Last week I began a series of articles about how to deal with depression. I’m doing this series because reports of depression have tripled since the beginning of the pandemic. I have talked with many people who are struggling with discouragement, confusion, anxiety, and hopelessness as a direct result of the pandemic and its effects. Some are worried about contracting the virus, but most are discouraged because of isolation, anxiety over government policy which will effect their employment, or just being overwhelmed by the myriad of bad news we are being bombarded with on a daily basis.
Last week I wrote about Elijah and how he became suicidal when he received a death threat from Queen Jezebel. You can read that article here. The main theme was that Elijah became so overwhelmed with his circumstances that he forgot about all the miraculous things God had done in his life. He lost perspective and began to feel isolated and hopeless. If you are feeling that way I want to encourage you this isn’t true. Take some time to take a step back and pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the Father’s perspective on your situation. Ask him to remind you of the good He has done in your life. Also, talk to a good friend or pastor about what you are going through. You aren’t alone.
In this article, I want to look at some natural remedies for dealing with depression. Sometimes Christians can over-spiritualize depression as we forget that we are human beings who live in mortal bodies that need to be cared for naturally. Let’s look back at the story of Elijah out of 1 Kings 19:
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!” 5 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.
These verses show the way God ministered to Elijah in his discouragement. Before God began to speak to Elijah and give him spiritual insight, He first let Elijah take a nap and then made him something to eat. After Elijah ate, he took another nap. When he woke up, God fed him again.
Before God started ministering “spiritual things” to Elijah, He first took care of his physical needs. This is important to realize because many Christians suffer depression because they neglect their physical bodies. They burn themselves out overworking, overserving, not eating properly, not getting enough exercise, and enough rest. While we can all live on overdrive for a short period of time, we can’t make a lifestyle out of doing that. When we do, we will often find ourselves worn out and broken down because we have pushed our bodies harder than we should have. This is very similar to people who overheat the engine of a car by driving it too hard and never taking it in for maintenance. Eventually this will cause the car to break down.
In this story, Elijah was in the third year of a very challenging ministry assignment. The assignment began when he told King Ahab that it wouldn’t rain for three years. After he made the proclamation Elijah spent the next three years doing supernatural ministry in hiding. After three years of hiding, God told Elijah to go appear to Ahab and tell him that it would once again rain on the earth. Before it began to rain, Ahab brought the children of Israel and prophets of Baal to meet Elijah at Mount Carmel. At Mount Carmel, Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal in a prophetic showdown and began to oversee a great revival.
After three years of difficult ministry, the entire nation of Israel had turned to the Lord. I’m sure Elijah was both ecstatic and worn out. He had worked hard for the Lord and he was probably on an emotional high. Elijah was a very intense person and he was probably expecting the revival to continue to increase and lead into a full blown reformation with a new godly king and queen. It probably shocked him when he got word from Queen Jezebel that she planned to kill him.
Have you ever worked really hard at something and thought you had the breakthrough you were believing for only to see it appear to be snatched away? This is what happened to Elijah and because he was worn down, he didn’t respond well to Queen Jezebel’s threat. This is why the Lord made Elijah something to eat and had him take a nap. Elijah needed to rest. It’s not that God didn’t want Elijah to do anything “spiritual” to overcome the problem; God just had to deal with his physical needs first. FYI, I’ll cover the spiritual aspect of this story next week.
My point in this article is to remind us that we are human beings. When we go through a challenging season, we need to take time to eat, sleep, and exercise in order to take care of our physical bodies. As we do, we will better be able to process the challenges we are going through. Even Jesus took down time when He got bad news. When he found out that John the Baptist was beheaded, he took time to get away and rest. Look at Matthew 14:
12 Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus. 13 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself.
In Mark’s account of this story it says that Jesus and the disciples rested when they went to the deserted place. If Jesus needed to physically rest, we need to physically rest. We need to take care of physical needs so we don’t burn out, particularly in difficult seasons. Interestingly enough, while He was resting, the multitudes found Him and He performed His next miracle by multiplying the loaves and fishes. It’s quite possible that Jesus’s brief rest allowed Him to recharge His batteries so He was able to perform this great miracle.
I hope this article has provided you with insight about how to overcome negative emotions. While we are in a spiritual battle, we are living in physical bodies that we need to take care of. As we do, we will be positioned to take on the spiritual battles that come our way. As always, we are praying for you to live victoriously in God’s grace!