One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to help people deal with over the last 18 months is depression. The pandemic and all the craziness that has ensued has made the last 18 months one of the most trying times in all of our lives. As a result, depression has increased and suicide rates are up. I personally think the strain the pandemic has put on people’s mental health has been far worse than the challenges it has placed on our physical health. I was initially going to write an article about practical steps that I have used to maintain my own mental health in this season. As I started writing, however, I realized what I have to say was way too long to put in just one article, so I’m going to break it up over the course of three parts.
Sometimes people think that because I’m a pastor I have it all figured out and I don’t struggle with discouragement. That’s not true at all. I’m human just like you are and because my calling is focused on seeing God’s will come to pass in the earth and loving people, this has been a tremendously difficult season for me. When I see people I love going through some of the stuff they’ve gone through, our nation in turmoil, and the promises of God I’ve prayed that haven’t completely manifested yet, it has created a lot hurt and disappointment in my heart. I’m not sharing this to glorify the problems, I’m sharing this to let each of you know that I sympathize with what many of you are dealing because I’ve had to fight to keep myself encouraged too. These next three articles contain the steps I’ve applied to help me be victorious.
1 Kings 19 tells the story of how the Lord ministered to the prophet Elijah when he became depressed after Queen Jezebel threatened his life. To give some context, Elijah had just experienced a tremendous victory and was in the middle of leading Israel through a great national revival. I bring this up to let you know that if a great prophet of God can go into depression after experiencing a tremendous victory, any of us are susceptible to attacks on our mental health. We don’t need to be ashamed. We just need to run to the Lord for grace if this happens to any of us.
As soon as Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life, Elijah left his calling to lead the revival and fled for safety. Look at 1 Kings 19:4:
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for
I am no better than my fathers!”
I want you to notice that Elijah was suicidal. He was asking God to kill him. I’m stopping to emphasize this point because I want you to realize this was Elijah’s mental state. We don’t need to gloss over this too fast. Elijah wanted to end it all off of a threat from a wicked woman. Have you ever wanted to end your marriage, quit your job, break an important relationship, or end your own life because of going through a really hard time? If you’ve ever wanted to do anything like what I just described, this was the mental state Elijah was in. My point in bringing this up is God delivered Elijah and He will deliver you! Now, look at 1 Kings 19:10:
10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
Elijah told the Lord he was all alone. This wasn’t true as we will see, but it is what Elijah believed. The anxiety he experienced caused him to believe he was the only person left serving God. One of the things we need to learn is that fear and anxiety keep us from seeing things properly. It hinders our perception which can lead to depression. Look at 1 Kings 19:18:
18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
This verse shows that Elijah wasn’t the only one left serving God. God had reserved 7,000 people who had not bowed their knee to Baal. The other thing Elijah’s anxiety had done is it caused him to forget his past victory. Elijah had just killed all the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 after seeing God perform an incredible miracle by consuming a sacrifice with fire. The entire nation turned to God at that point. Why was one woman’s threat so terrifying to Elijah when we consider he had just seen a massive victory?
Depression is rooted in fear and anxiety. When we start to believe bad things are destined to happen, we lose hope and don’t have anything positive left in which to anchor our soul. The irony of this story is that Elijah shouldn’t have been hopeless. God ended up using him to do many great things including raising up prophetic sons and being one of the two people who never died as he was translated into heaven. Also, Jezebel’s threats never came true and she was the on who ended up dying a horrific death!
Here’s the coolest thing. Even with the mistakes that Elijah made, God thought so highly of him that he said John the Baptist (the forerunner of Jesus and the greatest prophet of all time) would minister in the spirit and power of Elijah. Do you notice God wasn’t ashamed of Elijah. He was proud of Elijah and he loved him even though he got into fear and missed out on part of his calling to preside over the revival in Israel so it became a full blown reformation.
I want to close Part 1 of this blog on Dealing With Depression with encouraging you to take a step back and realize whatever you are going through, it’s going to be ok. We win in the end! God’s not upset with you when you experience fear and depression and he still thinks a lot of you. When you do feel fear come on, I want to encourage you to learn some lessons from Elijah. Just because you feel depressed, it doesn’t mean good isn’t happening. It was for Elijah and it is for you. Walk away and take another look at your circumstances with a fresh set of eyes. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what He is doing in the midst of your challenge. If that doesn’t work, I’d recommend talking to a good friend or pastor that can help you see the good that God is doing in the midst of hardship.
I hope this article has helped you. Next week, I’ll share some more practical steps we can take about how to Deal With Depression. If you or someone you know is struggling with fear, anxiety, and depression, please call our Prayer Line at 888-488-PRAY and we have prayer ministers available who would love to pray with you. Lastly, check out this message about how to move forward with hope in the midst of difficult circumstances by Pastor Greg Mohr.