Summary: Third in a series exploring life crisis, inspired by the Outreach materials for the "Who Cares" campaign. This message explores stress and depression.
(This message extensively based on the sermon starters provided in the "Who Cares" package materials from Outreach.)
He is believed to have been one of England’s finest preachers, C.H. Spurgeon. Some may know that he was referred to in many circles, and is still known today as the Prince of Preachers. He was saved at 15 years old when a snow storm forced him from his travels into a primitive Methodist chapel where in his own words, “God opened my heart to the salvation message.”
What you may not know is that frequently during his ministry Spurgeon was plunged into severe depression. In fact, sometimes he would be out of the pulpit for two to three months at a time. In a biography Arnold Dallimore wrote, "What he suffered in those times of darkness we may not know. Even his desperate calling on God brought no relief.” “There are dungeons,” Spurgeon would say, “beneath the castles of despair.”
Many years ago there was a young Midwestern lawyer who suffered from such deep depression that his friends thought it best to keep all knives and razors out of his reach. He questioned his life’s calling and the prudence of even attempting to follow it through. During this time he wrote, "I am now the most miserable man living. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I awfully forebode I shall not." But somehow, from somewhere, Abraham Lincoln received the encouragement he needed, and the achievements of his life thoroughly vindicated his bout with stress and depression.
Zoom forward to the 21st century years and will find the famous Minrith-Meier Clinics where in an average week 50,000 people will visit them for therapy. Seventy-five percent of these clients, says Dr. Meier, or roughly 38,000 people each week, will have either clinical depression or some sort of anxiety disorder. Just at their clinics.
Depression can be, and is a very real problem, and today we are going to look at a very godly man, a great hero of the Bible who suffered from depression. In his day, he was the man of God, but he quickly became crippled by fear, hopelessness and despair.
And long before psychiatry was ever thought of. Long before healing could be bought in the little purple pill. Long before we had clinics and psychiatrists and psychologists, which is not meant as any disrespect to any of those medical advances or professions. But, long before all of that, God was able to heal a man of depression and it was not an isolated instance. And what God did for that man, and for me. He can still do today.
I said for me because I am very familiar with the depths of depression.
- 16 years old
- Honor student – advanced math and science
- President of the German Club
- Vice President of Students Against Drunk Driving
- Drum Major in the Marching Band
- Severely Depressed
- Life seemed void, without purpose, and pointless
- Attempted suicide in a vehicle
- Told my closest friend about it – who told my parents
- Sent to a therapist
- Put on anti-depressants
- Parents provided with tranquilizers
- A few days later, took massive dose of the tranquilizers
- Slept a really long time
- Was sent from California to Wisconsin and Indiana for 6 weeks
- Thought I had it beat
- Completed High School
- Went to College
- Got Married
- Became a father
- And in 1996 faced suicidal levels of depression again
- For a 30 day period – worked, came home, starred at the wall, and contemplated suicide
- For me – no counseling, no medication, no change of scenery was the fix
- Much like the man of God in today’s passage –
it took an encounter with the love of God to change my life
So turn with me to I Kings 19, and I want you to do something that will take a great deal of focus as we read this rather lengthy passage. I want you to look at this text as a case study in depression. And I want you to look for words, for indications of Elijah’s depression that might exist in this passage. Are you ready? Bibles open?
1 Kings 19 (read through verse 18).
Did you see any of the symptoms? Any of the descriptors of stress and depression? What might some of them been? (Elicit response from congregation)
- Fear - “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life….” 1 Kings 19:3
- Suicidal tendencies – “(Elijah) prayed that he might die.‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ 1 Kings 19:4
- Excessive tiredness – “Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep…” 1 Kings 19:5 - slept for a couple of days… maybe longer