Depression affects one in ten Americans at some point in their lives. Oklahoma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has one of the percentages of adults that meet the criteria for depression in the nation.
In my practice treating depression, I often see the pain of depression compounded by my client’s having some or all of the following beliefs. “I’m a Christian, I shouldn’t feel this way.” “If my faith was stronger, I’d feel better.” “I’m so blessed, how can I be depressed?” “I need to spend more time in the word.” “Pray more.” “God is not happy with me.”
So, if you or someone you love is struggling with depression, and self condemnation, let me share with you the way God treats depression. We’ll be looking at Elijah, who James describes as “a man with a nature like ours.” (James 5:17)
1Kings 17-19:18 tells us of Elijah, a man who was hated by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. He prayed that it would not rain until he said, and it didn’t rain for three years. He made provisions for one meal to last for three years. He raised a dead boy to life. In between some of these events, he went into hiding where God sent ravens to feed him. Perhaps the most famous event was when he called ?re down from heaven. After the prophets of Baal had been praying to their gods all day long to no avail, Elijah dug trenches around the altar and ?lled them with water. He then soaked the offering and altar with water three times, and prayed. God sent ?re that consumed the sacri?ce. Elijah then gave the people the order to destroy the prophets of Baal.
God does not remind Elijah of the reasons that he should not feel this way–not even one! He doesn’t tell him to “suck it up,” “have more faith,” “count your blessings,” or “pray harder.” Instead, God sends an angel who touches Elijah, and says to him, “Get up and eat.”
I tell you all this so that you can realize that this man with a nature like us was a man of great faith and was used by God in a mighty way. He was a solid believer.
After all this, the next thing we see in Scripture is Elijah hiding from Jezebel’s death threats. But more than just running away, he’s in the desert praying to die, crying out to God that he had had enough–he couldn’t do it any more.
So, we have this great man of God, fearful and depressed, praying to die. God’s response is the part of the story I want you to pay attention to. God does not remind Elijah of the reasons that he should not feel this way–not even one! He doesn’t tell him to “suck it up,” “have more faith,” “count your blessings,” or “pray harder.” Instead, God sends an angel who touches Elijah, and says to him, “Get up and eat.” Elijah looked beside him and there was food and water. After a time of rest, the “angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him” and told him to rise and eat. God then spoke to Elijah softly and reassured him of God’s plans and Elijah’s future success.
God responded to Elijah’s depression by sending support, the angel touched him and fed him. He allowed Elijah to rest and sleep. God took care of Elijah’s basic needs and required nothing of him.
So, I think we can safely say that God would not have us beat ourselves up or feel shame in being depressed. There is no shame in needing help!
The end of Elijah’s story is spectacular–check out 2 Kings 2.
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