Elijah

Overcoming Depression:  Elijah

 (I Kings 19:1-16)

 

1.   Depression...it can strike at the most inopportune time...it never really announces its coming and no person is completely immune from it...it strikes high achievers and under achievers alike...it does not distinguish between rich and poor...it doesn’t care whether a person has a PhD or never finished grade school...and, surprisingly, it can afflict the spiritual person as well as the unspiritual person...

3.   Depression is so wide spread that is has been called the common cold of psychological problems...I searched “depression” on Google and discovered 230 million different web sites that in some way deal with depression...I got depressed just looking at that overwhelming number!...it is estimated that in America 17-20 million people at any given moment are clinically depressed and that millions of others suffer milder forms of depression...

4.   And the problem of depression is not unique to the fast-paced, high pressure world of the 21st century...throughout the history of humanity there have been many documented cases of depression...for example—

--Winston Churchill, the English statesman and political leader, waged a lifelong battle against depression, which he called "my black dog"...

--Abraham Lincoln, one of our most revered presidents struggled with depression...

      --John Bunyan, the great Christian who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, spoke of his battle with what he described as the “slough of despondency”...

      --medieval Christians viewed depression, which they described with the colorless and inaccurate word “sloth,” as one of the seven deadly sins...

      --and it is apparent from their writings that some of the great characters in the Bible, people  such as Jeremiah and Isaiah and David, at times wrestled with depression...

5.   I want to direct you attention to classic case study in depression in the Scripture...found in I Kings 19...Elijah, the great prophet of God had just had his famous confrontation with the prophets of the pagan god, Baal, on Mt. Carmel...he called down fire from heaven demonstrating the superiority of God over Baal and then with his own hand he killed all the prophets of Baal...now look at what happened in I Kings 19:1-16

 

T.S. – What a pathetic scene...the great prophet of God cowering under a juniper tree, whining for God to take his life...no doubt Elijah was caught up in the throes of depression...and from his experience want to share with you in summary form four things we can do to overcome depression when it comes our way...

 

I.    To overcome depression we must reach out to others

1.   One of the worst things you can do when feeling depressed is withdraw from other people...being depressed already makes a person feel isolated, alone, misunderstood...that’s how Elijah felt...twice in this chapter, once in v.10 and again in v.14, he said, “And I alone am left...”...that wasn’t correct...v.18 says that there were at least 7000 other people in Israel who had refused to worship Baal...but that’s how Elijah felt...

2.   And one reason he felt that way is that he took steps to isolate himself from others...when he heard that Jezebel was out to get him v.3 says he “...ran for his life and came to Beersheba...”...Beersheba was about 150 miles south of Mt. Carmel...it was long way from Elijah’s friends and supporters...then, v.4 says he further isolated himself by leaving his servant in Beersheba and traveling another entire day alone into the wilderness...

3.   No wonder Elijah felt depressed...he completely isolated himself from others...he had around him no person on whom he could lean or in whom he could confide...

 

  1. Dr. Robert Wright in a Time magazine article points out that American suburbs and apartments can be lonely places...

--thanks to garage-door openers you don’t even have to see your neighbors when going or coming...

--the average American spends 28 hours per week watching television plus time on the Internet...

--1/4th of households in our nation now consist of only one person...

2.   Is it any wonder that so many of us feel depressed when we live in such isolation from others?...the biblical message is that not only do we need God, but we also need each other...God made us to have meaningful, fulfilling relationships in our lives...

3.   And that’s one thing being part of a church family should provide for us...among God’s people we should find those who will encourage us, walk beside us, and uphold us in times of difficulty...(...one most beautiful events in Scripture happened in Garden of Gethsemane on eve Lord’s crucifixion...the weight of cross bearing down on Him... Jesus deeply disturbed...went into garden and took his three closest friends aside and said, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” [Matthew 26:38]... even Jesus needed others around Him at such a time...)

4.   To overcome depression we must reach out to others...

 

II.   To overcome depression we must take care of ourselves physically

1.   Elijah was physically exhausted from his intense encounter with the prophets of Baal and from his long journey from Mt. Carmel to Beersheba...v.5 says “...he lay down and slept...” and he was awakened by an angel touching him...

2.   That encounter between Elijah and the angel in vv.5-8 is interesting... our naturally assumption when an angel arrives on the scene is that some special message from God is about to be delivered...but this heavenly messenger brought a very earthly message...in effect said, “Elijah, you’ve got to eat.  You’ve got to have strength for what lies before you and the only way to gain physical strength is to take nourishment.”...and angel gave Elijah hot bread cake (one writer says it must have been angel food cake!) and water...

  1. What want you to see in that is depression sometimes is caused by or at the very least aggravated by our life-styles...truth is most of us know how to live better than we do...simple things such as—

--getting adequate amounts (not too little or too much) of sleep...

--eating a healthy foods and appropriate amounts of food...

--exercising regularly...

--maintaining healthy balance between work and leisure...

can help us avoid or minimize depression in our lives...

 

III. To overcome depression we must practice the presence of God in our lives

  1. The phrase “practice the presence of God” is a wonderful phrase… he phrase comes from the writings of a cook named Nicholas Herman who lived in a French monastery over 300 years ago...Nicholas Herman lived a simple, radiant life of fellowship with God...
  2. Nicholas Herman went through terribly difficult time in his life...time of despair and darkness which he called his “dark night of the soul”... for ten years he struggled with doubt, self-condemnation, and self-distrust...said it seemed that all creation and reason and God, Himself, was against him...and he found his way out of the pit of despair by focusing on God...he wrote, “I resolved to give all for The All.  I renounced for the love of God everything that was not He.  I worshipped Him the oftenest I could.  Keeping my mind in His Holy Presence and recalling it as often as I found it wandering from Him.  By often repeating this acts they became habitual and the presence of God is rendered as it were natural to us.  Everyone is capable of such familiar conversation with God, some more, and some less; each one knows what he can do, let him begin to practice the presence of God.”[quoted by Russell Dilday in You Can Overcome Discouragement, pp.54-55]
  3. In vv.9-14 the account of that beautiful encounter between God and Elijah in a cave on Mt. Horeb,,, Mt. Horeb was special place...called “the mountain of God” in v.8 because it was the mountain from which God first spoke to Moses in Exodus 3 and it was the mountain from which God established His covenant and gave His law to the Israelites...
  4. Think it is significant that Elijah went to that special place where he was most likely to meet God...and it was that encounter with God which helped him get through this difficult time in his life...
  5. And from that we can learn that it is important that we have a time and place in our lives where we meet with God...practicing the presence of God in our lives helps us to overcome depression...

 

IV. To overcome depression we must get on with the business of life

  1. God told Elijah in vv.15-16 to get on with his life...Elijah was a prophet of God...in those verses God told him to get back to doing the work of a prophet...He said go an anoint Hazael king over Aram and Jehu king over Israel...and also anoint Elisha to be a prophet like you...
  2. There’s an important principle in that...to overcome depression we must resist the temptation of sitting around brooding and being too introspective...God said to Elijah and I think He says to us, “Get up and get going!”...find someone to love...give yourself away in some useful task...minister to the needs of others...
  3. Dr. Carl Menninger, the famous American psychiatrist who died in 1990, once gave a lecture on mental health...after lecture answering questions from the audience...someone asked, "What would you advise a person to do if that person felt a nervous breakdown coming on?"...most people thought he would say, "Go see a psychiatrist immediately," but he didn’t...instead, to their astonishment, Dr. Menninger replied, "Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find somebody in need, and help that person."...he then added that to overcome depression and discouragement, "Don’t focus on yourself, get involved in the lives of other people."
  4. In life our feelings often follow our actions...do the right thing and before long you will find yourself feeling the right way...

Conclusion

1.   We use many different words to describe it...dejection, gloom, sadness, despair, blue, melancholy, and many more...no matter what it is called, most of us know the feeling...what can we do to overcome that feeling?...the experience of Elijah reminds us to overcome depression we must--

--reach out to others...

--take care of ourselves physically...

--practice the presence of God in our lives...

--get on with the business of life...

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