Depression is an awful thing. Some people struggle with chemical imbalances that need to be treated with medication. Some struggle with depression after an operation due to anesthesia … post-operation depression. Some struggle with depression due to being overworked or because they overwork themselves.
There are a multitude of reasons for depression … mostly though, our personal sin tends to be the main cause. What I mean here is that often we are the cause of our depression … but not always.
Many people see the pastor (or pastors) of the church as robust, unshakable … without weakness. Yet ask his family and they will tell you how often he struggles with post preaching depression, especially after two sermons on a Sunday. He will lie in bed that night thinking over his sermons and find all the mistakes he made, what he should have said and what he ought to have avoided saying. This could continue for hours and when Monday morning arrives and the family need to get up and ready for their day, he battles with PPD (post-preaching depression) and does not want to face anyone because he feels he let the Lord and his congregation down.
Elijah was such a man … having a Mountain Top Experience and then plunging into the Deepest Valley. Chapter 18 of 1 Kings ends with three main things.
(1) Elijah gives king Ahab some instruction to entertain a celebration because rain would be on its way … verse 41.
(2) Elijah goes to the top of Mount Carmel and prayers fervently … verse 42 and James 5:17-18:
Jas 5:17 “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”
It rain extremely hard … verse 45.
(3) Elijah does something quite unusual … empowered by God he puts his cloak into his girdle and ran a 50 kilometer marathon from Mount Carmel to Jezreel, arriving ahead of the king in his horse driven chariot. Now we arrive at chapter 19 to find that king Ahab “reported” back to the one who was really in charge … queen Jezebel (v1). Her response was not unexpected … literally … “Elijah you will be like those slaughtered prophets by tomorrow.” See verse 2. Observe a few things …
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Elijah feared for his life
He was scared. It’s phenomenal that this man of God was up on the mountain top. He experienced God’s hand in the most amazing way. He prayed and God sent fire proving He was the true God. Every prophet of Baal was captured and killed. All the people returned to God. He prayed before all this (3 ½ years back) that it would not rain and it did not. Now he prayed and a storm came. He was on a spiritual high … and now he was scared! He feared for his life. Jezebel was a powerful threat but after everything that had happened … surely his God was greater! He was scared! Emotionally he was exhausted.
Elijah Again Ran … This Time for His Life
He ran 161 kilometers from Jezreel to Bathsheba. (That’s a hundred-miler). That’s 210 kilometers in about two days. Then he went another day’s journey into the desert (v4). Physically he was exhausted.
Elijah Was Depressed
He hit a wall. Psychologically he was distraught!
1Ki 19:4 He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
When you take the emotional and physical exhaustion and add the spiritual anxiety over the past 3 ½ years, we can easily see what led to his depression. Ministry takes its toll at times. He was in such declension that he prayed asking God to end his life. He could not take the pressure anymore. He had reached his end and wanted to die. One must not be too critical because none of us were in his shoes. His Divine mission was political but more spiritual. It was extremely taxing. If there was such a thing as the greatest pastor, he would never have held out to Elijah. He was a giant amongst God servants.
We will continue with Elijah tomorrow, but what lessons are there to be learnt for Pastors, Christian Workers and all Christians?
(a) Plan your life and family. Purposely I did not start with salvation because this I’m taking for granted. After God, your family is number one. Your spouse first, if you are married. If you are single, your parents come first … then follows your siblings or children. If those in the home are not believers, this ought to be your greatest evangelistic target through prayer and example.
(b) Plan your spiritual life. You need to have a set time each day where you meet with God to read His Word and meditate upon it and then to pray about what you read and the other requests you have. Watch your spiritual life. It is even more important than watching your family relationships.
(c) Plan your ministry. From personal experience I have found that many of us tend to offer too much of ourselves to Church Ministry instead of doing what God wants us to do. Rather do one or two things properly than do ten things badly. Pray that God will raise up workers but watch your ministry expenditure. Too much could well bring exhaustion, disappointment in others and eventually a hatred for ministry.
(d) Plan your relaxation. No one can push 18 hours a day and expect to be okay after six months. Your need to relax. God gave us a day in seven for relaxation from normal work … but he also gives us night to sleep. Let’s use what He gives wisely.
(e) Plan your health. Most of us do not frequent the various medical professionals as we ought. We don’t have the needed annual blood tests. Don’t play with your health. Often you can prevent illnesses and disease by having regular check-ups.
(f) Plan your friendship base. I put this last on purpose because your emotional supports must come from within the home. You need friends, but not to an expense of points a-e.
Dear God, thank you for spiritual, physical and emotional health. Help us not to take these for granted and take special care to plan our complete life in such a way that we will not burn out through depression for Jesus sake. Amen.