A Depression Observed, Part 6 – Life in Inches

(You are reading part six of a 12-part series. Visit noeldear.com to read all articles as we post them throughout December 2023.)


Lord, make me aware of my end and the number of my days sSo that I will know how short-lived I am. In fact, you have made my days just inches long. And my life span is as nothing to you. Yes, every human being stands as only a vapor. Selah. Yes, a person goes about like a mere shadow. Indeed, they rush around in vain, gathering possessions without knowing who will get them. (Psalm 39:46)


Read those three verses a few more times. The verses reveal nothing new, and David didn't claim to gain any new knowledge. He was not asking the Lord to solve some mystery, reveal some unknown truth, or answer some elusive question. David was asking the Lord to increase his awareness of information he already had. In fact, David recites the data...

Life is short...

Compared to Lord's eternity, David's life is just a few inches long...

In the grand scheme of things, David's life has the significance of a fading vapor cloud...

And all of man's hard earned accomplishments will be scattered and forgotten.

Like David, we all know all of these truths. But, like David, what we need is a greater awareness of them.

Some will disagree with and disapprove of David's request. Why would someone in the grinder of depression and despair pray for greater awareness of the brevity and insignificance of life? Though counterintuitive, David's request is a key piece to gaining some stability in the midst of great emotional struggle. That was David's experience, and that has been my experience.

Brevity of Life

First, when we fall into the dark cavern of despair, we lose hope. We lose hope for future recovery, future peace, future joy. To repeat an idiom, we see no light at the end of the tunnel. This lack of hope makes the dark spaces darker.

While it is only part of the answer we need, the awareness of the brevity of life, at least for the Christian who has the ultimate hope of eternity, reminds us that the pain will not last forever.

I know this truth may not provide encouragement for those who are not believers, but for those in God's family, for those who have put their hope in the death and resurrection of Christ, this truth encourages!

I'm not suggesting that there is no hope of peace and joy in this lifetime. David deals with that question very specifically later in Psalm 39, and so will we. But I am saying that at the very least, your pain will end at the end of this brief life, and I'm saying that at the very least, your struggle will be an insignificant blip from eternity's perspective.

I am comforted by an odd verse in the last book of the Bible, Revelation 2:10...

Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will experience affliction for ten days. Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. (CSB)

We don't have to know the exact nature of the suffering and affliction in this verse to understand the admonition. The Lord is declaring to the Christians in Smyrna that with respect to whatever terrible thing they are about to go through, it will not last forever, and the Lord will be waiting on the other side of the tribulation for all of those who are faithful to the end. And the Lord will be waiting with the reward of eternal life.

Jesus did not only give this counsel to the Christians in Smyrna, he embraced this same perseverance strategy in his most difficult hour. In Hebrews 2, we read that Jesus endured the cross by focusing on the joy that was laid before him. What was that joy? According to Hebrews 2:3, it was the joy of one day sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God.

So, in the midst of David's intensifying pain, he prayed and asked the Lord to increase his awareness of the brevity of life. David was crying out and saying: Lord, my mental and emotional anguish has stolen my hope. It feels like this tunnel has no end. Lord, increase my awareness. Remind me with every breath that this time of pain is short. Remind me that whether it be ten days, ten months, ten years, or longer, you stand at the other end of this time of trouble with the crown of life.


David didn't just pray for a greater awareness of the brevity of life. He also prayed for a greater awareness of the insignificance of his accomplishments and successes and, by association, the insignificance of his disappointments and failures. David compared his life to a vapor, and he asked the Lord to make him more aware of the vanity of his rushing around for treasure and success.

David experienced some great successes. He won some noteworthy battles. But David also experienced some embarrassing failures—many embarrassing failures. As David grew older, his life was dominated more and more with the consequences of sins and regrets from previous bad decisions. David's family failed in about every way possible. It seemed his children would repeat his every sin only many times worse. His family legacy became one of sexual sin, violence, murder, rebellion, and a lack of faithfulness to the Lord.

David's heart broke. If you study David's responses and lack of responses to the sexual sin and violence involving his sons Amnon and Absalom, and his victimized daughter Tamar, you can see the beginning of David's slide into the despondency that comes from regret. Further, we can see David's despair deepen when he refuses to stand up to his son, Absalam, during his coup d'etat and flees the capital.

So, David asks the Lord to increase his awareness of the futility of his struggles for success, achievement, riches, and legacy.

"Lord, make me aware .... every human being stands as only a vapor. Yes, a person goes about like a mere shadow. Indeed they rush around in vain..."

In times of darkness and depression, the importance we place on many things gets out of wack. In fact, this misjudgment is a temptation at all times in life. We can wrongly define our lives by our success and achievements. And we can, as is often the case with someone suffering with depression, wrongly define life by failures, shortcomings, and regrets.

Without question, I have been guilty of this practice. I have exaggerated the importance of what I think of as personal successes. And I have exaggerated the importance of what I thik of as personal failures. My error has led me at times in life to be conceited and sinfully proud. And my error has led me at other times, like now, to a misguided discouragement, despair, and shame.

The Bible teaches clearly that because of Christ and his death and resurrection, there is no condemnation for those who trust him (Romans 8:1). The Bible declares that my heavenly Father loves me because of I've been created in his likeness and have been covered by the blood of Christ, not because of my level of success or consistency of success. The Scriptures teach that Christ bore my shame on the cross, and that I am now clothed in his righteousness.

The Lord has removed all condemnation, guilt, and shame. If there is guilt, condemnation, or shame, that is something I have manufactured. And it is not real.

As a gospel preacher, of course, I knew those truths long before this recent guilt trip, but I needed the Lord to renew my awareness. It is easy to separate the forensic and theological aspects of forgiveness from the shame and regret we feel with failure. I knew I was fully and eternally forgiven for my sins. What I had forgotten is that my sins included not just random dishonesties or lustful thoughts but also my failures, shortcomings, misplaced priorities, and regretful decisions.

If I define my life by those failures, then I have discounted Christ's work on the cross. I have ignored the power of the resurrection.

"Lord, make me aware .... every human being stands as only a vapor. Yes, a person goes about like a mere shadow. Indeed they rush around in vain..."

In part, my depression was the result of me giving too much significance to my successes and failures, my boasts and my regrets. I needed the Lord to make me more aware of the foolishness of my thinking. Sure, I have failed. And I have failed spectacularly in some areas. But I am not defined my failures. I am defined by the image of God in me and the blood of Christ over me.


Pastor Noel