Elijah was a man with a nature like ours (James 5:17, ESV).
Don’t you love the transparency with which God’s Word describes real men and women? On almost every page of Scripture you meet people “just like us.” Take Elijah—James 5:17 says that Elijah, God’s prophet, was “a man with a nature like ours.” We meet him at a point of real depression in 1 Kings, and from his life we see this truth: even the most godly people get down at times.
There are ways to guard against taking the full plunge into depression, but first, let’s get some bad advice out of the way:
Find a place by yourself. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah had just come off a major victory. He was physically exhausted and emotionally spent. He sat under a juniper tree—an almost lifeless, leafless shrub. So why was Elijah sitting under that tree? I’ll tell you—the dude wanted to be by himself. The fact is that depression can shut out something we need most—people who love us and want to support us.
Friend, those dark clouds are not going away as long as you are trying to do life on your own. Honestly consider the answers to these hard questions:
• Do you have fewer personal friends than you had a year ago?
• When you come home, do you often retreat away from your family?
• Are you skipping small group or avoiding getting into one?
• Is your worst nightmare to be trapped in a corner by someone who loves you and is asking what’s wrong?
If you want to invite depression, find a place by yourself.
Focus on the negative. Everyone faces negative and positive things in life. Look how Elijah focused on the negative: In 1 Kings 19:4, he had lost his grip on the truth. He basically says, “I am left alone. [No, he wasn’t.] I am no better than my fathers. I have accomplished nothing. I have wasted my whole life.” Hear this: No one accomplishes all they want to, but if you are serving Christ, pouring your life out for the glory of God as best you know how, you are accomplishing everything you need to. Practice letting God’s Word inform your emotions—not the other way around.
Forget God’s provision. Isn’t this the same guy who God fed for three years with just a loaf of bread and a jar of oil? Isn’t this the guy who won a major victory when God poured fire down from heaven, and the same guy who killed 450 false prophets and obliterated idolatry in front of the home crowd at high noon?! Elijah had seen a few miracles. It wasn’t like God had never come through for him. Don’t you want to say, “Hey, Elijah! God has never failed you, man! Why are you doubting Him?”
But we do the same thing. We forget God’s faithful provision and how good He has been to us. We forget who God is and how He never changes or fails.
Negative focus and short memory aside, Elijah was met by God in his depression, and he let God change him. Ask yourself whether you need to do the following:
1. Let God confront you. In verse 9, Elijah slept in a cave and God came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then, in spite of Elijah’s lame excuses, the Lord ministered to him. I love that. God wasn’t angry or judgmental; He just ministered grace to him.
2. Let God reveal Himself to you. Watch how God showed Himself strong to Elijah. God told him to stand outside, “And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:11–12, ESV). That is sweet. Elijah had seen the wild stuff and it didn’t faze him anymore. But then God whispered to him, and Elijah got fired up.
3. Let God provide for you. After He revealed Himself to Elijah in a small gentle voice, God supernaturally sent food and rest. God will minister to you if you will receive His provision.
4. Immediately do what God says. God gave some specific instructions to Elijah in verses 15–17. Whatever God is saying you need to do, do it immediately.
5. Get involved with people again. After this, God sent Elijah back to civilization. What is it you need to do today to get back in the game? Ask God to give you the courage to meet and follow Him each day and He will renew your heart with hope.
• Which of these five areas do you most need to surrender to God?
• What step can you take today to move toward spiritual encouragement?
Father God, I confess that I am prone to negative thoughts and ingratitude for all You’ve already done for me. Help me to get quiet before You. I invite You to do Your convicting work in my heart, and I ask You to show me the steps I need to take. I trust You and I praise You for Your goodness and faithfulness. Please take my hand and be the lifter of my head. In the mighty name of Jesus, amen.