Depression and Despair
Old Man Mourning by Vincent Van Gogh
Before we look at the subject of this painting we look at the surroundings. One word might sum them up -- bleak. The dirty white walls are bare of any ornament. The well worn floor boards are bare of any rugs for warmth. A simple wood chair is the only furniture we see.
The man almost fills the painting. His balding head and work worn hands tell us he is an older man. He wears the clothes of a laborer. Hunched over in the pose of despair his face lies buried in his hands. We have no clue as to his mourning.
Those of us who have lived long enough can immediately relate to this depth of depression and despair. Loss, poverty, rejection, loneliness, sin and lack of hope -- all can take us into a spiral downward until we just want to shut the world out. When we have reached the "end of our rope" then our "salvation can draw nigh".
King David from the Old Testament could have been the man in this picture. Many times in his life he was on the bottom. When he was on the "chair of despair" what did he do? Well, he CRIED to the Lord. "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord; hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy." Psalm 130:1-2
But besides crying out to God King David did something else. He WAITED for the Lord and PUT HIS TRUST in what the Lord had said in his word. "I waited for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen wait for the morning, more than the watchmen wait for the morning." Psalm 130: 5-6
David knew that God always keeps his word and he was willing to wait for him to do so. If we cry to the Lord in our distress HE WILL ANSWER US! (Psalm 120:1) That's a promise from God. If your head is buried in despair then it's time to "lift up your eyes to the hills". Where does our help come from? Our help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121).
If the man in the picture looks up from within himself he will see the light from the fire and feel its warmth. God's Holy Spirit is often compared to light and fire and is symbolic here in this painting. The Holy Spirit has light to give you from God and he has warmth to set your heart ablaze with hope once again.