Grace For The Journey
Someone has called it “the common cold of mental illness.” When it hits, it causes us to feel as though the weight of the world were upon our shoulders. I am talking about depression, those recurring situations where we find ourselves not “on top of the mountain,” but rather “down in the valley of despair.”
One of the most well-known cases of depression in the Bible is that of Elijah. In the Book of 1 Kings, we read that Elijah had an incredible “mountain-top experience” in chapter 18 only to be followed in the very next chapter by a journey through the “valley of despair.” In chapter 19, Elijah even prays that he may die (1 Kings 19:4).
We often get depressed right after a great victory. That’s what happened to Elijah. He had just experienced one of the greatest success stories of all times. He had challenged the false prophets to a battle on top of Mount Carmel and won a big victory. It seemed nothing could hinder his successes. And then – Depression hit him like a sudden, winter storm. He goes from “mountain-top” to “melt-down,” from a “battle ace” to a “basket case.”
Depression should be taken seriously. I understand there is both “situational depression” and “clinical depression.” We can thank God that He has gifted doctors and medical practitioners with medicines that help many patients cope with the complexities of a clinical illness not easily cured.
Elijah is suffering from more of a situational kind of depression, a depression not unlike that experienced by most of us from time to time. What Elijah learns during this time of darkness is instructive and helpful to us when we fall into a similar situation.
1) Be Blessed by God’s Provision
After learning that the wicked queen Jezebel gave orders to kill him, Elijah runs deep into the wilderness and falls asleep under a tree, totally exhausted from his emotional flight from danger. Check out what happens in 1 Kings 19:5-8, “Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, ‘Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.’ So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.”
Elijah had been running for his life, running on pure adrenaline, having not eaten for some time. We can be so energized by a project or event of some kind that our bodies will function on the pure, emotional high of the experience.
Sometimes you can have so much to do that you focus all of your energy into accomplishing that one thing – a sales proposal, a presentation, a speech, an interview, a term-paper, a sermon! – and when that one thing is over, you come crashing down like a house of cards because you’ve been running on sheer adrenaline and determination.
God has provided three necessary things for the human body to function well: food, water, and rest. God created these things. They are good things. And we are wise to draw strength from them and be strengthened by the provision of God.
Elijah needed to eat, drink, and sleep. He is exhausted! He sleeps there under that broom tree and an angel taps him and says, “Arise and eat.” Those are encouraging words, aren’t they?! I like to do that every day, don’t you?!
Elijah wakes up and looks over and sees a fire with a loaf of bread baking on top of it – the angel had made it. It’s “Angel Food Cake!” He eats, drinks, and sleeps again. And after he sleeps he gets up and eats again.
When we stress our bodies by not getting enough sleep and nutrition, we are setting ourselves up for an emotional breakdown. Legendary coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers used to say, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” And he’s right. If you don’t get enough sleep, and if you don’t get adequate nutrition, you become vulnerable to physical and emotional sickness.
To say we are “too busy” or feel we are “too important” for food and rest is to set ourselves up for a prideful fall. Our bodies are literally temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and we must take care of them to the glory of God.
Make sure you have a healthy diet of nutritional food. Healthy eating habits, proper sleep, regular exercise – all of these things help us overcome burnout and avoid depression.
We need both physical food and exercise as well as spiritual food and exercise. The spiritual blessing for Elijah is the presence of God.
2) Be Blessed by God’s Presence
After eating and resting, Elijah journeys on until coming to Mount Horeb where he enters a cave. In that very cave, God speaks to him.
God asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9). Of course, God knows exactly what Elijah is doing in that cave, but He asks Elijah in order to force him to deal with his little “pity party.” In essence, Elijah replies: “I’m the only one left who cares about the One True God and they’re all out to get me.” (1 Kings 19:10)
Look more closely at the question God asks Elijah. He asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God doesn’t ask, “What are you doing there, as in “What are you doing over there in that cave” – as though God Himself were somewhere else while asking. God may just as easily have said, “I am wondering as we’re both here together, what’s going on, Elijah? I am right here with you, listening to you.”
Here’s the point:
Even when we’re alone,
God is with us.
So, we’re never actually alone.
As God, this is how Jesus was able to say, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). There’s just something wonderful about knowing that God is always with us. It makes us strong.
Remember that next time you feel alone and scared. God is there. He’s in the darkness of the cave with you. He will provide the light you need.
We talk of faith when we’re up on the mountain
But talk comes easy when life’s at its best
But it’s down in the valley of trials and temptations
That’s where faith is really put to the test
For the God on the mountain, is the God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right.
And the God of the good times
Is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day
Is still God in the night.
(“God on The Mountain,” Lynda Randle)
This is God Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”