1 KINGS 19 – Understanding Depression
When I look at Elijah’s story, in today’s chapter, I get encouraged. It shows me that, while humans are still human in all our weaknesses, our Maker is still our Father God.
As the months ticked on after our son passed away, I began to notice that my tears seemed to come around once a month as my body went through the cycle of chemical changes – notably when I was no doubt low on iron or my immune system was low. When my fuel tanks were low, I was more likely to cry. So, when I found myself in gut-wrenching tears once again (and besides taking an A-Z multi-vitamin with minerals tablet), I’d say to the Lord: “Here I am again, Father God. It’s probably that time of the month.” I’d then “go with it”, weeping it all out, for as long as it would take. This became a sort of “grief routine” for the first three years after Mikey left us.
In fact, to glean some sort of information that explains what the Creator God is like, and how He interacts with those He made is His own image, it’s worth looking at our human frailty. Elijah, in today’s chapter, is our test tube candidate…
Looking back at yesterday’s chapter, we can imagine an incredible adrenaline drain in Elijah’s body – just showing up in front of the infamous King Ahab![a] The storyline really doesn’t convey the blood pumping ordeal that Elijah had to go through. This was followed up by an extremely scary roller-coaster ride atop Mt Carmel when Elijah confronted 850 prophets from two faith groups in a contest for the nation![b] If that wasn’t enough, he then expended huge emotional output praying for rain. Without rain, Elijah’s head would be back on the chopping block. To top everything, Elijah then ran with supernatural power all the way to Jezreel – approximately 34km.
And now we pick up today’s chapter when Queen Jezebel of Israel threatens Elijah at perhaps the lowest point in his life experience. [v1-2] However, instead of using logic and experience to turn to his Maker for help, Elijah took flight – again! [v3a] When his body wouldn’t carry him any further, he wanted to curl up and die. [v4] But the best thing for spiritual and emotional recovery (which, in turn, restores our logical rationale for reasoning and for planning), begins with caring for our physical state – ready for the long journey ahead. [v5-7]
When I see that Elijah left from Beersheba and took a day’s journey before find a tree to die beneath [v3-4], I can’t help but notice the connection this story has with Hagar’s story many centuries earlier.[c] Even if Elijah wasn’t curled up under the very same tree, both stories – in practically the same spot – shows our Father God giving Hagar and Elijah water in their time of great distress. Hagar called Him: The God Who Sees Me.[d]
The point I want to make before we go on, is that our Father God (who created us in His own image), sees us in our distress. And, because He’s our Omniscient Creator – our all-knowing God – He’s likely to know minute details of our circumstances that even we don’t know. Nothing escapes His notice and everything means something in the complex tapestry of HIStory.
Another piece of information that’s worth pocketing away for later is the appearance of the Angel of the Lord. [v7] Throughout my Breadcrumbs, I’ll be making reference to Him as a very important person.
He spoke to Abraham and showed Himself to Hagar (as already mentioned), but He becomes more and more active and involved as the Creator’s epic storyline continues. The most important mention of Him so far is when Father God told us His role. He’s been sent to go before God’s people to guard us along the way and to bring us into the place which our Maker has prepared. We’re to be on our guard before Him, obey His voice, not be rebellious toward Him, for He’ll not pardon our transgression – and here the most important bit – all this is because God’s name is in Him. We’re to truly obey His voice and do all that our Maker says.[e] It’s this same person, that woke up Elijah, strengthened him for his journey ahead, then led Him to the same mountain where He’d previously met with Moses many centuries earlier. [v5-8]
What happens next is a well-known passage that Jewish children practically know by heart. It’s recited often with children as a great story to tell. But the information I get from it isn’t just for keeping restless children interested at Storytime. It tells me that my God is indeed God Almighty. He created the wind and the rain, earthquakes and fire. So His unlimited power causes me to respectfully fear Him. [v11-12] And yet, He also has unlimited measures of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[f] Therefore it’s in His still, small voice, that’s He’s most audible. When I finally hear the voice of my Maker within my heart, I cover my face in reverent and responsive prayer. [v13]
I’ve noticed, though, that when I’m at the end of our own strength and resources (whether that’s through logical assumption or forced upon me by circumstances), I’m not likely to be in a place to listen. Like Elijah, my depressed state brings on concerns or fears that are often based on inadequate information. Depression, at any level, causes me to think with my emotions rather than logic and God’s word.
Elijah thought he was the only one following the Creator God, for example, but God knew He had 7,000 followers dotted across Israel. [v18] Just like Elijah in the cave, Father God has to “rattle my cage” sometimes, to shake me free from my despondency. When I take time out to listen to my Maker – often by pulling away to focus on His word – I’m more likely to spiral up and out of my dark cave to a point where I’m healthy enough, emotionally and spiritually, to be trusted with my next assignment. [v15-18]
Today’s chapter ends with a man named Elisha taking to the stage in our Creator’s Epic play. In many ways, our chapter should have finished at v18 so that we could talk about Elisha another day. But Father God’s eternal plans often interlock and carry forward without any breaks at all and HIStory doesn’t depend on me.
So, when I wake up to a life I never chose or to event outside of my control, I need to understand my depression, how depression works and how to navigate it. Wherever I am in this life – feeling like I’m on “death row”, like Elijah, or just starting a whole new chapter like Elisha – the Creator’s plans can’t be stopped by my emotional state. When I put my trust in Him, I didn’t invite my Maker into my life. I instead ask to be included in HIStory and I have a one-in-seven-billion-chance to play it.
CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”
[a] 1 Kings 18:16-17
[b] 1 Kings 18:19,30-40
[c] Genesis 21:14-21
[d] Genesis c16 (Referring to v13-14)
[e] Exodus 23:20-22
[f] Galatians 5:22-23