How To Defeat Depression
Depression is one of the greatest problems in the world today. It has been called the common cold of mental illnesses. Everybody gets depressed at times, but some people are depressed nearly all the time. Even people in the Bible got depressed – Elijah is an example.
Elijah was a tremendous spokesman for God. For three years he had been God’s mouthpiece to the nation of Israel. All kinds of miracles had taken place through him and there was a great spiritual awakening in Israel because of his ministry.
But one person that did not like Elijah was Jezebel. She was the Queen of Israel and she was a very wicked woman. Jezebel hated Elijah – partly because he had so much influence over the people and also because he had challenged 450 prophets of Baal and won. Jezebel’s husband, King Ahab, told Jezebel everything that Elijah had done and this made her extremely angry. Let’s pick up the story at that point:
Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." And Elijah was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers." 1 Kings 19:1-4 (NASB)
Elijah was a prime candidate for depression. He was physically tired – he was emotionally exhausted – he was disappointed how things had turned out and now Jezebel threatened his life. He was an emotional wreck with all kinds of emotional problems – fear, resentment, guilt, anger, loneliness, and worry. He was human with all kinds of human emotions and he became depressed. Elijah was so depressed that he was ready to die. In fact he had asked God to take his life.
Why did Elijah get depressed? Because he had faulty thinking. Did you know that emotions are controlled by our thinking? If we think something is bad – we become sad. If we think something is fun – be become happy. The fact is that our emotions are controlled by our thoughts. The Bible says:
“For as a man thinks within himself, so he is.” Proverbs 23:7a
If you think in a negative way – you’re going to feel depressed. Your emotions are caused by how you interpret life. That’s one of the reasons the Bible says:
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NASB)
Today as we look at defeating depression I want to give you seven tips that will help you defeat depression. The first tip is:
1. Don’t Focus On Feelings – Focus On FACTS
Why did Elijah get depressed? Because he allowed his emotions to overpower his mind. Jezebel threatens his life. What does he do? Verse three tells us:
“And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life.”
1 Kings 19:3a (NASB)
Was the threat real? No doubt. Would Jezebel have killed Elijah – maybe. We will never know will we? But here is something that we do know. Elijah stood up to the 450 prophets of Baal. He let them build an altar to their god. He let them pray. He let them plead. He let them do everything in their power to show that Baal was real – and what happened – NOTHING! Absolutely nothing! Baal did not answer them.
And then do you know what Elijah did? He built an alter to the Lord. He dug a trench around the altar. He put wood on the altar. He laid an offering on the altar. Then he took water and poured on the altar. He wanted to make sure it was good and wet. But then he did it again. And then he did it a third time – it was really wet – in fact it was so wet that the trench was full of water. Then Elijah prayed and the fire of the Lord came down and consumed the wood that was on the altar. It consumed the offering that was on the altar. It consumed all the water that had been poured on the altar – even the water that was in the trench. But that’s not all the Lord’s fire consumed the altar itself – all the rocks and even the dust. That’s what happened when Elijah prayed. He proved that God is real – he proved that God is powerful – he proved that God is almighty. He did not run from the prophets of Baal – he stood up to them.
But now Elijah runs for his life. His focus is on his feelings and he is afraid.
Folks – let me tell you a truth. I don’t always feel like a Christian – but I know that I am. I don’t always feel close to God - but that doesn’t mean that He’s not close to me. You see - feelings often lie. But here is a fact. God says:
"I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU," so that we confidently say, "THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?"
Hebrews 13:5-6 (NASB)
Don’t base your actions on your feelings – base them on facts.
It’s like the young couple that just gotten married and the young husband says to his wife: “You know honey, I just don’t feel married.” She looks him straight in the eye and says: “Listen here buddy – it doesn’t matter how you feel. You are married and you better behave like it!”
Don’t focus on feelings – focus on facts.
The second tip:
2. Don’t Compare Yourself To Other PEOPLE
Look at what Elijah said in his prayer to God:
"O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers."
1 Kings 19:4b
He was comparing himself with other people. Have you ever done that? Have you ever said, “If I could just be like so-and-so, I’d be happy.”
When you start comparing yourself with other people – you’re asking for trouble. If you think you’re better than someone else – you’ll have pride. If you think you’re worse off than someone else – you’ll have envy. In this case – Elijah looked at himself as being in the same boat as ancestors – and for him that was a disappointment.
Elijah was who he was. Do you know what the New Testament says bout him? It says:
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.” James 5:17 (NASB)
Elijah was like us – but God used him. He didn’t need to compare himself to others – he was unique just as you and I are unique. Comparing yourself to others only leads to all kinds of problems.
The third tip to overcome depression is:
3. Don’t Exaggerate The NEGATIVE
Why is it when goof up instead of saying, “I made a mistake,” we say, “I’m a total failure.”
Why is it that when we fall instead of saying, “Oh, I accidentally tripped”, we say, “I’m a klutz.”
Why is it that when we overeat instead of saying, “I ate too much,” we say, “I’m a pig.”
That’s because we like to exaggerate the negative and that leads to a pity-party.
Later on in First Kings Elijah says this:
"I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." 1 Kings 19:10b (NASB)
Elijah is having a pity-party. But do you know what God says? He says:
“I have left seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.”
1 Kings 19:18 (KJV)
Elijah – yes things are bad. But guess what – they are not a bad as you make them out to be. You are not alone. You see when we get depressed we always exaggerate the negative. Everything looks bad. The whole world is going to pot. In actuality Elijah was not the only person still faithful to God. There were still 7,000 prophets who hadn’t succumbed to the pagan religion. Elijah exaggerated the problem, and it made his depression worse.
The next tip is a very practical one:
4. Take Care Of Your PHYSICAL Needs
Folks did you that I can teach you how to become depressed? Did you know that I could teach you that? Here is all you need to do. Start getting only three hours of sleep a night. When you go to bed set your alarm clocks for three hours of sleep. No naps during the day – that’s cheating. Do that for a week and see where you are emotionally. See how you feel.
But that’s not all starting eating one meal a day. Only one – don’t make it a balanced diet and no snacking between meals. Do that for a week and see where you are emotionally.
What we do physically affects us emotionally. That’s why it’s important to get enough sleep each night – to eat regular meals that consist of a balanced diet – to take of our personal hygiene – to be sure we take medications properly. All of these things affect our mental health. And guess what – they affected Elijah’s mental health too.
We read that Elijah laid down under a tree and fell asleep. Then an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and went back to sleep.
Then the angel came a second time and said, “Get up and eat again, for the journey is too much for you.” 1 Kings 19:7 (NASB) So he ate and drank, and was strengthened by that food. He need proper rest – he needed proper nourishment.
A way to deal with depression is rest and food. Sometimes a good night’s sleep does wonders for your attitude. When you are physically tired and mentally drained – you’re prone to depression. If you’re depressed – one big step is to take care of your physical needs. Physical health affects your emotional health.
But that’s not all:
5. Take Your PROBLEMS To God
At one point Elijah went into a cave and spent the night there. In the morning the Lord asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah responded:
"I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." 1 Kings 19:10 (NASB)
He just poured out all his inner feelings to God and God allowed him to let off steam. God was not shocked by Elijah’s complaints. He let Elijah vent his pen-up emotions.
Let me ask you – have you ever been angry with God – I know that I have. You know what is the best thing to do? Talk to God about it – tell Him how you feel. The truth is – He already knows if you are mad at Him. He already knows if you’re mad the world. He already knows if you are disappointed with life. And guess what – He is big enough to take it.
Take your problems to the Lord.
6. Have A Fresh ENCOUNTER With God
God told Elijah:
"Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD."
And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks 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. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.” 1 Kings 19:11-12 (NASB)
God had put on a real show for Elijah. There was wind – there was an earthquake – there was fire. But God wasn’t in any of that. What really got Elijah’s attention was the still, small voice – the gentle whisper – a gentle blowing. Even today God usually speaks to us in stillness and quietness – not out of some big dramatic demonstration of fire or power. God reminded Elijah that He was still right there beside him.
If you are depressed, take your Bible – go to a quiet place. Sit down and read your Bible. Get alone with God. Let God love you – let God speak to you. Let Him meet your needs. There is no greater antidepressant than communication and fellowship with God.
7. Find New DIRECTION From God
Finally the Lord gave Elijah a new assignment. He told Elijah,
"Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived……” 1 Kings 19:15
God gave Elijah a new assignment. He put him back to work. The quickest way to defeat depression is to quit sitting around in self-pity. Get your eyes off yourself and start looking at the needs of other people. Get involved in their lives in a ministry where you are giving out and God is giving through you. If you’re constantly looking at yourself you’ll get discouraged.
Let God give you a new purpose and a new direction. He’s not through with you. If you let Him, God will pick you up and start you over. He can help you – He can change you – He can heal you.
(I would like to thank Rick Warren for the sermon starter ideas.)