Key Verse: “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4
Depression affects so many people in the world today. It can be a taboo subject within the church. We often have a stereotype of the perfect Christian, as always being happy and smiling. Consequently, when we don’t fit this personality type, we feel more guilty and ashamed, and so the downward spiral continues.
You may be surprised to know that depression is a recurrent theme throughout the Bible. The prophet Elijah is but one example.
Elijah was used powerfully by God and had experienced miracle after miracle.
Firstly, He proclaims a drought (1 Kings 17:1). Then Elijah is fed by Ravens (1 Kings 17:2-6) In that solitary place, he depended fully on God. There Elijah was fed twice every day by a miracle. When the brook eventually dried up Elijah experienced another miracle (1 Kings 17:7-24). He meets a widow ready to prepare her last meal with her last bit of flour and oil before starving to death. There God multiplied the flour and oil, so that each meal there was just enough for another and it never ran out (1 Kings 17:16).
1 Kings 17:17 says “Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.” Elijah picked up the dead little boy and carried him up to his room, “stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the LORD” and God brought the boy back to life. (1 Kings 17:23)
It doesn’t end here, on returning to his homeland, he calls the people to decided which God they will serve. 1 Kings 18:21 says “Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.” It was Elijah versus four hundred and fifty prophets Baal. Elijah lets them go first to call down fire from heaven. He is so confident that God will answer his prayer, that he even mock the prophets of Baal when nothing happens and insists that they pour water all over his wood three times before he prays. God answer Elijah’s pray once more and fire falls from Heaven.
Elijah has experienced God working supernaturally through him time and time again. He is probably the last person we would expect to fall into depression, but he did. This goes to show that depression can sneak up on anyone at any age. The contrasts between 1 Kings 18 and 1 Kings 19 is remarkable. In chapter 18, Elijah is courageous and confident above all odds. In chapter 19, he is crying to God, “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” ( 1 Kings 19:4)
Is that not how depression works. One moment everything seems to be great, we are on the top of the mountain, then all of the sudden, we find ourselves at the bottom of the valley with a dark cloud over us that we can’t outrun. All the thought of victory and pass achievement fade and we are stuck in a restless state with no clear way out. For all that Elijah had done, he felt a failure and wanted it all to be over. Maybe you identify with Elijah. Perhaps you too are struggling with feelings of worthlessness, guilt, anxiety, and failure.
God doesn’t abandon Elijah over to his depression, but meets him there and helps him out. He provides him with sleep (1 Kings 19:5), one of the things which is proven to help depression, but so hard to do when suffering from depression. God sends an angel to speak to him and food for him to eat. Then on the mountain, God speaks to him in “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). Elijah is recommissioned and told to anoint Elisha. Not only did Elijah become a mentor to Elisha, but Elisha became a great comfort to Elijah.
If you feel stuck in a dark valley, worthless and a failure, be sure of the God has not abandoned you or given up on you. Keep your eye on Him, listen out for his “gentle whisper.” God still has great things in store, no matter how hard that might be to believe right now.