Depression is probably the most common human problem, but the Bible does not leave us without help. Many people in OT times felt miserable and depressed, and the prophet Elijah was one of them. He was just like us – James 5:17. His experiences were the same as ours. He had difficulties, tests, and he knew what depression was like.
READ: 1 Kings 18-19.
Our enemy, the devil, uses depression
If the devil gets us depressed, he makes us less able than we usually are; he wins a major success. The devil can use all sorts of tests and troubles to make us feel depressed.
READ: 1 Peter 1:6 – they are called manifold temptations.
Our tests are of various kinds and ‘shades’, but they will encourage us.
READ: 1 Peter 4:10; 2 Corinthians 12:9 – But there is also manifold grace of God, and God’s grace is always sufficient.
Notice 3 things about depression. It often comes:
1. When we feel extremely tired
READ: 1 Kings 18:46.
The devil knows the right time to attack us with depression. We are especially weak when our bodies feel very tired. It was certainly like this for Elijah. He sat down under a tree and wanted to die, as he had no physical energy at the time.
First, he had run nearly 20 miles to a place called Jezreel. Then he heard bad news in the city. So, he ran for more than another 80 miles.
This may be the main cause for your depression. How much do you do during a day? Too much perhaps? Do you take care of your body? Remember, your body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19-20).
Do not be careless about your physical needs as it brings dishonour to God:
- Get rest and sleep.
- Eat properly and enough – check your meal times!
- Relax with some activity.
All these things have spiritual as well as physical importance. There are times when it is easier to become depressed, and the devil will try to use them. These times are when our health is weak.
2. When we have had great spiritual benefits
READ: 1 Kings 18:16-39.
Elijah had had a great experience on the mountain, and it was a great success. God had showed his power and greatness, and Elijah must have felt great excitement. But then came the depression.
It often happens like that in our lives. There is no natural reason for it. God has just given us a great benefit, but the devil wants to steal it from us. He wants to take away our joy and peace in God; to make us feel depressed is the easiest way to do it. The devil can use just a minor event in our lives or bring to our memory an event, or feeling, or fear from the past. If we forget about God, and we become very depressed.
3. When we least expect it
This is the time when the devil comes to attack us – then cometh the devil (Luke 8:12), with ‘the darts of depression’.
Elijah left the place where he had been successful, and had astonished all the people, rushing off to Jezreel. He was going to tell people about God’s great success, but he was soon a very different man; afraid and depressed.
READ: 1 Corinthians 10:12 – depression often just appears in our lives, and we must remember to take heed.
Depression does something bad to us
Depression robs us of many good qualities that God has given us – courage, strength, discernment, etc.
READ: 1 Kings 17:1-16.
Elijah was usually a brave man. His desire was that his nation would return to God, and he was ready to die with them. He marched into Ahab’s palace and announced that God’s punishment was coming, then God told him that he would provide for his needs.
All that time, Ahab was hunting Elijah (1 Kings 18:10). Soldiers were searching for him, and they would kill him if they found him. It was at this time that God sent him to Sidon, which was the country of Jezebel, the wicked queen. Then he went to speak to Ahab, the evil king (1 Kings 18:15-18.), whilst the soldiers were hunting him.
So much happened at Carmel too. Elijah needed to be brave (1 Kings 18:19-40) and strong. After all this though, Elijah felt great physical weakness, and then depression followed. He had none of his former strength. He ran to save his life.
Maybe Elijah let a little pride affect his spiritual life?
READ: 1 Kings 18:36-37.
We cannot be sure about this; but perhaps there were two prayers here. The first had ‘I’ in it, then, the reason for his prayer changes in the next verse. Remember that Elijah was
a man subject to like passions as we are. Maybe he had the problem of pride too?
There may be another sign of this in 1 Kings 19:4 – O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. Nobody said that he was! God did give him a special job to do, and he knew that God was using him, so maybe this gave him a feeling of spiritual importance? One cannot prove this of course.
But one thing is certain, depression often comes to those who only think about themselves. We want life to go completely our own way, not God’s way.
Depression always makes us unable to see the facts as they are
There is humour in 1 Kings 19:4. Elijah asks the Lord to take away his life, but if this was really what he wanted then he should have stayed where he was. He need not have had such a long, tiring journey; Jezebel promised to kill him in the next 24 hours. But poor Elijah did not look at the true situation. Perhaps we are all like that too sometimes.
A lesson here is to avoid making important decisions when you feel depressed. You are not seeing things as they really are. There will be a day when you will feel much happier, and that would be a better time to make a decision.
READ: 1 Kings 19:10, 14.
Notice something else about Elijah. His wrong opinion of the situation appears again. Like our own sad accounts of trouble, it went on and on. He repeated the same thing, and it was not even an accurate! God says that there are 7,000 people who love him (1 Kings 19:18).
There are physical reasons for much depression
We have already mentioned this. But 1 Kings 19 reminds us about its importance. Notice 19:5-7. We read about the first things that God did for Elijah. They were things that he should have done for himself. God made him sleep. God gave him food.
The same thing happens today. There are good, sincere Christian workers, and many of them suffer from depression at times, because they too neglect these two essential things in life. God gave Elijah two long periods of good sleep, and He also gave him two meals. THEN, He allowed Elijah to continue his journey.
In depression, find some quiet place, and prepare yourself to meet with God
God knew where Elijah was going (1 Kings 19:7). It was the place where God gave the Law to Moses. Elijah feared that people no longer appreciated God’s law, so it was natural for him to go there. It was also the place where God talked to Moses. (Exodus 34:29). There God showed what He wanted for his people (Deuteronomy 5). Perhaps Elijah hoped that God would talk to him too, and that is exactly what happened.
In your depression, God will do the same for you. Find some quiet place to meet with Him. Your mind may be full of doubts, and you may even feel that it will be of no practical use, but just do it. Go to Him and be still.
We can discover again what is most important
We do this when we meet with God.
He comes to us when all is quiet
READ: 1 Kings 19:11-12 – it speaks about a still small voice.
We must all learn to be completely quiet at times (Psalms 46:10; Isaiah 30:15).
He gives us something new to do
READ: 1 Kings 19:15-17.
So much depression comes from only thinking about ourselves. This type of attitude is not healthy. Service for other people can be God’s way for us to escape.
He helps us to see our life as it really is
READ: 1 Kings 19:18.
There needs to be communication with God. Then we will be free from our wrong ideas, which just make us more and more depressed.
He provides the help and friendship of other Christians
Elisha is an example of this.
READ: 1 Kings 19:19-21.
God gave him to Elijah. Later, there is a beautiful description of him. He which poured water on the hands of Elijah (2 Kings 3:11) – that he served Elijah.
God is very good to us too. He usually sends someone into our lives. He or she will help and encourage us. When this happens to you, avoid giving another account of your troubles! Ask God for His help to start life again. He is sufficient, whatever your needs may be you will have His strength and peace in your time of depression.
What you have leaned now may help other people later. Their need may be even greater than yours is now (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
For Group/Family Discussion
Sometimes when people’s bodies are very tired this may cause depression. The Bible says that believers’ bodies are like ‘temples’ for the Holy Spirit. READ: 1 Cor. 6:19. So, believers must not use their bodies in a way that would harm them. How can busy people organize their daily life so that this does not happen?
What can busy people do to provide good opportunities for necessary quiet time with the Lord?
Perhaps Elijah suffered from depression because he was lonely. The Bible teaches us that Christians should be like the parts of a body. The success of each part depends on the other parts. READ: Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:12-31; Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Pet. 4:8-11). How can each believer best contribute to the lives of other believers?
God gave His servant, Elijah, a way to escape from his depression. He provided him with a reliable partner, Elisha, who helped him. What do you think that meant to Elijah? What does it mean for us, when we give support to other believers?
Can a Christian do anything to avoid or reduce periods of doubt and depression?
Look carefully at what God said to Jeremiah (Jer. 15:15-21) during one experience of depression. (Note that it was not the only time of depression in Jeremiah’s life.) The honest account is there in the Bible, and it is there to ‘teach’ and ‘encourage’ us. What do you think that the passage is saying to believers today?
John the Baptist said (twice) that Jesus was the Lamb of God, which taketh away4 the sin of the world (John 1:29, 35). But later, while he was in prison, he showed a little doubt and depression, but Jesus knew everything about John feelings, and said that John was one of the greatest men who had ever lived. Jesus chose not to consider John’s doubt and depression. He chose to think about greater parts of John’s life (Mat. 11:7-19). We might know a believer who has doubts and who has depression, and we want to help them. How might Jesus’ opinion about John help us?
An important teaching in the Bible is on ‘Meditating’. This is when we think much about the meaning and the message of words from the Bible, and we study the passage(s). Read Jos. 1:8; Ps. 1:2, 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 97, 99 and 148. These passages also explain what meditation means. What do you think this includes?
Some well-known Christian speakers of old like John Bunyan and C.H. Spurgeon had times of serious depression that lasted a long time. Then they found that it was difficult just to read the Bible. How would you try to help someone who felt like that?