“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.’ Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. 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.’ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.’ ~ 1 Kings 19:1-6
Some people feel that depression is just feeling blue. But depression is more than just feeling sad or having a bad hair day.
We’re two months into the baseball season and I’ve figured out that my Cardinals pretty much stink. Then last night an unheralded Cincinnati Reds hitter smashed four home runs and drove in 10 RBIs off our best pitcher. I wake up this morning feeling rotten. But this isn’t depression. Give me an hour for the coffee to kick in, get this marine layer outta here and some sunshine smiling on me and I’ll be fine.
We all feel blah from time to time. Our emotions are in constant flux, each and every day. But depression takes on a life of its own. It’s not there one day and gone the next. With depression, it sets in like a long, bad cold that doesn’t go away. You can’t just snap out of it.
Elijah is depressed. He is the wearer of the original Life Sucks Then You Die t-shirt. How do we know it? He’s given up. “Let me die Lord.” He prefers isolation. He leaves everyone, including his servant. He goes off by himself. He just wants to curl up in a fetal position and sleep. His diet has also been disrupted. An angel has to club him over the head and tell him to eat. Later on, Elijah will tell God, “I alone am left.” You hear such verbiage in the depressed. They misinterpret the world around them and see things in greatly exaggerated hues.
What has brought this about for Elijah? What causes depression? We need to be careful here because it might be tempting in our moments where things are going well to look at depression as a sin, and to treat depressed people with a kind of You oughta know better attitude. But to do this would be one of the absolutely worst ways to respond.
There is no necessary connection between sin and depression. Your sinning may lead to depression as it did with King David. Your depression may lead to sinning as it did for King Saul who could not control his melancholy spells and gave way to increasing fits of destructive behavior. But depression itself is not a sin.
As I look at the periods of depression in my own life, I’ve come to see depression as my spirit’s response to life’s heaviness. Life on this side of heaven is ‘poor, nasty, brutish and short’ as Thomas Hobbes famously described it. This world is broken. And sometimes when life gets heavy and hard, it’s all we can do to just get through the day. Depression is what happens when we take time to adjust to the blows of life and we’re trying to grieve and process and sort it out all at once.
Here’s Elijah after courageously obeying God and facing down Ahab and Jezebel, and yet when the sun sets that die, they’re still in power and he’s the one on the run. All his expectations of what would happen, and what should have happened, are blown apart. As for God – he’s nowhere to be seen.
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” That’s what it’s like for a person who is depressed.
Hopefully, you can see why this is not the place or time to tell the depressed person to just cheer up or rejoice in the Lord always.
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