“Though I walk in the valley of deep shadow,
I fear no harm,
For you are with me […]”
There are periods in life which may be likened to dark valleys.
Perhaps we are depressed or experiencing high levels of anxiety.
In another Psalm, David wrote:
“Turn your face to me and show me favor,
For I am alone and helpless.
The distresses of my heart have multiplied;
Free me from my anguish,” (Ps. 25:16, 17).
How, then, does Jehovah God present himself at my side when I feel alone and anxious?
In the next verse, the writer prays: “Pardon all my sins,” making a connection between the sins and his affliction (Ps. 25:18).
One of the ways Jehovah draws close is by forgiving.
But in order to appreciate His pardon I must have the right motives.
“For the sake of your name,
Forgive my error,
though it is great,” (Ps. 25:11).
True repentance involves recognizing that the most important thing at stake is not how I feel, but Jehovah’s name with everything it represents, including mercy.
To have that point of view, I must first cultivate a healthy fear of God and humility to let myself accept His guidance (Ps. 25:12).
At that point, I will no longer fear alone or anxious because God’s “rod and staff” will have reassured me, making the darkness bearable (Ps. 23:4).
“My adversary pierces me with his eyes.”
In his struggle to keep faithful, Job erroneously reasoned that Jehovah was the one testing his faith, and that God had made him a living target (Job 16:12).
The Bible clearly states, however, that “the eyes of Jehovah are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him,” (2 Chron. 16:9).
So if we ever feel like God is ‘piercing us with His eyes’ because of a bitter situation we are living through, let us remember that God actually looks at us through the eyes of love (Rom. 5:8).
Amidst all his anguish, Job continued to put all his faith in his heavenly Father:
Even now, my witness is in the heavens; The one who can testify for me is in the heights, (Job 16:19).
Whatever trial we may be undergoing, let us face it with the confidence that ‘God is not unrighteous so as to forget our work and the love we show for his name,’ (Heb. 6:10; Gal. 6:9).
“[…] You keep counting my every step; You watch only for my sin.”
When Job suffered depression, he thought God would focus on his past mistakes, like humans erroneously do.
While it is true that God does not deceive Himself and ignore our sins entirely, he does not dwell on the past when we are willing to repent (Ps. 130:3; 139:3).
Therefore, we should not assume Jehovah is drawing away from us because of mistakes we have asked him to forgive (Jas. 4:8).
Sometimes people close to us make us feel unwanted, useless and that we are in their way.
They might take advantage of our affection and take out their frustration on us.
People who are depressed are more likely to be victims of this, as they are more vulnerable and less likely to defend themselves.
Job apparently thought Jehovah would victimize him in this way.
He accused Jehovah of holding on to his transgressions, as if He had ‘sealed them up in a bag’ or ‘with glue,’ (Job 14:17).
How wonderful it is to understand that God is not really like that, but his kindness surpasses that we could expect of any human (Ps. 103:8,14; Isa. 55:6-9).
In effect, Jehovah focuses on us to find what is good, appreciating what we have to offer (2 Cor. 8:12).
“I reject this life of mine. It is all the same.”
Discouragement is one one of Satan’s chief, most effective tactics.
If we do not believe our service to God makes any difference, we are in danger of making self-centered choices instead of responsible ones.
While the loss of Job’s material possessions, his health and his family did not shake him to the point that he incurred sin, it did make him question his relevance.
“If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression and be cheerful,’ I would still be afraid because of all my pains, and I know you would not find me innocent. I would be found guilty. So why should I struggle in vain?” (Job 9:27-29).
Job’s faith was starting to struggle, and if he kept on that course, his endurance would have suffered the consequences.
Heightening his challenge was his insomnia, which was so bad in itself that he preferred the peace of death over his unrelenting misery (Job 7:3,4,14).
In his defense, Job ignored the origin of his trials and erroneously attributed them to God (Job 7:17,18).
But because Jehovah knows just how much pain one individual can really bear, He eventually stepped in to adjust Job’s point of view (Jas. 5:11).
How wonderful it is to understand God’s word and know that ‘He is faithful and will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear’ (1 Cor. 10:13).
Through a clear understanding of Job’s experience, we can find comfort and hope and even endure the seemingly worst of trials, including deep depression (Rom. 15:4).
We can appreciate how relevant we really are to God and resist Satan’s tactic to make us think otherwise (Prov. 27:11).
“Let the day perish on which I was born, […]
Let that day be darkness.”
After losing his life’s work, his livelihood, his family and his health, Job had more than plenty reasons to be depressed (Job 1:13-19; 2:7,9).
His false friend, Eliphaz, wrongfully attributed Job’s depression to a lack of faith.
“Does your reverence for God not give you confidence?” he asked accusingly (Job 4:6).
But Job’s depression did not stem from an unfulfilled spiritual need (Job 2:3,6,9,10).
His trials were beyond what any man can emotionally bear while still holding on to a certain sense of sanity.
This is why he sat mourning on ashes, unrecognizable (Job 2:8,12).
It is normal for serious problems to affect our emotional health and attitude, whatever their nature may be.
When a friend confides in us that they are depressed, it is important not to make it an issue of faith, because we may end up sounding like Eliphaz giving wrong counsel to Job.
If we are not careful with our choice of words and assumptions, we may make a bad situation much, much worse.
It is important, therefore, to imitate Jehovah’s kindness and really take the time to listen and observe before applying any type of counsel to those who are brokenhearted (Ps.34:18; Jas.1:19).