Kings Series #8 - "Dealing With Depression" 1 Kings 19:1-18

i.   introduction

A.  Woody Allen

1.   That great philosopher and comedian Woody Allen once said,

2.   "More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads.  One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness; the other to total extinction.  Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

3.   Allen is one of those modern men who seem to live in a perpetual state of anxiety and depression

4.   No matter how well things are going, they manage to see some dark cloud on the horizon

B.  An Epidemic of Depression

1.   There is an epidemic of despair today

2.   Depression is the number one cause for people seeking professional counseling

3.   Prescriptions for drugs to alleviate depression are one of the most commonly given forms of medication

4.   Countless books on depression and how to deal with it have hit the shelves in the last 5 years

5.   But despite all the information and help, the tide of depression just keeps growing

C.  Today

1.   We're going to be taking a look at a classic case of depression today as we continue our study in 1 Kings

2.   This passage has a lot to teach us about depression and it's cure

3.   So whether you struggle with blue moods yourself, or you know someone who does, pay close attention to what we find in this chapter because it's important stuff

ii.  text

A.  Recap

1.   Three years of drought have come on Israel as a result of their turning from the Lord under the leadership of the wicked King Ahab and his darling wife, Jezebel

2.   After 3 years of famine and drought, God determined to show His mercy and told Elijah the prophet to go and tell Ahab that the rains would return

3.   But first, Elijah was to face Ahab and the prophets of Baal in a religious showdown before the eyes of all Israel

4.   So the people gathered on Mt. Carmel for the showdown between Baal's priests and the man of God

5.   They each made an altar and offered a bull;

a. but neither was allowed to light the wood to consume the sacrifice –

b.   the plan was to ask their respective God to send fire from heaven -- 

c.   and whoever answered, that was the real God the people would worship

d.   the priests of Baals called out and danced and performed their whoee for a full day, but no fire fell, no one answered

e.   then it was Elijah's turn

1) without fanfare or whooe, he offered a simple prayer

2) the fire fell and not only consumed the offering, but the wood, the stones, and the topsoil

6.   The people immediately came to their senses and realized the gravity of their error in following Baal

7.   They cried out that Jehovah was God, grabbed the prophets of Baal, and executed all 450 of them

8.   Seeing the fruit of national repentance and revival, Elijah told Ahab that the rain would soon come

9.   He took his servant to the top of Carmel and began to pray; sure enough, it soon began to rain in buckets

10. He sent his servant to tell Ahab to make haste to return to his home at Jezreel, some 20 miles away

11. And to hurry because the roads would soon be too muddy for his chariot

12. Then, after Ahab had a good head start, we read that the Spirit of God came on Elijah, and he ran after Ahab

13. He passed him and beat him to the gate of Jezreel

B.  Vs. 1-3

{1}  And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword.

{2} Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time."

1.   What visions danced in Elijah's head as he outran Ahab's chariot

a.   surely Baalism was now dead

b.   maybe he would be appointed the Royal Chaplain

c.   certainly he would become the leader of the national revival

2.   Jezebel's response lies in stark contrast to all the victory Elijah had gotten used to seeing

3.   In effect, her reply was, "Dream on, Elijah."

a.   "You're a dead man."

b.   "I give you 24 hours to get out of Dodge, and then, you're fish food."

4.   Of course, Elijah, that great man of faith, that mighty prophet who called down fire from heaven and slew 450 full grown men with his own hands, shook off Jezebel's threat like it was nothing more than a pesky gnat buzzing round his head—RIGHT?

{3} And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

5.   This is like the Terminator running from Sarah Conner; like Sylvester running from Tweety Bird

6.   But run Elijah does

a.   he runs some 90 miles south to the city of Beersheba at the southern extreme of Israel

b.   but feeling it isn’t safe even there from Jezebel's agents, he leaves his servant, and heads off for another day's journey into the barren wastes of the desert

C.  Vs. 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!"

1.   In that region very little grows; just some scraggly desert shrubs

2.   The broom tree was just that, a ragged little shrub much like a tumbleweed

3.   Exhausted and spent, Elijah pulled up under one and broke down

4.   He'd had enough

5.   What was the point in going on?

a.   all his work, all his effort—what had it  accomplished?

b.   nothing!!!

c.   all the glorious victory of Carmel was lost behind the disappointment of Jezebel's threat

d.   how could God let this happen to him?

e.   why could not the God who answered with fire from heaven send a little spark to light Jezebel?

f.    why couldn't the God who controlled the weather, control a simple woman?

6.   It just didn’t seem fair!  It didn't seem right

7.   How often we find ourselves in the same place as Elijah

a.   we know God is all powerful

b.   we know noting is too difficult for Him

c.   we know He spoke the worlds into existence and holds all things together by His power

8.   But when some serious trouble comes our way, we go running off into the wilderness of doubt until we've worn ourselves out

9.   Then we sit and complain and tell God it's hopeless

10. We despair of life; it all seems so futile

11. The obstacles are too great, the troubles unconquerable

12. So why try?  Why go on?

13. Like Elijah was say, "Go ahead and kill me God. There's no point in going on, so just take me."

D.  The Cause Of His Depression

1.   This is about as clear an example of depression as we see in scripture

2.   Elijah wasn't merely blue - his mood was black:  He wanted to die

3.   You can't get any more depressed than that

4.   It's important that we identify the causes of his depression—

5.   Because relief always begins with a proper diagnosis of our condition, and how we got there

6.   There were several factors that led to Elijah's depression

First: He Was Physically Exhausted

1.   It all began when he ran the 20 miles from Carmel to Jezreel

a.   sure the Spirit enabled him to outrun Ahab's chariot

b.   but Elijah was no spring chicken

c.   the cost to his body was immense

2.   Then, after Jezebel's threat, he ran for nearly 100 miles to the south

3.   By the time he arrived in the wasteland, he was completely physically exhausted

4.   His physical strength was gone; he had nothing left

5.   Vince Lombardi said that “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

Second: He Was Emotionally Exhausted

1.   Think about all that Elijah had been through

2.   For over three years he had been living on the run, hiding out from Ahab's spies

3.   Then, he had stood as a lone man against the entire nation

4.   In one climactic and dramatic moment, it all came to a head when he called down fire from heaven

5.   Then there was the exhilaration of seeing the nation repent as they declared their loyalty to Jehovah and seized the prophets of Baal

6.   But then his hopes were dashed with Jezebel's threat

7.   Where was God then?  Why didn’t God silence the witch?

8.   So he ran, and ran, and ran some more

9.   Friends, Elijah had been living on an adrenaline high for days

a.   at first it was the adrenaline of excitement at seeing the mighty hand of God

b.   then it was the adrenaline of fear at the first lady's threats

When you put physical and emotional exhaustion together, you get depression

1.   Many people's depression today comes from the same root causes

2.   God has given us a tremendous capacity to deal with the stresses and pressures of life

3.   But it happens occasionally in everyone's life that we faces seasons of undue stress and pressure

4.   At times like that, reserves of physical & emotional strength kick in and we find ourselves able to cope better than we ever thought we could

a.   we're able to do with less sleep

b.   we can concentrate more easily

c.   we're able to accomplish tasks well beyond our normal ability

5.   But we can only keep this up for so long

6.   Then we return to our normal state

7.   After the exhilaration of being so pumped up, being normal once again seems like depression

8.   It's not depression, it just the normal state of being spent

a. all your reserves,

b.   both physical and emotional,

c.   are exhausted

9.   There is nothing wrong that rest won't cure

10. In fact, notice how God dealt with Elijah

F.   Vs. 5-8

{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."

1.   Elijah had told God to slay him

2.   Notice that God didn't slap Elijah up side the head for his impertinence

3.   He didn’t even rebuke him for losing faith or sight of God

4.   He didn't send the angel to slug him in the shoulder and say, "Come one, Elijah, chipper up!"

5.   Because Elijah was physically exhausted, the Lord let him rest

a.   Psalm 127:2 says

b.   [God]gives His beloved sleep

6.   And after a period of sleep, knowing Elijah was also weak from lack of food, he made a cake and woke him

7.   Elijah ate the cake, drank the water, and went back to sleep

8.   A second time the angel awoke him, and again Elijah ate and drank

9.   Before God could begin to address Elijah’s emotional exhaustion, He had to restore his physical strength

10. When we find ourselves slipping into depression, we need to stop and take stock of just what kind of demands we are putting on our bodies

11. Being spiritual doesn’t always mean expending effort in meditation & prayer.  It may mean eating a good meal and hitting the sack

12. I’m convinced one of the reasons why there is an epidemic of depression today is because of the hurried and frenetic pace of modern life

13. The stresses of living in the modern world are greater than they have ever been

14. We string ourselves out, spending all our time and energy, adding our own will to God’s, trying to do extremely well what God never intended us to do at all!

15. Many of us are over adrenalized!

a.   think of how fixed on getting that adrenaline high our culture has become

b.   computer and video games

c.   movies and TV shows

d.   sports: extreme sports- bungy jumping!

16. And every one is trying to find the magic pill or diet that will allow them to have more energy so they can cram more activity and excitement into their lives

17. The Energizer Bunny isn’t merely an advertising mascot - it’s a God people want to be like

18. There is good reason why God calls His people to a regular day of rest and recreation

19. We need it to keep from burning out

20. While as Christians we are not bound to the law of the Sabbath day, as human beings we are still bound by the principle of the sabbath - which is, that built into the very fabric of creation is the need for a day of rest and recreation once a week

21. If we violate that principle, then we will not function as we were designed to

{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.

22. Clearly, the food God provided for Elijah was supernatural

a.   it gave him strength to go for 40 days without more

b.   in v. 6 we read that it was a cake, cooked on coals

c.   now, I was fascinated by this so I did a little digging, and I discovered something very interesting

d.   the word for cake in v. 6 is an ancient Hebrew word that is better understood as “bun”

e.   and the word for “coals” is an obscure word that has more recently been discovered to mean “grill”

f.    a bun, cooked on a grill:  friends, do you realize what this was?

g.   it was an In N Out burger!

h. no wonder Elijah could go for 40 days

23. God remedied Elijah’s physical exhaustion: Now it was time to address his emotional and spiritual exhaustion

24. For 40 days, he wandered around the Wilderness of Sinai till he arrived at Horeb, also known as Mt. Sinai

25. This was the place where God had revealed Himself to the people of Israel after the Exodus

26. That’s why it’s called in v. 8, the mount of God

27. It was the place of God’s revelation

28. You see friends, the final cure for Elijah’s depression lay in encountering God

G.  Vs. 9-14

{9} And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

{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."  

1.   Notice God’s question to Elijah: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

a.   He didn’t ask, “Why are you here?”

b.   it was “What are you doing here?”

2.   The answer was simple =  Nothing!

3.   He was doing nothing but feeling sorry for himself

4.   And he feels justified in his self-pity; look at his reply to the Lord

5.   "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." 

6.   Depression has a cruel way of making us think we are all alone

a.   that no one cares

b.   not even God

{11} Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake;

{12} and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

7.   What is going on here?

8.   What is it the Lord is trying to teach Elijah?

9.   Just this:  Elijah had grown used to seeing God manifested in majestic and dramatic ways

10. The last three years had been filled with the miraculous

a.   three years of supernatural drought

b.   weeks of being fed by ravens

c.   then months of being fed from a never ending breadbasket

d.   seeing fire fall from the sky

e.   praying for the rain to return and it does in buckets

f.    knowing the hand of God on you enabling you to outrun chariots

11. It seems from a close look at these verses that Elijah had come to think this was the usual way God manifested Himself through his ministry

12. Elijah had grown proud of his role as the agent of God’s miraculous power

13. He alone was God’s man; and now, because of Jezebel’s threat, he was forced to hide out in some forsaken cave in the wilds of the desert

14. So God sends a fierce blast of wind to smite the mountain, then an earthquake follows hard on the wind’s heels, and finally fire blasts the mountainside

15. But though these things might be thought of being the forerunners of God’s presence, as each one subsided, God did not appear

16. Picture Elijah standing in his cave

17. God tells him to go out on the mountain, but before he can, the wind hits, tearing at the rocks

18. “Surely this is the Lord” the prophet thinks / But as he waits, the Lord doesn’t appear

19. Then an earthquake rocks the land

19. “Ah, now Jehovah will appear” he says / but again he waits in vain

20. Then fire drops from the skies as it had on Carmel

21. A smile spreads across Elijah’s face, “Now He’ll come!”  But there is only silence

22. Elijah’s confusion and despair are redoubled

23. Why will God not appear / Why is He so silent?

24. And then, when he has given up hope, God speaks to him again, but this time it is not as Elijah expects

25. This time it is like a whisper; in fact, if he was not quiet, he might miss it

26. He hears a voice, small and still, speaking to his heart

27. Why did God reveal Himself to Elijah this way?

28. Because Elijah’s understanding of the way and work of God was off

29. God does not always work in the storm or the earthquake or the fire from heaven

30. In fact, He rarely works that way

31. His usual and common way of working is quietly, humbly, in unseen and unrecognized ways

32. Elijah was depressed because things had not gone his way, the way he wanted them to, the way he thought they ought to go

33. Because God had not defended him in some dramatic way from Jezebel’s threats, he concluded that meant God had abandoned him

34. But he never gave God a chance to defend him in God’s way

35. He bailed instead and went running off in a flurry of fear and panic

36. Depression clouds our reason

a.   we say and do things we normally never would

b.   and these decisions, foolishly made without faith, often get us into further trouble

37. The remedy for Elijah’s depression was to come to grips with the fact that God is still God and He is at work whether we see it or not

38. God is neither compelled nor inclined to make us privy to His plan or counsel

39. Elijah needed to learn this lesson

40. He needed a new and fresh revelation of God to overcome his despair

41. That is what God gave him

42. Did he learn?

{13} So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

43. Quiz #2 - same question

44. What will his answer be this time?

{14} And he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because 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."

45. Wait a minute, we’ve heard this tape before / We’ve seen this movie

46. While Elijah has what he needs, his depression is still so deep, he can see nothing else

H.  Vs. 15-18

{15} Then the LORD said to him: "Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria.

{16} "Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.

{17} "It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill.

1.   God had asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

2.   The answer was, “Nothing.”

3.   Well, guess what Elijah, there’s work to be done while you’re here doing nothing

4.   You may be in a funk, and you may not be getting the point of what I am teaching you; but that doesn’t change the fact that there is still work to be done and you’re the man to do it

5.   So get out of this cave, and get back to work

6.   I’m going to say something now that I realize will be a bit controversial - So be it

7.   Sometimes depression will not be overcome

a.   sometimes all the best counseling in the world will be to no avail

b.   I mean, look at who did the counseling here =  God

c.   but it didn’t take

8.   So God uses the last and final tactic with Elijah

a.   He’s taken care of the physical exhaustion

b.   He’s sought to minister to the emotional exhaustion

c.   now He goes right to the will

9.   “Elijah, get back to work!”

10. Friends, often re-devoting ourselves to our duty is the best way to overcome depression

11. When we’ve battled with despair, when we’ve rested, checked our diet, taken a good hard look at our thoughts, and still found nor relief =  then we simply have to just put it aside and go back to work

12. Elijah was still depressed, but God asked him to exercise that part of him that remained fully operative: His will

13. Francis Paget said, “It may be impossible at times to feel what one would; it is not impossible to will what one should; and that, if the will be real and honest, is what matters most.”

14.I like what Dave Roper writes, “We must get up and get going.  There’s always something God is asking us to do, something as simple as fixing a meal.  He only asks us to do what He empowers us to do.  We must shake off our lethargy and, like that other cripple who Jesus restored, get up from our beds and walk. It’s necessary for us to take that first step, for God ‘will carry us in His arms till we are able to walk and He will carry us in His arms when we are weary and cannot walk; but He will not carry us if we will not walk.’ (George MacDonald)”

14. The issue for many is, do they really want to deal with their discouragement?  Or is it merely a convenient excuse to avoid duty?

15. Somewhere along the line, we must decide that despair must go

16. We must not be passive and wait for it to go away by itself

17. We must learn to battle fiercely against depression

18. Look at what Elijah did

a.   in v. 19 we read,

b.   So he departed from there”

19. Though still blue, he exercised his will and did the Lord’s bidding

20. God concluded with a final word to Elijah

{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."  

21. Though he thought so, Elijah was not alone!

22. There were many who had not given in to Baal worship

23. Elijah’s feelings of isolation weren’t founded on fact

24. They were founded on his own retreat from help and companionship


A.  Elijah Like Us

1.   This is an important passage for us because there is a weird idea at work among many Christians today that says everyone who is really walking in Christ will never suffer any kind of trouble

a.   they will never suffer from Alzheimer’s

b.   no one dies from cancer

c.   no one fails in marriage

d.   no one falls into depression

e.   everyone lives happily ever after

2.   Not according to my Bible

a.   here is a man who stands out in scripture as a giant of faith

b.   but he also presents us a classic picture, a prime case, of depression

3.   In James 5:17 we read that Elijah was a man of like passions, of like emotions as us

4.   That’s the whole point:  that’s why the Holy Spirit had this story from his life written into scripture

5.   To give us hope, and to show us how to deal with depression

6.   Each of us is going to deal with depression in one form or another

a.   either mild and infrequent bouts

b.   or deep, dark pits that last for a month or more - as with Elijah

7.   In every case, the real remedy is neither pills nor treatment centers

8.   The remedy is some common sense about our physical health, coupled with a good dose of the revelation of Jesus Christ

9.   Like Elijah, we must stay near the place of revelation, sit at the Lord’s feet, and listen to his words

a.   it’s there at his feet that we get His perspective

b.   where we regain our focus

c.   and where we can re-establish our priorities