From Mountaintop to Valley
"I have had enough, Lord," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. (1 Kings 19:4-5)
Admitting you feel depressed almost seems a taboo among some Christians. It’s seen as a sign that you haven’t trusted God enough (and if you had, you wouldn’t be feeling like this). That sounds a nice theory; but life isn’t always that straightforward, is it? In fact, depression - that feeling of deep sadness and an inability to do anything about it - was experienced by many people in the Bible: David, Hagar, Job, Jonah, Joshua, Moses, Naomi, Paul – all had their desperately low points. But perhaps one of the best-known examples is Elijah.
Having challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest on Mount Carmel to determine who was truly God, and their frantic efforts having had no effect, Elijah had built his altar to Yahweh, prayed to Him, and seen fire fall from heaven. The people had repented, the false prophets had been killed and King Ahab had been challenged. Elijah’s emotions were now running high. But he hadn’t counted on the wicked Queen Jezebel, whose threats suddenly threw him into the valley of despair. He fled for his life into the desert, where he sat down under a tree and, in the words of our opening verses, prayed to die.
This story illustrates how there is often no rational explanation for depression. Elijah had just seen God’s power demonstrated in an amazing way; but now, after just one threat, he plummets into the depth of despondency. But God doesn’t rebuke him for this; and nor will he rebuke us. In fact, God deals with him in a tremendously tender way, giving him sleep, getting him to eat properly, encouraging him to express his feelings, meeting with him gently, getting him to do something practical, giving him a friend and successor in Elisha, reassuring him he is not alone – then sending him back to get on with life.
God didn’t rebuke Elijah for feeling low; He simply drew him out of it step by step. And God can do the same for us.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. (Isaiah 61:3, NLT)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont
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