Depression is a huge problem in our land. The CDC tells us that suicide is now the leading cause of death among teenagers. It is now far surpassed car accidents as their leading cause of death. Obviously, many are struggling with depression, anxiety and the fear of life. If you are one, or have family or friends who do, it’s reassuring to see that, despite his great faith, the greatest of all the prophets in the Bible, Elijah, became filled with fear and depression.
The entire story is fascinating, but long, so I will cut to the chase. Because Elijah humiliated the beloved false prophets, Jezebel, the wicked queen of Israel, was furious and called down a curse from her god upon herself if Elijah was not killed within 24 hours. Elijah knew she meant business and was overcome with fear. Here was a man, who had always shown amazing courage in his life, now running for his life. He became so depressed that he cries out for God to strike him dead. Think about that…Elijah was so in the depths of fear and depression that he wanted to die.
Then, Elijah laid down and went fast asleep and look how God ministered to him. Twice, the angel of the Lord awakened him and gave him food and water for nourishment. God knew that depression often causes physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion, so He allowed Him to sleep.
So, what can we take away from this part of Elijah’s story?
- What goes up has to come down. Sometimes the blues that set in after a spiritual mountaintop or an experience of great joy and victories in our life, are just normal results of the up and downs of emotions and physical strength in life. Exhaustion can cause us to be more vulnerable to anxiety. We shouldn’t be surprised by that – sadly, that’s just how life is. What goes up will come back down.
- Fear flooded in to Elijah’s life when he took his focus off God and placed it on Jezebel. When we refocus on the power of God, then those big problems and fears begin to look a whole lot smaller, because nothing is impossible with God.
- When we lose hope, we begin to hope for death. Those who are struggling with depression feel like it will never end. Hopelessness can easily engulf us. I know – twice when I was younger, I faced a time of prolonged depression that lasted over a year.
Let me offer you some recommendations of how to respond when you go through those kinds of times:
- Confess it to God and be honest about all of your feelings. He knows what you’re thinking anyway, but He wants to hear from you!
- Ask God’s forgiveness when you’ve gotten your focus out of whack and you’ve taken your eyes off of Him.
- Ask for the ability to let go of all the anger and self-pity. You can’t get rid of it in your own strength.
- Trust God day by day. God doesn’t promise to give us strength for tomorrow, today. He gives us strength for today, today!
- Rest and eat right. It was important to God that Elijah rested and that he had nourishment, so obviously, we need that, too.
- Don’t quit. No matter how afraid you are, no matter how anxious you are about tomorrow, no matter how depressed and hopeless you feel, don’t quit! I promise that God will never, ever give up on you. The lie of depression is that it will never end. DON’T BELIEVE IT. Depression may last a long time, but it is almost always temporal.
Most importantly, keep your eyes and your thoughts turned upward to God. Remember, just as with Elijah, God will never, ever leave you.