We have heard a great deal during these periods of lockdown of people suffering. The loneliness, the isolation, the social and physical distancing, the fear, the anxiety, the trauma has all contributed to many people experiencing mental health issues, emotional and psychological problems and a deep sense of insecurity. This is new ground as we have never in our lifetime experienced anything like this worldwide pandemic in which it seems no country is exempt, and no class of people can escape.
Hardest hit has been communities with large, extended families, those who do not understand or have ignored government guidelines and those with little or no access to quality medical facilities. We are very thankful for our Health Services and the speed in rolling out of the vaccine. Even so none of us are immune from the desperate feelings that can engulf us and cause us to be undermined in our thinking, hope for the future, concern for our family, and sense of security.
We can be hit and taken by surprise by such things as depression, discouragement, and doubt. Even the greatest of God’s servants have gone through these experiences. They were dragged down and faced a sense of awful dreadfulness and seemed incapable of rising above their feelings and negative thoughts. We also get into similar situations and wonder about the future.
I was recently looking at three of the famous characters found in the Bible. They each served God in a great and mighty capacity and are held up as examples of devotion to God. They spoke for God to great crowds and achieved great things. They stood on the front line against ferocious opposition and held that line for God and yet at times they were brought so low it seemed they would fail. They were all prophets who were not particularly conveyors of the future but who spoke the message of God to the people. They received their message directly from the Lord and spoke with power, authority, and dignity. Their names are Elijah, Jeremiah and John the Baptist but in this article, we will consider briefly one of the three. This is not his life story but the low point in his life.
Elijah – Depressed
Depression has many causes and the great Christian doctor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a whole book on the subject. It can be caused by chemical imbalances and such conditions can be corrected with medication. It can be caused by stress and emotional turmoil or guilt through sin and selfishness. I am not a medical expert, and I am not going through all the nuances of depression, but I do know that anyone can feel down, slightly depressed or under stress and even experience deep depression. It is not good enough to say “pull yourself together” such words help not at all.
Elijah was a powerful man, forceful and able to speak strongly for God to his generation and even confronted King Ahab. He had been miraculously fed through a time of drought and famine and subsequently challenged hundreds of false, idol worshipping prophets to a contest on Mount Carmel. As the people gathered to watch he called them to let the god who answered by fire be God.
The prophets of Baal built their altar and laid the sacrifice on it. They cried to their idols, jumped about, cut themselves with stones and knives to shed blood for their idols and nothing happened, nothing at all, even though they kept up their chants for hours. Then Elijah built his altar, laid on the wood, then the sacrifice and ordered gallons of water to be poured all over it. He then prayed quietly, and God sent fire that consumed the sacrifice, lapped up the water and demonstrated His great power. It was a victory for the Lord and the people turned on the false prophets who were killed and Elijah was vindicated as he had stood single-handedly against the king, queen, and the prophets of Baal. We see him as a mighty man of God, but the queen sent a threat and called for his death and Elijah fled to the desert, flopped to the ground in depression and requested God to enable him to die. What had happened?
1. He was exhausted. He had faced the stress of the contest on Carmel, then had prayed long and hard to God for rain, then he had run miles to Jezreel and then had made his escape south to the desert.
2. He was afraid. His life was in danger as the queen had threatened to have him killed and in the stress of the moment, he seems to have forgotten the greatness of God.
3. He felt hopeless. All the victory seemed to have achieved was a deepening of resentment in the royal family against God and few it seemed had decided to follow God’s ways.
4. He felt lonely. He seemed to think that he was the only one in the whole of Israel who stood for the integrity of God. He felt totally isolated and depression hit his soul.
All these factors can contribute to depression and so what was needed?
1. Rest: he needed good, sound sleep and that is what happened. There are times when to keep going makes matters worse and the reality of rest, namely one day in seven is God’s provision for good health, both physical and mental.
2. Food: he needed nourishment for his body and that was provided by God with two wonderful meals which were so good they kept him going for forty days.
3. Reminder: he was given a sense of the power and glory of God as he stood in a cave but then he heard “the still small voice of God.” Today our prayers and Bible reading if done reverently and expectantly can enable us to hear God’s voice.
4. Aim: he was given specific tasks to do; anoint the king of Syria, then the king of Israel and finally a prophetic successor in Elisha. Aimlessness can cause deep issues for the mind as with no aim in life we lose meaning and significance. A real problem in lockdown is engendered when we flop in front of a television and do nothing for God.
5. Fellowship: he was reminded that there were 7,000 in the nation who had not worshipped Baal but were faithful to God.
So, with good rest, good food, a deeper awareness of God, a new direction for ministry and an understanding that others were with him enabled him to overcame his depression and he served God for the rest of his days. This was just a dip in an otherwise powerful ministry.
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging is all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
You never can tell how close you are,
It may be near though it seems so far.
So, stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.