Overcoming depression by remembering the presence of God.
Standing like a giant sequoia in a forest of ferns, the Old Testament prophet Elijah’s faith and power were unlike anything the Nation of Israel had experienced, both seen in chapters 18 and 19 of the Book of I Kings. In chapter 18, we find God sending Elijah to a widow’s home to rest for a few days. While there, it was discovered the widow and her son had no food and were preparing their final meal before succumbing to death. Elijah delivered a miracle of an endless supply of olive oil and flour with but a whisper of a prayer. A few days later, that widow’s son fell in sickness and died, leaving the widow thinking her sins had caught up with her, and God’s hand of judgment would strike her down next. Elijah brought the boy to his room, laid him on the bed, said a prayer, and the boy was raised from the dead. There was no doubt to Elijah that God was with him and that with God nothing was impossible.
After leaving the widow’s home, God directed Elijah to confront the most wicked and vile leadership Israel had known, King Ahab. Elijah commanded the king to have Israel meet him by an abandoned altar of God on Mount Carmel with the 850 false prophets that had been leading God’s people astray. Once assembled, Elijah instructed 450 prophets of Baal to construct an altar, sacrifice a bull, and call their god to bring fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. Hour after hour, these false prophets called to their God with no response, even cutting their flesh with swords and spears, dancing and shouting with nothing but silence. After hours of this vain foolishness, Elijah called them over to the abandoned altar of God. He had them watch as he repaired it, used 12 stones to construct a new altar, dug a trench around it, cut the bull into pieces which he laid on the wood, and had some of them fill the trench with water three times, enough to run down the altar filling the entire trench. Elijah then called to God and asked for the sacrifice to be consumed by fire. With that, fire came down from heaven, consumed the sacrifice, wood, stones, and even licked up all of the water. Then Elijah took the false prophets down to the valley and had them executed.
Elijah single-handedly cleansed the Nation of Israel of false prophets, put an evil king in his place, ushered in a revival, and then called for rain to bring an end to the famine! Yet, just days later, we find Elijah under a broom tree asking God to, “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died” (I Kings 19:4, ESV). How can such a strong man of faith who had consistently demonstrated power from God, go from victory to “woe is me” faster than a baptist to a buffet line after church on Sunday? The answer seems to be in a letter Jezebel, the wicked wife of King Ahab, sent to Elijah when she heard her false prophets had been slain. In that letter, she promised that in 24 hours, Elijah would suffer the same fate as her prophets, death by sword. Could one woman’s words bring such a man of God from mountain to valley? Could one critic change the course and direction of a prophet of God? Or, could there be other reasons for Elijah’s shift from hero to zero?
Perhaps he did allow the voice of opposition to strike fear into his heart. Maybe he was just worn, weary, and weak from years of labor, thus spiritually fragile. Perhaps he considered his best days behind him; after all, how could he top a Mount Carmel experience? Maybe he was just so discouraged and done with a hateful and hurtful world that continually rejected God? While we don’t have a definitive answer, we do know that it was not much longer after this that God replaced Elijah with another prophet, Elisha, and took him home to heaven.
While many commentators focus on the negative, Elijah allowed his discouragement to transition him out of ministry, I have a different take; perhaps God allowed Elijah to enter into His rest as a reward for years of faithful service. To know that God is intimately involved in our everyday, routine, mundane lives should bring us comfort. Elijah served a God that knew how much he could handle, how strong he was, and when it was time to call his son in from the storm. In II Kings, Elijah is walking with his successor Elisha when a chariot of fire, pulled by horses of fire, swept him off his feet; transporting him to heaven in a whirlwind (II Kings 2). I don’t see a God that is angry with him for not being strong enough but a God that knew the heart of his child and gave him the rest he so desperately needed.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not endorsing or condoning you to isolate and insulate yourself from this world, allowing depression to set in, and asking God to end your life; what I am suggesting is that God knows you and in His time will give you the rest you so desperately need. If you are going through a valley today, please remember that God has not taken the eyes of His love off of you, and He knows how much you can take and will give you the rest you long for at just the right time. So, hold on, keep the faith, don’t let go, and one day, your chariot of fire will sweep you off your feet and take you home.
Scripture: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” -I Cor. 10:13, ESV
Question: Are you tired of the hurts and pains associated with this life? Do you feel ready to go home, that your work on this earth is done? Are you about to collapse under the weight of a heavy burden?
Prayer: Father, there are times that I feel trapped in a world of pain with no way out, times when the sins of this world are about to overtake me and overcome my faith. Please remind me that life is full of mountains and valleys and that your presence is sufficient for me to endure. Father, I want to be faithful till the end. Please grant me the faith to believe, the strength to continue, and a glimpse of the finish line when I will be able to rest, with you, forever. Thank you for knowing and promising to take care of me. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.