Elijah’s Depression – and the RAFT

depressionDepression 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:

  1. He tells Ahab there won’t be rain for over three years, then runs away to hide.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Queen Jezebel tells Elijah he will be dead in 24  hours, her vengeance for Elijah’s execution of the 850 prophets of Baal.
  8. 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.”
  9. 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!”

depression

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

depression

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.

depression

 

 

Where Were You in Orlando?

Oh, Orlando, how we weep for you.

How we dare not say we know why this happened!

There’s a story of three men who called themselves friends of Job.  The man Job who once owned camels, oxen, sheep, and donkeys; he had seven sons, three daughters, and plenty of servants. Every day he prayed for his adult children.  He lost them all because of the Chaldeans, Sabeans, a fire and the wind.  He lost everything he had (except his wife).  That man.

The same Job, who then (after losing everything but his wife), developed boils and sat in ashes, scraping his skin with broken pottery.  That man.

Job had some friends who decided together to come and visit him. Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite.  (I know what you’re thinking: with friends with names like that, who needs enemies?!) These friends decided to come sympathize with  Job and comfort him.

They did some things right. They tore their clothes and put ashes on their heads (a sign of grief).  They sat with him for seven days and didn’t say anything because they saw how great was his grief.  (I know I would never have made it that long.) They figured they knew why these things had happened to Job.  Those friends.

Finally they took turns speaking.  They said things like “The innocent don’t suffer.” “God is just.” God rewards the good.” “Job, you are presumptuous.”  They claimed to speak for God. They figured they knew why these things had happened to Job.  Those friends.  They had all the answers, but their answers were wrong.

Oh America, what about us?  Do we think we have the right answers?!

They expounded on their perspective which, of course, could only be right since they were men of experience and knowledge.  They knew God (they thought) and therefore had the right to set Job straight.  Those friends.

Job had some things to say.  As it turned out, God was listening to the entire conversation (He always does) and the four of them were pretty off-base when it comes to figuring out why God allowed these things to happen to Job.

Really, America.  Listen up.

Then God spoke.  “Where were you,” He asked, “when the world was set on its foundation?  Where were you when I hung the stars in space?  Who set its measurements?  Tell Me if you can.”

What happened in Orlando is beyond grief and sadness.

Just as God spoke to Job and his friends, God speaks to us about Orlando and the grief so many people are facing today.  We think we have reasons and answers?  Think again.

“Where were you,” God asks, “when I hung the world in space?  Do you know its measurements?  Tell  me if you can.”

“Have you ever,” God asks, “commanded the morning or caused the dawn to know its place?”

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, and does the rain have a father? Tell me if you know.”

“Can you hunt the prey for the lion or provide the raven its nourishment?  Do you know the time a deer gives birth?  Do you make the horse leap like a locust?  Can you count the stars by name?”

world lion

That God Who sometimes speaks in a still small voice (or in a whisper) spoke to Job out of the whirlwind and the storm.

Job listened and repented in dust and ashes.

Yes,  America.  We need to do the same.

Of the terror that occurred in Orlando, God says to us, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the world? Have you ever commanded the morning?  If you can hunt prey for the lion or find the raven its food, then you can speak.”

There are some things we can do.  II Chronicles 7:14 tells us this.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

How about it, God’s people?

 

 

 

Water?!

A guest post by Katrina Hoover, who blogs at 500 Words.

Water?!

I frantically flipped through my Bible last night trying to remember which book in the Old Testament contained the stories of Elijah. I was coming off several days of mental quandary and I wanted to read about someone else living a ludicrous life, just to feel like I was in good company.Really… how did he do it? How did he go on night after night sleeping alone in the dying weeds beside the drying brook and being fed by dirty ravens? How did he keep going knowing that his life was being sought by the most powerful man around? (And the most powerful woman around, Jezebel, the instigator of most of the evil of King Ahab.) And most intriguing to me, how did he go on when almost everyone was against him?And what I really wanted to know was what he did with his own ego.When Ahab was seeking his life, was Elijah angry? And if he was angry, could he always tell whether he was angry for personal reasons or whether it was a righteous anger?And when it came to the standoff on Mt. Carmel, did he struggle with a self-centered sense of competition and wanting to prove the others wrong because of all the evil they had done to him?

If you are working for God, how do you make sure that you are only working for God and not for yourself?

I wasn’t doubting Elijah; I was doubting myself. Am I upset because wrong was done, or am I upset because my feelings are hurt? Am I happy because right is prevailing, or am I happy because I was proven right?

Then, there on Mt. Carmel, as if his life is not ridiculous enough, Elijah turns to his altar, the one that is supposed to start on fire, and starts pouring water over it.

Deep in the black-and-white pages of First Kings, sitting in front of my electric fireplace, I felt better about my own life with every verse.  Elijah’s looks so impossible! (How did they get all that water up there anyway, in a drought?)

Apparently, Elijah wanted it to be perfectly clear to every person watching that the work would be God’s alone. He wanted the Baal-worshiping crowds to know that even if the circumstances were extremely difficult God can still answer prayer. He wanted all of Israel to know that no matter how physically impossible something is, God transcends the rules.I think he hoped the image of the barrels of water sloshing across the altar would stamp itself in the minds of every man woman and child on the mountain. I think he wanted to hear them say “That’s impossible!” Or “He’s crazy!” just so they could be proven wrong by God Himself.Then he began to pray as if nothing was unusual.So now I wonder… when I encounter situations that people say are impossible, how do I treat them? When I find myself praying for something or someone and there appears to be no hope at all, Do I give up?Because perhaps we all ask for fire to fall from heaven at some point in our lives. Perhaps I have been guilty in the past of shaking my head and walking away and saying it’s against the laws of nature for fire to start in a soggy mess of wood and meat.

There’s a lot of logic to that way of thinking, a lot of security in knowing we won’t look like an idiot. The people were kind of right; Elijah was kind of crazy to pour that water everywhere and then ask God for fire.

We can’t be proven wrong if we simply don’t ask God for anything. We want to be logical and practical and respected. We’ve seen everyone around us calling on their gods of prestige and power and money all day long and nothing has changed. We don’t want to be the next idiot. It hasn’t happened before. It never will happen.

But Elijah knew his God and it did happen, and everyone watching saw all those gallons of water start on fire and burn completely.

So perhaps that’s how Elijah avoided his own ego.He made it entirely clear that only God could have answered.

By pouring the water he made himself look crazy to bring God the ultimate glory. There would be no mistake in anyone’s mind that the miracle was God’s, not Elijah’s.I want to have the faith to believe that He will work when there is no earthly reason to expect that. I want to be willing to look like a fool, if only God can be proven powerful.

This is an aspect of hope and trust that I have never yet fully lived. But if Elijah could have it in the Old Testament before Christ, then you and I can have that same faith today, no matter what.