Tuesday, January 15, 2019

When the Godly Get Depressed

The following is a summary of my sermon, "A Depressed Prophet."  It is the eighth one in my series Elijah: A Man Like Us.  

Godly people become depressed.  Sadly, the Christian community does not always have a box for their depression.  Instead, we subtly think that if we follow Christ, every day with Jesus should be sweeter than the day before.

For years I have changed one line in the hymn "At the Cross."  Instead of singing, "and now I am happy all the day," I substitute "and now He is with me all the day."  Because following Jesus does not always result in happy days.

The nineteenth chapter of 1 Kings presents an incredible look at a depressed prophet.   For three and a half years this man has trusted God and experienced the victories of faith and obedience.  When God said rebuke the king, he went to the palace and became public enemy number one.  When God said go to the brook, stay there, and trust God for daily provision, he obeyed.  When God changed his directions, Elijah walked 100 miles, trusting God every step for safety from his enemies.  At Zarapheth, the man of God challenged a widow to walk in faith, and together they experienced miraculous provision of not only bread but of her son being raised from the dead.  After a long time, the Lord sent him back to Ahab in one of the most dramatic displays in the Old Testament.  God interveneddramatically on Mt. Carmel and vindicated his servant.  Then, one more time Elijah went to God in deep prayer, bringing the promised rain to fruition.  With every problem he trusted God.

Twenty-four hours later, Jezebel sends word to him, "I am going to kill you.  You are a dead man!"

He doesn't trust.  He doesn't pray.  He doesn't wait.  He runs, scared for his life.  And chapter nineteen outlines the depth of his immediate depression.  Full of self-pity, with his thinking all messed up, he wants to die.

Elijah was exhausted - emotionally, physically, and psychologically spent.  For three and a half years he has been trusting God in extreme circumstances.  The reality of his faith did not rule out the reality of his stress.  And then, following his greatest victory, it catches up with him and he temporarily snaps.

Elijah is human just like us.  He is a jar of clay.

God graciously and lovingly deals with Elijah:

He takes care of the man's physical needs.  He needs a lot of sleep, he needs food and nourishment, and he needs some exercise.  For forty days, God does not rebuke nor correct him.  He meets his needs and lets him refuel.  The man is exhausted.  He needs time to recuperate.

A Greek proverb says, "You will break the bow if you keep it always bent."

Finally, God speaks quietly and tenderly to him, reminding him that he is not as alone as he thinks.  There are 7000 other followers of Jehovah.  He subtly brings Elijah out of his self-pity.

Depressed people don't think correctly.  Their thought-patterns become skewed.  God has to help his man realign his thinking.

The man who trusted God for incredible problems in the past has to be reminded that God is bigger than Queen Jezebel.

And Jehovah points his man to three other people who can be involved in his ministry in the future.  For the past season, Elijah had to primarily go it alone.  Now he needs to link arms with some friends.

Charles Swindoll writes, "God has not designed us to live like hermits in a cave.  He has designed us to live in friendship and fellowship and community with others."

R. T. Kendall shares valuable insights about depression in his book These Are the Days of Elijah  [the points are his and the notes mine]. . .

1.  We fail to realize that the best of Christians can sometimes become depressed.

2.  If you happen to be a leader or a person with some profile, you are especially vulnerable to the kind of satanic attack Elijah was under.

Christian and secular leaders are prone to fall in at least one of three areas: sexual temptation, pride/lack of accountability, and financial indiscretion.  Reading the biographies of noble Christians, I have discovered that when a man or woman stands above those temptations, there tends to be a fourth area that can trip him - discouragement and depression.  It is as if Satan sees if he can't trip them up in one of those deadly three areas, he will send a thorn of dark discouragement.

Read the stories of godly heroes like Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham, Hudson Taylor, and others.  They at times battledsevere bouts of discouragement and depression.

3.  We are all capable of extreme depression if we have been overworking and get overtired.

Working all the time, never taking a vacation, and always bending the bow are not marks of spirituality.

4.  This time in Elijah’s life shows that some of the best of God’s people have been suicidal.

In the Bible Elijah, Moses, Job, and Jeremiah all faced times when they wanted to die.

5.  A person under attack, as in severe depression, may not always demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit at a time like that.

When someone has been under severe stress, give them a break.  Only Jesus acted like Jesus all of the time.

6.  There is more than one cause for depression.

Look for the root.  If there is a chemical imbalance, which can result from prolonged periods of stress, seek medical and medicinal help.  If the root is exhaustion, look for a way to get more rest.  If problems in your past are triggering it, find ways to deal with the emotional and psychological roots.  If the problem is relational, work on your relationships.  If your life lacks margin, seek ways to build margin.  And, if the problem is spiritual, seek the Lord, repent of your sin, allow Him to realign your life with His Word and fill you with His Spirit.  If the root is spiritual, no amount of therapy or medication will solve the problem.

I am thankful that God gave us this picture in Scripture.  Even the godliest of people wear out and get in the dumps.  Thank the Lord that He was gracious with Elijah.  

May we be wise to learn from this example. 

The following is an excellent resource about godly people walking through depression:

Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro

For more help, see These are the Days of Elijah by R T Kendall and Elijah: A Man of Heroism and Humility by Charles Swindoll.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this Rhett. It was a great encouragement to me!