Did you know:
- 1 in 4 people suffer from a diagnosable mental health struggle.
- Depression rates rose 29% in the last few years.
- 35% of adults receive no care for depression.
- Suicide rates have jumped 30% since 2000
Mental health, and depression in particular, touches every single one of us. Even if you aren’t struggling with it, someone you know and love probably is.
There are numerous stories of people who struggled with different forms of depression in the Bible. We find one of the most fascinating examples in 1 Kings 19 with the prophet Elijah.
Elijah spent his life trying to help the people of his day realize that the gods they were worshiping were fake. In fact, one of the local gods of the day was named Baal, and in chapter 18, Elijah stands in front of the followers of Baal and challenges them. He sets up a sacrifice battle, and God immediately consumes it. From that point on, it was obvious to the people there that Baal was no god at all.
The Queen at the time, Jezebel, gets word that the god she’s led her people to worship was proven to be a fake. She then threatens to kill Elijah within the next 24 hours.
In 1 Kings 19: 3-4 it reads, “Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
Think about this description of Elijah. He was a strong, God-honoring, passionate leader, all while clearly showing the markers of depression:
- He was alone and withdrawn from others.
- He was apparently not eating (v.8).
- He was hopeless to the point of not wanting to live anymore.
Elijah wasn’t the only one with depression in the Bible.
The Psalmist in Psalm 88: “the darkness is my closest friend”
David in Psalm 6: “All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears”
Jeremiah in Jeremiah 20: “Why was I ever born? My entire life has been filled with trouble, sorrow, and shame”
Isaiah referencing Jesus in Isaiah 53: He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with the deepest grief.
What does the Bible say about depression?
The Bible says that even the most devoted people of faith experience mental health struggles, including depression. Elijah falls into this long line of people with deep, abiding faith who struggle with depression. Is God’s response dismissive of Elijah’s very real, debilitating feelings? Absolutely not! We can see God’s wisdom and understanding with how he treats Elijah and his current state in the passage that follows:
In 1 Kings 19:5-9 Elijah said he wanted his life to end, but look how God responded:
- God fed him
- God gave him rest
- God got him talking
- God got him walking
If you were to ask any counselor, therapist, or psychologist, it’s very likely they would tell you that these four ways God cares for Elijah are foundational pillars for mental health – eating a healthy diet, consistently getting enough sleep, talking to someone about your struggles, and exercising regularly.
There’s one other thing that drew Elijah out of his darkness: God appeared to him as the sound of a gentle whisper. Sometimes we may approach someone struggling with depression aggressively, telling them to “snap out of it” or “just think positive.” However, it was the whisper that ended up bringing Elijah out of the darkness of that cave. A firmer approach may have just made it worse.
But God didn’t leave him there – he gave him hope. The story continues in 1 Kings 19:15-6 with God giving Elijah three things that physically moved him out of his darkness:
1. Work that Matters
God gave Elijah a job: go and anoint a new king. If you’re struggling in the darkness of depression, God is not done with you. Just like Elijah, there is work that God wants to do in this world designed specifically for you.
He gives Elijah a partner, someone to walk with him named Elisha. Relationships can be a way out if you’re in a dark place. Get involved in a group, or find a community of people you can open up to.
3. Bring Meaning to the Pain
Elijah chose to use his pain for a greater, more meaningful purpose. We know this because here we are 2,900 years later still reading about it! Think about it – when Elijah went through this great struggle, he was all alone. That means he made the conscious choice to share his story with others to bring glory to God and prove that healing is possible.
Elijah chose to open up and get honest about what was going on inside. If you are struggling with depression, that could be where it starts for you as well: by making a choice to open up, talk, and ask for help.
We have dozens of resources on this landing page, including a form to fill out if you are looking to find a counselor to help.
Beating a season of depression might not happen overnight. Change happens in small, incremental steps – but it does come! Here are some more resources to help you navigate depression:
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