1 Kings 19:1-8
Over the next couple of days we’re going to take a look at depression and how it affected the prophet Elijah and how he dealt with it. We’ll go through the story of chapter 19 in some detail because I think that this is a subject that touches all of us. If you don’t suffer from this malady on a regular basis, then I promise you that you know someone who does.
The first thing I notice from this passage is when this struck. You'd think that after the incredible experience on Mt. Carmel, Elijah’s mood would be higher than a kite. I mean, he'd seen the prophets of Baal utterly humiliated, repudiated by the people of Israel, and an awe-inspiring display of fire from heaven. The prophets were executed publicly, and supposedly a nationwide revival was on the horizon. But if he was in an exultant mood, it ended abruptly with a message from the queen. She swore to kill him before the next day was over, and Elijah panicked and fled. I’ve heard some commentators make fun of him for being afraid of a woman, but this particular woman had a reputation of making good on threats. The reason we might find this so odd is because it’s so uncharacteristic of him. I mean, this prophet had confronted the king before, and had seen so many miracles straight from the Lord, which should've proved that God was more than capable and willing to protect his messenger. The proper response would've echoed David: “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
Unfortunately, we all are prey to our emotions at times. We might go through an amazing experience with the Lord in which his presence is so evident that you feel like you could cut it with a knife. But after this emotional “high” there’s an inevitable letdown. At that point, we’re especially vulnerable to our spiritual Enemy.
The second thing I notice is how emotions can cloud our reason. Elijah asked for the Lord to let him die, because he was supposedly “no better than [his] ancestors.” What did he mean by this? What was his point? It looks to me like he had some bitterness and anger directed at himself. For just a moment, he'd listened to his fears instead of his Lord, and he was completely ashamed of himself. He felt like he'd utterly failed the Lord, and because of this he wanted to give up on life itself.
The third thing I notice is God’s immediate remedy: rest and retreat. He fled from the queen so fast that he apparently didn’t pack any provisions, so the Lord graciously provided what he needed. It’s a very touching image: He fell asleep praying for death, and an angel woke him up with some food. The angel’s words should be comforting to all of us: Our Shepherd knows that we’re made of flesh and blood, not stone or steel. He knows exactly what we need when we need it, and there are times in which his gentle voice tells us to "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
Do you understand now just how gentle and compassionate he is with us? Just when we’re at our lowest emotional point (and not very pleasant to hang around with), he intervenes as only he can, and gives us exactly what we need.
Lord Jesus, give me listening ears. When you’re telling me to take a break and rest in your presence for a while, I need to do just that.