But do you know the story of his depression? Elijah had been serving God hard. All day, every day, he was going all out for God. He preached to a people who didn't want to listen. He rebuked a people who grew angry instead of repenting. Every day he lived among a people confused by idols. After his victory against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, the evil queen Jezebel ordered him hunted down. As if Elijah didn't have enough problems, he is now running for his life. He is burned out, exhausted, hopeless, and afraid. The prophet was depressed.
So what does God do to bring him out of this funk?
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. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. -- 1 Kings 19:5-8
God gives Elijah two naps and two meals! He lets him rest. All of that work and preaching and running had sapped the mighty prophet of his strength physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. God gives him a breather and lets the prophet rest and recover. Then, when Elijah is ready, God sends him up a mountain to meet with Him.
The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
God speaks to Elijah in a calm, quiet whisper. He doesn't speak throught he wind, earthquake, fire, or any other giant sign. He speaks to him in a still, small voice. A voice so quiet, Elijah would have missed it entirely if he hadn't been listening wholeheartedly. So what does God say to Elijah? He tells him that he is not alone. God tells him that He isn't done with him yet. God tells him to continue on.
Life can overwhelm us sometimes. Work, school, assignments, deadlines, kids, parents, ministry, worries, finances, loneliness, expectations, pressure, and the list goes on and on. Life piles up fast. It can drain us to the point of discouragement and even depression. It can wear us down to the point that we are just no good to anyone.
Sadly, the days that are supposed to pull us away from the busyness of life end up being some of the busiest of them all. Holidays get filled with shopping, cooking, cleaning, planning, traveling, and worrying instead of rest, relaxation, and joy with the family.
I'd like to offer you three words of advice for this holiday season and any season of life in which you find yourself discouraged or depressed.
Don't wear yourself out. Don't let the holidays suck you into their vortex of busyness. None of us can keep on going like the Energizer bunny. Choose a couple of ways you can help out with the holiday planning and that's it. Don't take it all on. Despite what you think, Thanksgiving and Christmas will not actually fall apart without you. Don't bite off more than you can chew.
Get some rest. The first thing God did for Elijah was to give him a nap and a meal. And then He gave him another nap and meal. Dr. Neely at Moody Bible Institute once told my class, "Sometimes, the most godly thing you can do is take a nap!" I believe that. Sleep in a little. Take a walk. Enjoy a movie or board game with the family. Take the opportunities you get in the coming weeks to rest. We humans just can't keep going. Like Elijah, we will burn out and come to the end of our rope. Rest is not laziness. Resting will help refresh and restore you so that you can actually be useful and effective when you get back to the tasks at hand.
Listen hard for God. Elijah would have missed the voice of God in the gentle whisper if he hadn't been listening. How many times do we miss God's voice because we are just too busy? Take some time during the holidays to just get alone with God. Spend some extra time in the Bible or listening to a sermon. Leave the phone behind for an hour. Go for a prayer walk and get those burdens off your chest you've been carrying for a while. And make sure you spend time just listening to the things God might be saying to you. Listen closely, He may whisper softly, speak through a friend, or just lay something on your heart. However He says it, God always knows the right things to say to renew our vision and get us back on track.
So what's your plan for the holidays?
- Have you already bit off more than you can chew? How can you get some of those things off of your plate?
- What are some restful things you can do and how can you make sure you guard that time?
- What are some things you need to talk to God about? Go carve out some time in your busy holiday schedule just for him.
P.P.S. There is a difference between common depression (being discouraged for a temporary season of life due to our circumstances) and clinical depression (chronic sadness, apathy, drowsiness, and lack of motivation). If you have suffered through depression for more than just a temporary time and have not been able to feel refreshed or restored, please don't be ashamed to get help. Talk to your pastor or doctor. You can also visit this website for helpful information Here. Just as a person with a flu would not be ashamed to get help from a doctor, please do not hesitate to ask for help. It is my desire and I believe God's desire as well for you to be well.