Elijah’s Depression - Page 2
by John Lowe
1) Take Time Off
The first thing that helped Elijah was to take time off so he could get physically and emotionally rejuvenated. He had been so busy taking care of the needs of the nations that he had neglected his own needs.
When we use up our physical energy we become exhausted. When we use all of our emotional energy, we become depressed. We must therefore find some way periodically to replace the emotional and physical energy that life and work drain from us. If we do not, we will experience burn-out and depression.
Elijah needed rest, food, and relaxation. He needed to get away from the people and pressures that were getting to him. So do we occasionally.
A poem says it best:
If you put your nose to the grindstone rough
And hold it there long enough,
For you there will be no such thing
As a bubbling brook or birds that sing.
These three things will your life compose,
Just you, the stone, and a ground-down nose.
No one can run full throttle all the time. We all need to slow down to an idle occasionally. Some people say it is better to burn out than to rust out. That's spiritual nonsense. It is better to live out your life in victory than to do either. Getting away helped Elijah. It will help you also.
There is often a close relationship between our physical and emotional state. Our body and our soul live so close to one another that they tend to catch each other's diseases. If we are down emotionally, it affects the way we feel physically. If we get sick physically, it affects our emotions.
Keeping healthy in general—getting enough of the right kind of food, enough sleep, and sufficient exercise -- while no guarantee against depression, may help to prevent it and will certainly keep the body in a better state to deal with it.
If you are depressed, first get a good physical check-up; have a medical examination to see if there is anything physically or chemically wrong with you. If everything is alright physically, take some time off to let your body and soul catch up with one another.
That's not always easy to do. Thomas Spurgeon, son of Charles H. Spurgeon, once wrote a friend concerning a period of forced inactivity due to ill health, "I fear I shall find it hard work to do nothing." Many people are that way. They are workaholics. They feel guilty about doing nothing.
But we all need to live balanced lives. We need a rhythm between work and rest. If we don't find it, we will become either a basket case or a casket case. Jesus recognized this and said to His disciples, "Come ye apart and rest awhile." The fact is, we must either come apart or fly to pieces.
2) Let It All Out
Second, Elijah talked through his frustrations. While he sat in a cave feeling sorry for himself, God asked, "What doest thou here, Elijah?"
Have you noticed in scripture that God is always asking questions for which He already knows the answers? He asked Adam, "Adam, where art thou?" God knew where Adam was. He asked Cain, "Where is thy brother Abel?" God knew that Abel was already dead. He asked Moses, "Moses, what is that in your hand?" God knew that Moses had a staff in his hand. Here he asks, "Elijah, what doest thou here?" God knew what Elijah was doing there. He helped him get there.
Why, then, did God ask Elijah this question? To give him an opportunity to talk, to vent his frustrations. Then God listened non-judgmentally as Elijah poured out his feelings of anger, bitterness and self-pity.
We all have such feelings at times; unless we rid ourselves of them they will poison us emotionally. There are some health-giving emotions like love, faith, hope. But there are also some destructive emotions. Fear, anger, worry, bitterness, hatred, jealousy, and self-pity are slow killers. We must find some way to rid ourselves of these destructive feelings.
But how can we do it? How do we rid ourselves of these pent-up feelings? Exercise, just plain hard work is one way. It relieves a lot of tension. A person could almost jog himself out of a depression. Some even believe the brain produces its own "mood-elevating chemicals," which are enhanced by exercise, among other things.
That is not easy to do. When we are depressed we often exhibit apathy. There is a slowdown in the body processes. We lose interest in usual activities. We don't feel like doing anything. It's hard just to get through the day. At those dark times we lack energy.
Tears are another way. Depressed people tend to cry a lot anyway. That is good. Tears are a God-given means of release. I hope you never lose your ability to cry. Someone has said that the answer to all of man's emotional problems is salt water: sweat, tears, or the ocean. There is some truth there.
Talking is perhaps the most effective way to rid ourselves of harmful emotions. When we talk it is like pulling the plug out of the bathtub. All sorts of bad feelings are drained from us. Everyone needs someone in whom he can confide without fear of condemnation.
The head of the medical school at the University of Oregon said some time ago that probably more good is done between two friends at ten o'clock in the morning over a cup of coffee than in the doctor's office all day long. Talking to a friend can help to bring life back into perspective and enable us to solve our problems. If we had more friends we would need fewer psychiatrists. Find a non-judgmental listener and pour your soul out to them.
And as you talk to others, don't forget to talk to God. He, too, will listen non-judgmentally. Elijah practically accused God of infidelity. But God is not defensive. He deals patiently and tenderly with His over-wrought child. He will do that with you also.
God didn't say, "Elijah, prophets shouldn't talk like that." He didn't make him feel guilty for his feelings. He accepted him and listened to him. Say what you want to God. He can take it. He will not be judgmental as you pour out the hurts of life to Him.
A word of caution however; be careful about talking about your problem too much. The person who goes around pitying himself bores others with repeated stories of his troubles; the result is he is left more and more to himself.