my unexplainable defender [psalm 13]

Ellie Huo
13 min readApr 27, 2022

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me.

Psalm 13

CW // intrusive/suicidal thoughts

one of my recent fav worship songs

Recently, I’ve been reading the psalms. It’s so fascinating to me that God reveals different understanding and wisdom to me as in different times. Younger me would’ve just admired David’s (the author of this psalm) faithfulness even in his suffering and just conclude that God is good but I was thrown back by how accurate this psalm is in describing this time in my life. It’s as if God took the caption of my life right now and through David wrote it down into a psalm and into the Bible a ton of years ago. And each verse are thoughts that have been in my brain on and off so below are me dissecting each portion of the verses to retrace these reflections as they formed, as my life unraveled.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

It’s been too long…I don’t even hope for healing anymore. It feels as if I’ve been ditched on the side of the road in the desert and I’ve been walking to find a way out. But it’s been too long… I’m still walking but I don’t even remember what non-desert looks like and feels like. The dry drought almost feels comfortable now. Where is He and has He forgotten me? Has He left me to die with these impossible droughtful thoughts?

What was it like to not question the meaning of everything I do?

Walking into the grocery store, I ask myself why I’m here. I’m afraid that the shoppers around me can see how lost and out of place I am, not knowing what I’m buying and unmotivated to figure it out because of inability to find the reason to eat another meal. I’m jealous that everyone around me knows what they want, focused on getting the next item on their grocery list and probably never having a thought like this.

I make a meal and then sit at the dining table for an hour unable to lift my hand to use my spoon. I take a walk and my brain floods with all the little things that annoyed me from all the people that love me, these things would’ve never even been picked up by me in the past.

What do emotions feel like?

My body still remembers who Ellie was but I do not. I laugh super loud without joy and when this was all new, I asked myself why I just laughed but now, I don’t even care. As long as they think I’m laughing and having fun, then I am.

I saw a picture of a normal brain and a depressed brain. The normal one has so many areas that are lit up representing the triggered activity in the brain, and the depressed one has few. I wonder if my emotions are just blocked in some neuron waiting to be felt and experienced and when this blockage would be broken free and all the emotions would be set free. But what if they’re lost forever?

What did it feel like to be present and to care?

I blatantly say I hate small talk. I have lost interest in learning the basic facts about people because I have no interest for anything. My responses are so bland, I think I can taste the blandness. Sometimes, I decide to sound excited and after I do so, half my social battery is gone. I wonder what they think… they probably think I don’t care which is… true, but it’s not that I don’t want to care, it’s that I can’t care. To respond with emotions makes me fake because I don’t feel them, and to respond emotionless makes me sound like I’m not caring. But I also am unable to care that it’s misunderstood that’s it’s an incapability rather than a choice because who would think that this girl who laughs super loud and is functions is depressed.

I remember my freshmen year, seeing some people isolate and I never saw them again at church or in my life. I always wondered what would make them leave a community that they love and loves them. But now I know one of the possibilities… the feeling of being an imposter at a place that you’re supposed to feel known, the suffocation of seeing people function normally contrasting my own incapableness, the inner battle of wanting to serve but dying inside when I do and feeling every little cell in me pop and die as I try to converse, the overwhelming lie that it’s better to not be here.

I avoid sitting in the crowds at church. I have my “designated” seat by the door and I love sitting in the back, it gives my mind a sense of relief that I can freely escape maybe without even being noticed. Escape from what? I don’t even know.

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

My thoughts, they are evil. Every negative thought spirals in my head like the spinning top in the end of the movie Inception, unable to convince myself what is reality because it feels more like a nightmare. They tell me that my family will die soon and that I will be alone on this earth. They tell me that I am unworthy and incapable when I cannot serve others. They tell me that my friends are busy serving others who are in more need and that I am alone. They tell me that God is watching me and holds the power to heal but isn’t. They tell me that no one cares. They tell me that physical pain relieves mental pain and death ends all pain.

How long more?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

Lord, how can I have eternal hope but feel so hopeless and helpless? Lord, how can I have a joyful heart when I feel nothing? Lord, how can I serve with love when I am unable to love? Lord, how can I grieve with friends when there’s none of my heart left to break for them and the tears died in the drought? Lord, how can I be still and fine with myself, when my hurt that I am numb to is hurting others? Lord, how am I to worship You when my heart feels so heavy that my mouth is unable to utter a single word ?Lord, how am I to live this eternal life when I feel like a walking dead?

Answer me, Lord my God.

Lord, give light to my world as I tread in endless darkness battling with myself.

and my enemy will say, “I have overcome her,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

I sometimes wonder what the enemy thinks when my heart weighs my whole body down and I fall to the ground and my thoughts give myself over to death as if defeated. Do they rejoice as if they had won?

But I trust in your unfailing love;

This “But” and everything after it comes so abrupt. The previous verses all are cries of defeat and mourning but… but I trust in Your unfailing love. It kind of makes no sense where the transition is and it’s hard to explain how I can be sorrowful but with joy, healed but with pain and hopeless but with hope. It’s all unexplainable but... it is unexplainable.

He is a God that loves me for reasons unknown and unexplainable to me. This gap from the suffering to the sudden “but” that leads into the praise is the victory of my Defender who fights my unseen battles. He reveals Himself to me and lets and gives me understanding to know Him Who is infinitely good. What is there to gain for Him? Nothing but a dirty sinful broken soul. But He unexplainably loves me. I can’t explain it.

I can’t explain how I am close to death but He is closer to me. I can’t explain how He finds and defends my heart when I threw it away and lost it. I can’t explain how He sits down with me when I forget and don’t see Him. I can’t explain how He does this again and again as even I know that I will forget Him again in times of heaviness. I can’t explain how He sustains me as I live without the anticipation to wake up each morning.

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

You defend me when I gave up. You show me life as I raise from the decay.

John 3:16, probably the most classic children’s verse that any kid growing up in church had to memorize:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

I was always told that God gave eternal life. It’s forever and everlasting unlike the temporary things in this world. But LOL one of the first questions I had was, that sounds so boring… living on forever. What do we even do for eternity?

But the emphasis that I didn’t place before is also on the word life of “eternal life”. God gives life and what makes it eternal and worth living is His presence. He reveals to and teaches me what true living is. The life He intended and designed for us to live. A life with Him. I’m amazed at his uncovering of the reality of His presence and how good it is to live in this life with Him and this wouldn’t be possible without His salvation of my soul.

There’s times when I felt closer to death than to God but God proved me wrong as I still stand here today. Proving to me that He not only saved me when He led me to follow Him but that He is saving me each and every moment. I had this picture in my mind of me reaching for this dark bottomless soul sucking swirl which is death but God was in between me and the swirl and hugging onto me as I was even reaching for death and He blocked this road to death.

I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me.

Reading the psalms more, I realized how sorrowful and in suffering the psalmist was but also the praise in and through the suffering. I always thought of Psalms as more of a praise book where we quote how great God is and there’s some lament psalms here and there but the majority is praise on the mountaintop.

But I see no mountain or valley, no high or low… as for all me who belongs to Him, there is only with the presence of God.

This past week was Passion Week and our church introduced the three day symbolism from this book called “The Glorious Dark”. The fear, pain, anguish of Good Friday when Jesus suffered and died, awkward silence and confusion of Silent Saturday, and victory, amazement, awe of Resurrection Sunday when Jesus resurrected from the dead. In our lives, we expect to have these days come in chronological order just as the names suggest Friday first, then Saturday, and finally Sunday. We expect to start with the low, then are brought into a continuation of the low and period of possible growth and then finally being able to see all of its glory and fullness of growth. And repeats of these cycles.

With this expectation, we always expect a mountain to come after a season of valley and we picture our lives and our spiritual journey as this cosine graph that eventually goes down but then up and down again but that it generally is an upward moving graph. This brings disappointment when the Sunday feels never near nor coming and Friday and Saturday feel as eternity.

Because it is actually all one day, the same day… as with the presence of God, I can and do wait in mourning but with the victory and presence of Jesus. I no longer picture myself standing on top of a mountain when I “feel a spiritual high” nor a valley when I “feel a spiritual low” but that I am walking with God on a flat ground. I don’t anticipate us to start climbing a mountain so that I can get to a mountaintop where I “feel closer to God” because God is by my side. He’s not closer when I am on the “mountaintop” nor further when I am in the “valley” but He is here, right by me, dwelling in me, never has left or will.

When I first got depressive symptoms, I looked up the words “depressed Christian”. What an oxymoron, I thought to myself. Christians are supposed to be hopeful, optimistic, joyful, and … not depressed.

Looking online was pretty discouraging. The titles “Do real Christians get depressed”, “Is Depression a Sin” kind of confirmed to me more that not that many Christians are depressed or that it wasn’t talked about enough and resulted in the top articles be about these questions rather than resources to help with it. Because when you look up [insert sin] + Christian, it would give you resources on how to detect [insert sin], verses on encouragement, etc. It didn’t give search results like “Do real Christians get [insert sin]” and so it was as if I should question if I’m a Christian because I have depression. It’s not like I chose to have depression and who would gladly choose that. To put it more into perspective, as I started treating depression as an actual illness and not just a blockage in life, it’s like saying “Do real Christians get cancer”. It showed me that I can be a jealous Christian, a prideful Christian, a Christian with addictions, an adulterous Christian… but not really a depressed one or one with any mental illness.

“I should trust God more, it’s because I don’t trust God enough that I am depressed.” “If I just trust God more, I won’t be depressed.” “Just pray about it more, read more verses, don’t think about it.” “God is using your depression to help you relate and connect with others who are suffering.”

But no…

Before Psalms, I finished the book of Job. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t understand most of the details as it felt like it was just going back and forth between these people bickering about the reason Job lost everything and is in suffering. And growing up in church, they taught us the story of Job summarizing that he was a faithful man that he lost everything in the beginning but remained faithful and “the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part” (Job 42:12). So the moral of the story that I took away was to trust in God in your sufferings then the suffering will be rid of and greater blessings will be bestowed upon you. That didn’t really appeal to me as why am I trading sorrows for blessings. But I was enlightened by the last chapter where Job says

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

Job 42:5

He didn’t say “I trusted in God through my suffering and He gave me more blessings than I used to have so we should all trust in God”. But he experienced God through the reality of his suffering and loss. Our ears hear about the goodness of God and we try to believe in Him more by ridding things that don’t correlate with what He would give, like pain. But rather Job saw God through the pain, that we don’t try to eliminate the pains that are like barriers so that we can see God and feel God, but we see Him crystal clear and feel Him through the pain that exists. With suffering does not mean without God.

Before, I pictured my life here on earth as more of a waiting period and that’s why it seemed awful to live the rest of my life depressed only awaiting for something better when and after I die (maybe this also fed into correlating dying with relief and freedom). I’m waiting till the day when I am fully in God’s presence and so I should just endure this life on the earth as a soujouner where I am floating through this life. But my living life began when He’s presence was with me when He saved me from sin and death and even though sin is still present, He is more present. Imagining a line to represent old dying life with new saved living life, it’s not between death on earth and life in heaven but it’s between death on earth and life with Him on earth. My soujourner duties are not to briskly walk over this life on earth but to rejoice in these little pockets of heaven that exist on earth because of God’s presence as my new life has already began. So whether I’m living this new life in heaven or on earth, I shall be sober-minded as this is the living life because it is with Him. My eternal life began when I was saved.

So what does it mean for me to be a depressed Christian? It’s not about how ironic it seems, how much of an imposter I feel, how I should quickly get my life together to be back on track of being a “good” Christian again but how I can face the reality of pain but also the truth that God is with me. That I don’t have to deny my feelings of the pain and pretend it’s a trail to make me a “better Christian” but that because I live in this world of sin, that they coexist in my life: the reality of pain and the truth of God’s presence and victory. I can still feel crushed and defeated but I can also be holding on to His victory.

I can say all of this and even be alive to say all of this because God has and is defending me. He defends my heart from death and reveals the path of life to me and patiently teaches me how to live with Him from the moment He saved me. He fights my battles with death and gives me unwavering truth that He is God and He loves me when all else is blurry. He loves and defends me unexplainably.

He is my great Defender, the Defender of my heart, my unexplainable Defender.

“You go before I know
That You’ve even gone to win my war
Your love becomes my greatest defense
It leads me from the dry wilderness

When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart”