It’s a dark cave. Spiritual depression affects almost everyone at times, and we often have no idea how to find a way back into the light. Without question, one of the significant passages in the Bible that helps us understand this issue is the story of one of God’s great prophets in 1 Kings 19.
Following one of the most dynamic and powerful spiritual showdowns in history (Elijah facing and defeating the 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel), the wicked Queen Jezebel put a contract on Elijah’s head. Fear gripped his soul, and he ran for his life. He spent the next 40+ days in a spiritual and emotional funk.
I have experienced this many times (some more intense than others) after significant seasons of ministry. You are highly vulnerable to the Enemy’s attack when your physical, emotional, and spiritual tanks are low. Even though you may have experienced great spiritual victories, the slightest provocation can send you into an emotional tailspin.
Elijah was one of the godliest men in history, yet he found himself troubled and unable to right himself. What lessons do we learn from Elijah’s depression?
- We are always vulnerable after times of ministry expenditure.
He was afraid and arose and ran for his life … and went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and … requested for himself that he might die (vv. 3–4 NASB).
- Depression is often driven by fear, which may be accurate or completely unwarranted.
Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there (vv. 2–3).
- When we are depressed, we usually hide from others.
He was afraid and arose and ran for his life and … left his servant there (v. 3).
- Never underestimate the basic need for rest and refreshment
He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.”… So he ate and drank and lay down again (vv. 5–6).
- To overcome depression, it is important to get into an environment where we can hear God.
So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. Then he came there to a cave and lodged there (vv. 8–9).
- What we ultimately need, in time, is a fresh encounter with God.
Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him (v. 9).
- Our depression may lead to a feeling of intense loneliness (that we are the only ones doing what we’re doing), and we may lose all hope.
“I have been very zealous for the LORD…. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” “Please take my life” (vv. 10, 4).
- God is anxious to speak to us with His gentle, refreshing voice.
He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind … but the LORD was not in the wind…. an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.… a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing (vv. 11–12).
- If we listen, God will remind us that we are not alone and will restore our soul!
“You shall anoint Hazael … and Jehu … and Elisha …. you shall anoint as prophet in your place…. Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal.” … Then [Elisha] arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him (vv. 15–18, 21).
Food, deep rest, an encounter with the Lord, a reminder that He is there and that many others are with you, and the fellowship of ministry partners—is often the basic prescription to overcome spiritual depression.
Remember that others greater than you have faced such times. God knows and is your Good Shepherd. He will make you lie down in green pastures and restore your soul as you look to Him.
Father, when I am down, help me to take the necessary steps to rest and listen and encounter You in Your Word and prayer. Help me be honest with others who can help me gain Your perspective. Remind me today that I am one among millions of Your children and that I am not alone and never will be.
TEN EVALUATIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION
- On a scale of 1–10 (10 being very healthy), where are you?
- Do you seem to be excessively tired?
NOTE: It is essential to have a physical examination if this is so. You may have some physical issues affecting you emotionally.
- Is ministry stale and boring to you?
- Are you longing for some time of rest?
- When is the last time you took an undisturbed time away?
- What is your plan for getting some time away for a few days or a few weeks?
- Are you hearing from God regularly?
- What is your next step for getting spiritually and emotionally healthy?
- If you have not shared this yet with a friend who could help you, who is the person you need to talk with, and when will you do it?
- Do you realize that God knows you, and His lovingkindness is everlasting? Don’t turn from Him. He will help you as you pursue Him!
Thank you. Your lesson was a tremendous reminder of the power of the Word and prayer in overcoming spiritual depression. I feel so equipped to help those that I currently minister to those in this state and bring hope and light to them.