I Kings 19:1-8
Last week I gave an introduction to the struggles of discouragement and depression, and we talked about the physical stressors that can impact our emotions. (If you need to catch up on Part 1, you can find it here).
This week, we’ll continue our discussion by looking at two other possible causes of depression:
Emotional/situational distress (loneliness, grief, sadness over events)
Elijah was dealing with all these emotions. He obviously felt completely alone, and his life was being threatened. He had survived, but many others of the Lord’s prophets had not; chances are, many of them were friends that he was grieving. He also felt deep sadness over the course that so many of God’s people had chosen, the state of his country, and the evil that he saw all around him. Those things, quite understandably, had made Elijah’s horizon look very dark.
Many of us can relate to having similar feelings; and the first step is simply to recognize the validity of those feelings. Our impulse may be to bury uncomfortable emotions, using any number of distractions or substances…but there’s no easy way to get through grief and sadness. Facing our emotions, walking through them with God, and relying on His strength is the only healthy way to move through hard times. I mentioned earlier that there is a long list of great saints of God who struggled with periods of darkness and depression; but all of these men and women of God came through the darkness and into the sunlight again, armed with valuable lessons they learned in the suffering. If we allow our trials to drive us to God, as Elijah did, we will one day come out into the light again too. TRUST in God, one hard day at a time, and cling to His hand. Remember this eternal assurance:
Your story ends well!
What God did for Elijah, He can do for me
God sent an angel to comfort and minister to Elijah. Drink in these beautiful Scriptures:
"The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him."
"For He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways."
As surely as He sent an angel to minister to Elijah, He can use an angel to minister to you! A few times in my life I have experienced an encounter of such unusual kindness and encouragement from a stranger that I wondered later if it was an angel of the Lord in disguise. Keep your eyes and ears open; you never know who God might send your way!
Secondly, God drew Elijah into an extended period of time alone with Him. After Elijah was strengthened by the angel’s ministrations, he went on a pilgrimage to the mountain of God that lasted 40 days and 40 nights. The distance from where Elijah was (near Beersheba) to Mt. Horeb (also known as Mt. Sinai) is about 200 miles; a long way indeed, but certainly not a 40 day trip. Yet he wandered in the desert for that specific length of time, reminiscent of the 40 years Israel spent wandering in that same desert under the leadership of Moses. Many commentators believe that God led Elijah to walk in the footsteps of Moses and the Israelites (one day for each year of their wandering) to remind him of God’s miraculous provision in the history of Israel: the manna, the water gushing from the rock, the clothes and shoes that never wore out. He was providing time for Elijah to soak in His presence, and to reflect on His mercies and goodness and faithfulness. God will do the same for us if we allow our sadness to drive us to Him, making His presence our priority.
Sin and Shame
Perhaps Elijah thought he could run and hide again since that’s what God told him to do the first time, back in I Kings 17. But there was a big difference that time; God had TOLD him to do it. In this instance, “Elijah was afraid,” or as some translations simply say, “And when he saw…” (I Kings 19:3). One definition of the word used here is “to advise self.” Basically, he looked at the situation through his human eyes and took his own advice to get out of town as fast as possible! Just the day before, Elijah had faced down an angry king and 400 hostile prophets of Baal; yet now a threatening message from Jezebel was enough to send him scurrying.
So was Elijah in sin, having taken off to the desert like that and asking to die? Possibly, but also possibly not; only God knows the heart. Almost certainly, however, he was feeling shamed at being routed by a godless woman.
When suffering from depression, it’s always good to examine your heart to see if there is anything that is blocking your communion with God. Keep short accounts with Him; confess your sin and your shame. Don’t let them keep you from God, but be like Elijah…who continued on his pilgrimage TOWARDS God in spite of his pain.
What God did for Elijah, He can do for me
Elijah asked to die, and surely he WOULD have died in that barren wilderness without food or water. He had gotten himself into this situation, and God could have simply let things take their course; but instead, He meets Elijah with compassion and mercy. Aren’t you glad He’s not the kind of God who says, “You made your bed, now lie in it”? At times we, too, may react to stress by hitting the panic button like Elijah did…and then we avoid God, fearing His anger and condemnation. But here’s some good news to close with:
Our God responds to panic with mercy.
“In panic I cried out, ‘I am cut off from the LORD!’
But You heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help.”
Ps. 31:22, NLT
“God’s children may lose themselves in a wilderness, but God has not lost them.”