Today’s passage is 1 Kings 19:1-21. Do you struggle with feeling depressed? In this passage we learn four powerful steps you can take to help you when you are depressed. Let’s go!
1 Kings 19:1-3 (NIV) 1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life…
On verses 1-3a: Elijah has just been used by God to accomplish one of the most impressive miracles ever recorded in the Bible: fire has come down upon Elijah’s sacrifice (1 Kings 18:38-39). The prophets of Baal are seized, silenced and killed, and Elijah is riding a spiritual high, literally outrunning King Ahab’s chariot (1 Kings 18:40-46). Yet after all these miracles, King Ahab still seems unconvinced. Ahab tells his wife Queen Jezebel about everything Elijah has done (1 Kings 19:1). Queen Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah (v2). Elijah becomes afraid for his life and starts running — this time not in faith but in fear (v3).
What can we learn from this?
1. Don’t be so focused on what people are doing that you miss what God is doing. Notice that even after seeing the incredible miracle of fire falling from heaven, Ahab’s focus was still on Elijah, not on the Lord.
2. There are three situations where we can be especially vulnerable to fear and depression:
(1) When you’ve just experienced a great victory and the high that came from that victory fades away (See 1 Corinthians 10:12);
(2) When you’re exhausted after giving everything you have; or
(3) When you are disappointed by the results of your efforts.
Elijah probably experienced all three at the same time:
(1) God had just used him to perform one of the greatest miracles ever recorded in the Bible, and the high of that miracle is starting to fade away;
(2) Elijah was understandably tired and fatigued after giving everything he had to serve God; and
(3) Elijah was probably disappointed that despite these amazing miracles, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel’s hearts were still so hard toward the Lord.
Under normal circumstances, Elijah probably wouldn’t be so affected by Queen Jezebel’s death threat. But given the condition Elijah was in, Jezebel’s death threat led to great fear in Elijah, followed by depression. How do you guard against or recover from a depressed mood? Let’s find out in the verses that follow.
1 Kings 19:3-8 (NIV) 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. 7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
On verses 3b-8a: In his depression, Elijah wanted to be alone and he wanted to die (v3-4). The first thing God knew Elijah needed was physical rest in the form of food, drink and sleep. And that’s exactly what God provides to Elijah. The same God who provided food for Elijah through ravens and a widow in 1 Kings 17 provides food for Elijah again. Twice God feeds Elijah baked bread and water, and with tender words He comforts Elijah, “Get up and eat, for the journey has been too much for you”.
What can we learn from this? When you are depressed (or are on the verge of depression), the road to restoration includes taking care of your physical health. That means getting proper rest and eating well. God cares not just for your spiritual health but for your entire well being, including your physical health. (That’s why from time to time Jesus fed his disciples and even the crowds who followed him.)
1 Kings 19:8b-13 (NIV) 8 …Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
On verses 7-13: After his physical strength was restored from the food, drink and sleep he received, Elijah goes to Mount Horeb, the famous mountain where God first met with Moses and gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Elijah knew that more than physical food and rest, Elijah needed to meet with God, to hear from God again. So he went out of his way to meet with God while in his depressed state.
What can we learn from this? When you are depressed (or on the verge of depression), get into the presence of God and position yourself to hear from God again. Get away from all the noise in your life — all the rumblings that come from the storms, earthquakes and the fires you notice around you. Go somewhere where you can focus on God, pour out your heart and listen to His Word. Do those things until you can hear God’s still small voice speaking to your heart once again.
1 Kings 19:14-18 (NIV) 14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel–all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”
On verses 14-18: Elijah has twice poured out his heart to God, telling God about his fears and his loneliness. Notice that depressed Elijah is focused on everything that’s wrong. But Elijah hears God’s voice speaking to his heart. Just when Elijah thought he was all alone, God reassures Elijah that he is not alone. God tells Elijah that He has assembled a team that will work alongside Elijah, including Hazael who will be king of Aram, Jehu who will be king of Israel, and Elisha who will succeed Elijah as Israel’s next great prophet, plus 7,000 others who are committed to worshiping the Lord.
What can we learn from this? When you are depressed (or on the verge of depression), the enemy will try to get you to focus on everything that’s wrong and even convince you of things that are not true: “No one loves you. No one cares about you. You’re all by yourself. All your hard work was a waste.” In those times, you need to replace Satan’s lies with God’s truth. You do that by identifying the lie that Satan has tried to get you to believe and stacking that up against the truth of God’s Word.
1 Kings 19:19-21 (NIV) 19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” 21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.
On verses 19-21: Up to this point, Elijah has been a one man show. He has done everything by himself. But this recent bout with depression and burnout shows Elijah that he cannot keep being a one man show. He needs others. So Elijah obeys God’s word and anoints Elisha as his successor. Here we are introduced to Elisha, who takes the call of God so seriously that he slaughters his oxen and burns his farming tools to follow Elijah and become his attendant.
What can we learn from this? When you are depressed (or on the verge of depression), reach out to others and let them serve you in return. When you reach out and serve others, you get your eyes off yourself, and in return, you eventually gain friends who will end up serving you as well. Don’t wait for others to reach out to you. You reach out to others. As Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
Heavenly Father, thank You that You care for me and that You are committed to restoring me and caring for my needs. Whenever I am depressed or on the verge of depression, help me to take the four steps I’ve learned from Your Word today: to take care of my physical health, to get into Your presence and listen to You, to replace Satan’s lies with Your truth, and to reach out to others. Thank You that because of Jesus, weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!