling downcast, feeling despair, living on his tears, feeling forgotten, and just feeling alone. It is overwhelming beyond description.

My depression probably came on gradually but in my busyness I pushed it away until it slammed me down hard. I did the things I needed to do.

  • I took medication (which took months to find the right one).
  • I went to counselling for help to get to the bottom of what was going on inside.
  • I wrote endlessly in my journal to get my feelings and thoughts out.
  • I stayed in God’s Word, mostly reading the parts where the authors shared their pain.

But I also did things that were not helpful.

  • I isolated myself by locking myself in a room.
  • I pushed people away.
  • I tried to think of ways to escape the emotional pain (wanting to be numb or dead).
  • I held my feelings of anger in until I exploded.

Psalm 42 informs us that the author was isolated and not able to worship in the temple as he previously had. He was being taunted about the seeming powerlessness and absence of his God. He felt abandoned by the Lord and oppressed by his foes. He felt hopelessness but wisely he did not bury his feelings. He turned his feelings into a prayer of desperation to the One he knew could help him. He felt discarded, he mourned, but in that he knew his need for the Lord.

I knew my need for the Lord in my depression also, but I wanted Him to show up by answering the cry of the neediness in my heart my way.  I looked for and waited for God to do it my way, but God chose not to do it my way. He had a perfect plan. I remained stuck in my stubborn place like the Israelites in the wilderness.

The Psalmist cried out to be able to come to worship as he had before, he cried for the Lord to quiet the taunting and stop the oppression. He thirsted for God in the midst of his despair.

I thirsted for what I thought I needed alongside of needing God. But God knew that I only needed Him. He knew best, despite my cries to have it my way. He showed me the truth of my situation, He helped me see myself.

I, too, was oppressed, I was weighed down and crushed by the unfulfilled needs and sorrow that had long ago been buried. I was taunted by the cries within; the cries that lied about who I was and blinded me to God’s perfect love. I was tortured by the memory feelings that ripped my heart apart with their painful stabs.

When at last I saw the truth about me, and finally chose to stop seeking help my way. I realized how much I needed to fully depend on the Lord. I repented and in my repentance healing began.

Jehovah Rapha is the Great Physician. He heard my cry for Him to do it His way at last, and He healed me. He didn’t just heal me, as if that wasn’t enough, He drew me to deep intimacy with Him in the process.

The Psalmist had it right. He knew his need was God and he thirsted for Him. He sought after quenching from God alone He recognized his depression and asked himself what was wrong. He talked with the Lord about it.

The Psalmist told himself to wait for God. He knew that God alone was his help. It was the Psalmist’s desire to be praising the Lord again.

Depression is very painful and debilitating but in that dark place we can make a choice to seek the Lord, to repent of known sin, and to pray for healing in His way. He is ever faithful and in His perfect way He satisfies our hearts and souls.

If you are going through depression, seek the Lord. Tell Him your pain, and ask Him in a heartfelt prayer for the help you need. He will meet you in the pain and bring you through.

Next week we will look at the depression Elijah suffered, the fear he dealt with, and the exhaustion that overwhelmed him. We will see how the Lord worked in Elijah’s depression and glean wisdom from his experiences.

It is easy to look at the men and women in the Bible thinking that they are superhuman, and beyond what we have to go through, but as we look closely their weaknesses and neediness becomes real. It is in the dark depths of pain, need, and sorrow where we see the strength of the Lord lift them up and help them go on. We can depend on Him to do the same for us today. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.