Depression comes in the valleys, and sometimes after a mountain top experience. Every mountaintop has its valleys: the one on the upswing and the one at the bottom, the bottom, as in when you’ve hit the lowest of the lows.
Elijah was a man of God. He was instrumental in so many miracles, yet he faced such depression that he begged God to die. That’s hard for me to understand, but I think I know what happened. Just like all the rest of us do at times, Elijah lost his focus.
Here is Elijah’s life in a nutshell:
- He tells Ahab there won’t be rain for over three years, then runs away to hide.
- The brook Cherith is his hiding spot where ravens bring him bread and meat morning and evening for three years. I think I would have been lonely.
- Next, at the direction of God, he heads to Zarapheth to find the widow who will feed him. This is Queen Jezebel’s hometown, but she won’t think to look for Elijah here! In addition to never-ending oil, Elijah also restores the life of the widow’s son.
- Elijah finds Obediah and learns that the prophet has hidden 100 prophets in two caves to protect their lives from King Ahab. He tells Obadiah to send King Ahab to him.
- The Mt. Carmel contest, where the Baal worshipers lose and God wins. God sends fire from Heaven after the prophets of Baal pray all day for fire with no results. Elijah and his helpers execute the prophets of Baal.
- Elijah sends his servant to look for rain seven times. Finally, the servant sees a cloud the size of a man’s hand. When the rain begins to fall, Elijah gathers up his robe and outruns Ahab, who is riding in his chariot.
- Queen Jezebel tells Elijah he will be dead in 24 hours, her vengeance for Elijah’s execution of the 850 prophets of Baal.
- Elijah runs and hides. An angel wakes him and gives him bread and water – twice. Elijah travels forty days and forty nights on that “angel food.”
- God finds Elijah hiding under a broom tree and asks him twice why he is there. Both times, Elijah says, “I’m the only one left of all the prophets in Israel. Nobody loves You but me. Oh, I wish I had never been born. Just let me die.” Yep, I’d say he was depressed.
For three years, Elijah lived on the “dramatic”. He didn’t choose this nomadic lifestyle, but he accepted the call from God, miracle after miracle of God’s provision, and month after month of hiding and moving where God told him to go. I rather think Elijah got used to the mountain top experiences and had forgotten how to walk through a valley.
God tells him to go out and stand on the mountaintop before the Lord.
God passes by in a whirlwind, but His voice is not there.
He shows up in an earthquake, but Elijah could not find Him there.
After the earthquake, there was a fire. Elijah listens, but doesn’t hear anything.
Finally, Elijah hears God speak in a still, small voice.
Elijah covers himself with his cloak and comes outside the cave. Again, God asks him what he is doing there. Again, Elijah bemoans his life.
“I’ve been very zealous for You,” he says. “The children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed all the prophets. They are trying to find me to kill me. I am the only one left!”
“Oh, but Elijah,” God says, “You’re not the only one. You might think you’re the only one, but you’re not. There are 7,000 in Israel who have not bowed down to Baal. You are not alone. You’re not the only one!”
God gives further instruction: go anoint Hazael as king over Syria and Jehu as king over Israel. Elisha is going to become your helper, so keep on keeping on.”
Elijah was depressed. He had lost his focus. Instead of looking around and being grateful for everything that had happened and the good he could find now, he responded to life in fear. He was afraid for his life because of Jezebel’s hatred. He wallowed in the misery of thinking he was “the only one” when there were 7,000 other believers! He just wanted to quit. He wanted to die.
This is what God did for Elijah, and what we need to do when we are discouraged and depressed. When we feel like we’re drowning, we need to get on the RAFT.
- REST. We need to take care of ourselves physically. We also need good nourishment. Eat healthy instead of pigging out on carbs and sweets. God provided “angel food” for Elijah. We need food and rest. We need to rest physically, but not hibernate from others or from God. The angel woke Elijah twice and told him to eat. Elijah needed rest, and he needed physical nourishment. When we stop taking care of ourselves physically, we need to make changes.
- ACT. We need to act. Keep it simple, but act. Keep moving, keep planning, keep living. Sometimes it means just doing the next thing. God gave Elijah something to do. He was to get up and get out of that cave.
- FOCUS. We need to focus outward. We need to stop looking at what we’ve lost, and look at what we have. Stop wallowing, and recount the mercies of God, for they are new every morning! God did not want Elijah to focus on his fear of Jezebel. He wanted him to focus on what He could do.
- TASKS. We need to choose goals that we can achieve. God told Elijah to go anoint two kings, then go find his new helper, Elisha. When we have something to do, something to accomplish, it gives us purpose in life. Sometimes we need others to help us accomplish tasks that are too difficult at the moment. Go find your Elisha. Ask someone to be your Elisha! Do what God tells you to do. If you don’t know what He wants you to do, then go listen for that still, small voice.
Elijah wasn’t any different from you and from me. He was a man of God, but he was just as human as the rest of us. The powerful things that were accomplished through him came through his obedience and through God’s power. When he faced depression, God met him there, hiding under a broom tree and in a cave.
He does the same for us, if we are but willing to listen to His still, small voice today. He still does miracles, but sometimes He expects us to get up, quit wallowing, and get moving.