I take refuge in you, Lord.
    Please never let me be put to shame.
        Rescue me by your righteousness!
Listen closely to me!
    Deliver me quickly;
        be a rock that protects me;
        be a strong fortress that saves me!
You are definitely my rock and my fortress.
    Guide me and lead me for the sake of your good name!

Have mercy on me, Lord, because I’m depressed.
    My vision fails because of my grief,
    as do my spirit and my body.
My life is consumed with sadness;
    my years are consumed with groaning.
Strength fails me because of my suffering;
    my bones dry up.
I’m a joke to all my enemies,
    still worse to my neighbors.
    I scare my friends,
    and whoever sees me in the street runs away!

All you who wait for the Lord,
be strong and let your heart take courage.
-Psalm 31: 1-3, 9-11, 24

Sunset at 5pm got you feeling blue? The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that 1 out of 5 American adults, as well as 1 out of 6 American youth, experience mental illness every year. About three million of those cases kick in this time of year, as the sunlight fades and takes good moods with it.

To put it another way, if you’ve ever experienced mental illness, you’re in (lots and lots of) good company! More Americans experience mental illness than diabetes (about 1 in 9). Especially as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, moods tend to get, well, moodier. If you’re feeling down more days than not, it’s a good time to check in with your doctor about your mental health.

Depression isn’t a modern phenomenon, either, though it does seem to be worsening over the past decades. Psalm 31 shares a lament from somebody who knew what depression was like three thousand years ago. The unknown psalmist lists their problems– from grief and sadness to just plain feeling too weak to keep going. They’ve noticed that their enemies treat their sorrow like a joke. Even worse– their neighbors and friends are avoiding them! (By the way, if someone you love is experiencing mental illness, please do not avoid them. They need you!)

In the face of so much trouble, what can the psalmist do? What can we do?

The author of the psalm turns to God, the only refuge and fortress that cannot fail. They cry out for help, beginning by pleading for God to act quickly. Then, as the psalmist continues their prayer, something shifts. They still long for God’s help, but in the very last verse, they seem to realize that there will be times when the only thing to do is to wait, and in the waiting to offer and receive encouragement.

It takes a great deal of courage and faith to trust that things could ever get better from the depths of despair. Sometimes, from those deep blue moments, the best and even only thing is to wait, trusting that God will act. We find strength and courage in the very act of prayer, laying our grief and sorrow before God. We take refuge in the God who protects us.

Today and every day: all you who wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage. You are not alone. God is your refuge.