This weekend it’s my privilege to speak at the commencement ceremony at Simpson University in Redding, California. I’ve done this before in a few different places and it’s a difficult assignment. So, I’ve been thinking, praying, and studying through this for the last few months. What to say and how to say it. . . in about 15 minutes. . . to a bunch of people who have finished four years of hard work and most likely don’t want to wait another minute to get on with their lives. . . including listening to 15 minutes of “lecture” on the last day of school! (Oh man. . . I’m depressing myself here. . . )
As I’ve been preparing to travel to Simpson, I’ve been paying special attention to articles and data that speak to the college experience in today’s world. I want to know the people I’ll be speaking to. A study released last Spring caught my eye. It seems that anxiety has now surpassed depression as the number one health concern on college campuses. Sadly, we know that anxiety and stress oftentimes lead to depression. . . which in turn can lead to suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and suicide. The realities of living our lives in a broken world can be overwhelming at times.
This morning I turned to this day’s prayer in Scotty Smith’s Everyday Prayers book. Today’s entry is titled “A Prayer About Depression In It’s Many Forms.” This prayer is powerful. It’s not just about college students. It’s about all of us and for all of us. And so, I pass it on. . .
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 43:5
Most gracious and kindhearted Father, my heart goes out and my prayers reach up today on behalf of those who struggle with various degrees of depression. There are people I deeply care about who live all along the axis of mild seasonal melancholy to the relentless pangs of suicidal depression.
Father of mercies and God of all comfort, lead me in my praying and my caring for this wide range of friends. Thank you for rescuing me from a way too simplistic view of depression by which I used to judge those who experience darkness and despair of soul. It saddens me to realize the pressure I put on people to get better… to “get over it”… and just to be happy.
But David asked the right question, Father—the question I want to ask as I seek to love well. What are the various reasons for a downcast disturbed soul, and what does hoping in you look like for each?
Father, for my friends who are depressed for no other reason than living with a grace-less gospel-less heart… keep them miserable until they rest in the finished work of your Son, Jesus. May they despair of their own unrighteousness and their wanna-be-righteousness, until they are driven to the righteousness that comes from faith in Jesus.
Father, for my friends who suffer from depression generated by anatomical anomalies, lead them to the right kind of medical care. And help us in the community of faith be patient and understanding of the complexities involved in their care. The risk of abusing “meds” is always there… give us wisdom together.
Father, for my friends who suffer from demonic induced depression… I really need humility and wisdom about this one. A part of me doesn’t even want to acknowledge this is a viable issue, but how can I read your Word and dismiss the demonic so lightly? I know his condemning… blaming and shaming voice is enough to generate the deepest forms of despair. But teach me more about the “schemes of the enemy,” and how to care for those under the spell and sway of the “defeated-yet-fury-filled” one, who knows “his time is short.” (Revelation 12:12)
I do and I will yet praise you, my Savior and my God. My hope is in you, Father—for me and for all of my broken-hearted friends. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ compassionate and victorious name.