“Then he went on along into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.” – 1 Kings 19:4-8
Depression is a huge problem these days. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, don’t battle it alone. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Talk to a professional counselor or call a suicide prevention line, available around the world. It’s never too late to ask for help.
Most of us will battle some level of depression, anxiety, or feelings of hopelessness at one time or another. So, it should be reassuring to see that Elijah, one of the greatest prophets in the whole Bible, fought his own battle with fear and depression.
The full story is fascinating and worth reading in 1 Kings chapter 17 to 19. The short version is that Elijah humiliated the beloved false prophets of Israel’s wicked Queen Jezebel. In her fury, she 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 cried out for God to just get it over with and strike him dead. Think about that…Elijah was so consumed by fear and depression that he was ready to give up and die.
Eventually, Elijah fell into a deep sleep. Look how God responded. 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 Elijah to simply eat and sleep.
So, what can we take away from this part of Elijah’s story?
- Spiritual LOWS often Follow Spiritual HIGHS – Sometimes the emotional or spiritual blues that set in after a spiritual mountaintop or an experience of great joy and victory in life are just the normal result of life’s ups and downs. The exhaustion of life’s emotional rollercoaster can cause us to be more susceptible to anxiety. We shouldn’t be surprised by that – sadly, that’s just life. What goes up will come back down.
- Nothing is Impossible with God – After witnessing such a miraculous victory at the hands of God, Elijah was consumed by fear as soon as he took his focus off God and placed it on Jezebel. When we refocus on the power of God, we can see those same problems and fears in a new perspective. Often those seemingly insurmountable problems and fears begin to look a whole lot smaller when viewed in comparison to God’s might and power.
- When we lose HOPE, we begin to HOPE for death – Hopelessness can easily engulf us. I know – twice when I was younger, I faced a time of prolonged depression that lasted over a year.
If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or hopelessness, let me offer you some advice on how to respond:
- Talk about it to God. I promise that God can handle it. He knows what you’re thinking anyway and 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.
- Take it 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 had proper nourishment. In the same way, this is important for us 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.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”– Psalm 139:7,11-12 NIV