Recently, what has grabbed my attention on Netflix is the TV show Frasier (1993-2004) starring Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frasier Crane. Frasier is a radio psychiatrist who dishes out quick counsel to callers who are as messed up as ‘tossed salads and scrambled eggs’ (see theme song). In season 6 episode 1 (“Good Grief”) we find Frasier dealing with depression in response to having lost his job. At one moment in the episode, Frasier begins to moan and weep uncontrollably as he finally begins to face the fact that he is depressed. It sounds sad, but the moment is so wrapped in irony, it is hard not to see the humor. Despite being a renowned radio psychiatrist, Frasier is seemingly incapable of seeing that he needs the help he often gives to others.
Suspend reality for a moment and put yourself in Frasier’s shoes – not as a sufferer but as a counselor. If you were a radio talk show biblical counselor and someone suffering depression like Frasier were to call you asking for help, where would you take him in the Scriptures? If Frasier were to call me I would introduce him to the words of the poet in Lamentations 3.
I am the man who has seen affliction.
What draws me to Lamentations 3 is the vivid description of personal suffering by a poet (possibly Jeremiah). For the first twenty verses (3:1-20) the poet absolutely unloads what is going on inside his head. Just take a look at four of these verses:
3:4 – He (God) has made my flesh and my skin waste away;
He has broken my bones;
3:6 – He has made me dwell in darkness
Like the dead of long ago
3:8 – though I call and cry for help,
He shuts out my prayer;
3:17 – my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
As you read the poet’s rehearsal of pain you cannot help but think, “I don’t know what is going on in his life, but I do know these feelings.” And you are right. Most of us will never know the first thing about what it would be like to walk a mile in the poet’s shoes. He had suffered the loss of almost everything, if not everything. His homeland was in ruin and so was he. But here is the point: although you may never be able to relate to the author at the level of circumstances, you don’t have to go through what he went through in order to feel like he felt. In a sense, you have been in his shoes not situationally, but experientially. Most of us have felt what he felt. Whether it was something traumatic or just a bunch of lousy days strung together, you have probably found yourself in a similar valley.
Maybe you even searched for words and labels to communicate what is going on inside of you, but words failed. The poet sums up what is going on inside of him as, “My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.” (3:20) Some other translations have rendered the phrase ‘bowed down within me’ as ‘depressed’ (HCSB, NET). I can think of no better word than ‘depressed’ to describe the man “who has seen affliction” (3:1) we are reading about here.
Up to this point there is some comfort just in knowing that we are not alone in feelings of depression. But the God-ordained hope of Lamentations 3 is not just that the poet could empathize with us in our depression. The real hope of Lamentations 3 comes in the verses that follow which are signaled in 3:21, “But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:”
So, what is it that the poet remembered which broke the cycle of depression?
Take a look:
3:22 – The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
3:23 – they are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
3:24 – “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The next 42 verses reflect on the character and work of God. When the poet thinks about his circumstances, the depression remains on repeat. But when he chooses to meditate on the character of His creator, there is a pivot that occurs. His demeanor and outlook undergo a significant alteration as an awe for God invades his brain and heart.
This solution sounds simplistic, but there is nothing simplistic about what he is doing. There are few things harder than choosing what to think about. The poet intentionally recalled details about God and then filtered his situation through that grid. He intentionally put off thoughts of helplessness and put on thoughts of God’s presence, providence, and provision.
A perfect picture
The word people most often associate with depression is ‘darkness.’ The feeling of suffocating in a pit without any light (3:2, 6, 7). What we learn from Lamentations 3 is that what we need is for God to arrest our thoughts and pierce through our darkness with His light. For the poet this meant that he had to recall things he knew to be true about God based on what had been revealed to Israel. But on this side of the cross we see things much clearer. Yes, we assemble our view of God through the Old Testament but we don’t stop there. We look to Christ “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” who “after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Hebrews 1:3). We do need an abrupt awakening to God’s presence, providence, and provision and there is no better place to look than Christ.
Join the Conversation
When you stop to consider the covenant faithfulness of God, what are some of your favorite verses to consider?
About the Author:
Tyler Shores, MDiv, MABC (Baptist Bible Theological Seminary, Springfield, MO) is the Family Life Pastor at Graceway Baptist Church in Springfield, MO. He and his wife Kendall have one daughter Rory.
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