"I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. . . . I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. . . . My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me. . . . I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs" (Psalm 38:6, 8, 10, 13-14).

As I read this psalm, I imagined David slumped in despair. Perhaps what troubled him most was that he couldn't understand why he was suddenly cast down so low. This man hungered for the Lord, pouring out his heart daily in prayer. He revered God and wrote psalms extolling His glory. But now, in his depressed state, all he could do was cry, "Lord, I'm at the end of my rope and I have no idea why this is happening!"

Like many discouraged Christians, David tried to figure out why he felt so empty and broken in spirit. He probably relived every failure, sin and foolish deed in his life and thought, "Oh, Lord, have all my reckless acts left me so wounded that I'm beyond hope?"

Finally, David reasoned that God must be chastening him. He cried, "O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure" (verse 1).

Let me point out that David isn't writing just about his own condition in this psalm. He is describing something that all devoted lovers of Jesus face at some point in their lifetime—being under an attack from a plaguing spirit of discouragement, which comes straight from the bowels of hell. No Christian brings it on himself, nor does the Lord send it, and such an attack usually has nothing to do with any specific sin or failing by the believer.

Very simply, the spirit of discouragement is Satan's most potent weapon against God's elect. Most often, he uses it to try to convince us we've brought God's wrath upon ourselves by not measuring up to His holy standards. But the apostle Paul urges us not to fall prey to the devil's snare: "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11).