Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon — from Mount Mizar.
Psalm 42:5–6 (NIV)
The screaming and crying are high-pitched and unbearable. I don’t understand why my baby has regressed. Why isn’t she going to sleep as easily as before? Is it teething? A growth spurt? A nightmare? Instead of the twelve hours of quiet and rest I used to get, now every night I sit in the hallway outside her closed door, listening to her wail and waiting for her to go back to sleep. My stubbornness and rigidity to stick to the schedule keeps me from going in, but my new-mother heart keeps me seated, unbudging.
I clench my teeth and pound my fists on my thighs. I cover my ears and rock back and forth. I pull my hair. I want it to end. I want to be able to sleep without interruption or worry that she’ll wake up her daddy, who works the swing shift and is barely getting sleep as it is. I want her to get the rest she needs because she’s just a baby. I throw my whys and hows at God, demanding answers and getting silence.
Eventually, the crying mercifully ends, and I leave my post in the hallway. I trudge downstairs, my legs heavy. My eyelids too. But my heart is still racing, and my ears ring even in the quiet. I feel the threads of my sanity unraveling, and I feel imprisoned by despair, by the lack of reprieve, by this part of mothering.
My husband is working. I’m alone. And the thoughts begin:
I just want to sleep — is that too much to ask?
I wish I could disappear into a void where no one needs me.
I want to disappear.
I need to disappear.
I sink deeper and start to wonder how I can do this in the most considerate way, with the least amount of cleanup for my husband when he finds me. Falling asleep in the car with the engine running in the garage sounds enticing, doable.
But as I realize how far I’ve come in my suicidal ideation, I scare myself. My heart beats in my ears as I pick up the phone and send out a mass text in the middle of the night to friends near and far:
Please pray for me. I’m having suicidal thoughts.
Typing out the words brings a flood of shame. The critic is loud in my head, telling me I should be embarrassed, that I hadn’t gone far enough to warrant a call for help. But with each text that comes through from friends saying they’re praying for me, light and fresh air enter the darkness—I’m not alone.
When we’re deep in depression, overwhelmed with life, or stuck in impossible situations, hope feels like wishful thinking. In Psalm 42:5–6, the psalmist urges his soul to hope in God. He’s not chiding himself to feel hope right there in the depths of his despair. He’s saying, “One day — someday — I will praise God again, so soul, hope in Him.” He’s looking to a future deliverance, and he’s certain that God will see to it.
In the meantime, he remembers God from his place of despair. We have the whole of history to look back on and see how God has been faithful. Recounting the truths He’s spoken to us and the ways His presence carried us makes hope substantial. And God Himself understands darkness and death. Christ experienced it in His body on the cross, and so our hope in Him is not like a thin silver lining. Instead, it’s like a thick rope thrown down to lift us out of the pit—to take another step and live another day.
God, thank You for understanding despair and for not being afraid of death. You enter into the darkness and sit with me instead of scolding me and forcing me toward the light. You are gentle in Your care, and You provide a way out — even if it’s not in my timing or in a way I can fathom. Help me to have the long view of “someday” to make me resilient when I can’t see beyond my pain. Amen.
This article was written by Grace P. Cho, as published in Empowered: More of Him for All of You.
Empowered: More of Him for All of You, by Mary Carver, Grace P. Cho, and Anna E. Rendell is designed to incorporate the five major components of our being — physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual. The sixty Scripture passages and devotions invite you to see from different angles how God empowers us, and each day ends with prayer and reflection questions to deepen the learning. Grab a copy now. We pray it blesses you.Leave a Comment