On Monday, I posted a blog about depression and discussed where our hope should be placed...in God alone. Having our hope in temporary things, which can be lost or destroyed, can cause us to lose hope and feel depressed.
Today, I'd like to give an example from the Bible: Elijah. Elijah was a well-known prophet of Israel and a godly man. Obviously, he was a man of great faith as he prayed that it wouldn't rain and it didn't rain for three and a half years! He was no spiritual slacker, but walked with and was obedient to God.
At God's instructions, he had a great showdown with the prophets of Baal in order to prove whose God was more powerful. (The story is told in 1 Kings 18:18-39.) After this great spiritual victory, why does Elijah suffer such a severe depression that he asked God to take his life?
Vernick in her book, Defeating Depression, suggests a few reasons. Elijah was probably physically and mentally exhausted. But Vernick suggests one thing I had never really seen or thought of before. She says that in order to understand the why, we need to understand who Elijah was and what he hoped for. She says that in the whirlwind of his ministry and the miraculous things he did, his "treasure" began to subtly shift from hoping in God alone to hoping in what God would do next.
Elijah's deepest desire was to see Israel turn her heart back to God. His sole purpose for the confrontation with the prophets of Baal was for Israel to see the greatness of God and repent. The people gave a verbal assent, but they did not really allow God to capture their heart. And Elijah certainly did not convince the king, Ahab, who then told his wife, Jezebel what happened and she ordered the prophet to be killed.
When Elijah heard this, he immediately was filled with fear and ran for his life. He grew despondent. "I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." (1 Kings 19:6)
Vernick says that Elijah became depressed when he lost his "treasure." He had hoped that his life and ministry would have a significant impact on Israel and that she would finally turn back to God. But when this didn't happen, he felt disappointed and even hopeless.
We can become depressed when we put our hope in anything but God.
Like Elijah, we can even put our hope in good things, even godly, spiritual things. We can hope for a restored marriage, a repentant prodigal child, or even a meaningful ministry, but when it doesn't happen we feel crushed and disappointed. Our heart is broken. Satan loses no time in these moments and causes us to doubt God's love or goodness.
God tenderly cared for Elijah in his depression; he didn't scold or reject him. First, he cared for his physical needs and then, gently spoke to him. Elijah honestly told God his feelings and God answered him. (1 Kings 19:10-18) God reminded Elijah that HE was in control and there was more to the picture than what Elijah was really seeing (truths he had forgotten in the midst of his depression).
What can we learn from Elijah's experience? How can we make God our hope, our only treasure?
More on that on Friday...