Summary: Is depression a mark of a lack of faith? Is it always a sinful attitude? Consider the story of a great man of God who struggled with this terrible emotion, and the ways in which God healed him.
OPEN: Over the past few weeks we’ve been dealing with emotions that can cripple Christians. Two weeks ago, our family minister dealt with the issue of Fear. Last week we dealt with Guilt. And this week we’re going to focus on a very real emotion that has crippled thousands: Depression.
OPEN: Psychiatry students were in their college class one day when their professor began a discussion to prove a point. "What we’re going to talk about today," the professor said, "are the emotional extremes that many mentally disturbed people go through… for example
“What’s the opposite of joy?" he asked one student.
"Sadness" the student answered.
"The opposite of depression?" he asked a young lady.
"Elation," she replied.
Turning to a young man from Texas he asked "the opposite of woe?"
"Well, now," the Texan replied "I suppose the opposite of woe, would be giddy up."
According to Psychiatrists Frank Minrith & Paul Meier, the majority of Americans suffer from a serious, clinical depression at some point in their lives. Most of these people never get help... they just fight this battle on their own.
ILLUS: Years ago I was reading out Reader’s Digest and ran across an advertisement for Paxil, an anti-depressant (Reader’s.Digest, 2/03).
The ad began with these words…
Loss of Interest
Then it concluded with these words: "Life is too precious to let another day go by feeling not quite ’yourself.’ If you’ve experienced some of these symptoms nearly every day, for at least two weeks, a chemical imbalance could be to blame. And life can feel difficult ALL DAY."
To read this advertisement you would believe that most (if not all) of those suffering from depression are victims of a chemical imbalance. And indeed, the Holy Grail of psychiatrists is to find that magic pill, that powerful potion that will correct that imbalance and give people everywhere relief from the dark moments of sadness and hopelessness.
Depression is very real part of life for many people.
ILLUS: A few years ago, the South East Christian Church offered a time during their Wednesday Evening Service (attendance of at least 600) for people to come forward and have the Elders lay hands on them and pray for healing. The speaker pointed out that there was "a lot of hurt in this room" - sickness, broken relationships, grief. He said that at the invitation, the elders would be available for prayers of healing.
The response began as a trickle. Soon, others began making their way down from the balcony; walking along individually or in pairs, or rolling forward in wheelchairs. Before long, the trickle became a torrent.
Elder Bob Carpenter said he was not prepared for the response to the invitation. "I was totally surprised by the magnitude of it."
Elder Bill Beauchamp did not expect the vast response either… nor did he anticipate the type of prayer needs revealed. "At least 2 out of 3 asked for prayer for depression," he said.
"I thought it would be more for physical needs. But so many said, ’I’m depressed. I feel unworthy. I see no future." I was amazed at how many felt unworthy."
ILLUS: At the famous Minrith-Meier Clinics - in an average week - 50,000 people will visit the clinic for therapy. Seventy-five percent of these clients, says Dr. Meier, will have either
clinical depression or some sort of anxiety disorder.
Let me repeat… Depression can be a very real problem.
What I find interesting, is that God gives us a case study in clinical depression right here in I Kings 19. This passage tells us the story of the depression that Elijah experienced because of his fear of Jezebel. And in this passage we observe many of the classic symptoms of clinical depression:
* 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
* FEELINGS OF REJECTION – “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 1 Kings 19:10
* And it appears that Elijah experienced this terrible depression for a very long time – nearly 2 months.
Now, what’s really bizarre about this is that, just days before, Elijah had preached one of the greatest sermons of his life. He had confronted 400 prophets of Baal on the Mt. Carmel and exposed them as the false prophets they really were. And because of Elijah’s faith and obedience, God literally sent fire down out of heavens to consume the sacrifice he’d placed on the altar. And then a few hours later sent a downpour of rain on a land that hadn’t had rain for 3 years because God had brought judgment on the land of Israel.