What do we do when we are depressed?
Irritability, sadness, exhaustion, low self-image, destructive self-criticism, shame, guilt, manic behavior, suicidal thoughts or acts.
ILLUS: In the February addition of the Reader’s Digest there was an advertisement for Paxil, an anti-depressant. It began with these words
…"Depressed Mood Loss of Interest, Sleep Problems, Difficulty Concentrating, Agitation, Restlessness…"
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."
APPLY: 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 real and many people fight it!
But we serve an AWESOME GOD! He gives us a case study in clinical depression right here in the Bible – If you have a Bible turn to I Kings 19
* Fear - “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life….” Verse 3
* Seek Solitude “…he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey...” Vs. 3-4
* Suicidal tendencies – ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than
my ancestors.’ Verse 4
* Excessive tiredness – “Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep…” Verse 5
he 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.” Verse 10
* AND he experienced this depression for a long time – nearly 2 months
Why would a man who had experienced some of the most powerful displays of God’s power… Why would he suddenly be crippled by fear, hopelessness and despair? Why would he run away to a desolate corner of the world and seek to die?
(pause)… He probably thought that the miracle at Carmel would have been the means of effecting the conversion of the whole court and of the country, but, finding himself mistaken, he is greatly discouraged. (Adam Clarke)
He entered Jezreel full of hope. But Jezebel’s threat cause his faith suddenly failed him. He had been a part of the greatest miracles known to man, and still people didn’t want his God and wanted to see him dead.
And what this tells us is that even God’s most dynamic servants can suffer from depression. It’s not necessarily a mark of a lack of faith. It’s not necessarily a mark of an immoral lifestyle.
Elijah was THE man of God in his day. And now he’s so far DOWN in the depths of despair – even UP looks wrong to him.
But I have great hope for you today. God didn’t leave him this way.
God didn’t say: “well sorry Elijah – you have a chemical imbalance, and Paxil hasn’t been invented yet – so I can’t help you!”
long before healing could be bought in the little purple pills
long before we had clinics and psychiatrists and psychologists
(not meaning any disrespect to psychiatrists or psychologists or the clinics they run)
But, long before all of that… God healed a man of depression & it was not an isolated instance. And what God did for Elijah, He can do for you & me too
I want you to notice what God did to heal Elijah
1st – God recognized that Elijah’s depression was not an imaginary problem. Elijah’s depression was real. It was tangible. AND God did not say – “get a hold of yourself Elijah. This is a SINFUL attitude … where’s your faith man???”
Oh, no… God didn’t treat Elijah roughly.
In answer to Elijah’s prayer to die, God just lets him sleep. Then God’s angel feeds him and lets him sleep some more. Then God sends him down to the desert in the South for 40 days and nights.
In all that time, God doesn’t say a word… God doesn’t offer any council. God doesn’t set Elijah down and have a face to face talk. In all that time, Elijah is left alone – Elijah’s given time to rest and to think….
In essence, that’s what God did with Elijah. No sermons, no long counseling sessions… just love and rest.
IV. But eventually God did deal with Elijah’s depression
And I want you to notice what He did:
1st – God sent him to church
2nd - God had Elijah tell Him what the problem was
3rd – God dealt with the false beliefs/ false ideas that were fueling Elijah’s depression
And lastly – God gave Elijah something to do
Now let’s take each of these one at a time.
1st – God sent him to church – God sent him to Mt. Horeb, the Mt. Of God (where the Law given to Moses).
GO TO CHURCH. It is so important when you are depressed to come to church and worship and focus in on God. If you wake up on a Sunday morning and you’re depressed and don’t feel like coming, come. When you are down, the worst thing you can do is stay home and be alone.
That’s why Hebrews 10:25 says, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is..." The word "forsaking" is taken from the Greek word egkatakeipontes. It’s a compound of three different Greek words: eg, kata, and leipo. The first word, eg (actually from the Greek word ek) means out. Kata, the second part of the word, means down. The third word, leipo, means behind. These three words compounded together simply mean out, down, and behind.
These words describe someone who is extremely discouraged, defeated, and depressed because he feels like everyone is succeeding but him. This is a person who feels left out, down, depressed, and far behind everyone else.
The moment people begin to feel like this is often the moment they fall out of fellowship with other believers - the very time they need fellowship and encouragement the most! They decide to skip church, stay home, and do something else instead. They isolate themselves when they’re in the greatest need of encouragement!
Church is one of the best places to deal with Depression. When Church is done right it’s the place where we listen to each other and help one another. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
ILLUS: In 1999 Duke University conducted a study of nearly 4000 older adults. One of their conclusions: "Attendance at a house of worship is related to lower rates of depression and anxiety."
Get around others who will lift you up. A handshake, a hug, words of encouragement, they go a long way in lifting us out of depression.
But church doesn’t stop with being in a house of worship… Time alone with God in prayer is a powerful anti-depressant.
ILLUS: Andrew Newberg, director of clinical nuclear medicine at the University of Pittsburgh used the SPECT technique and made an interesting discovery. Newberg studied the brains of religious individuals who either prayed or meditated. And his team found a dramatic increase in action in the front region of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex. The region is associated with judgment and empathy. The group also discovered decreased activity in a region of the brain known as the superior parietal lobe, which gives us our sense of "self." The findings seem to indicate that people - while engaged in spiritual pursuits - felt a loss of self. Newberg says prayer and meditation have been shown to lower the risk of depression and heart disease and improve immune function.
WORSHIP GOD If I am fighting a depressed mood putting on a praise & worship CD always helps. The Bible says that God inhabits the praises of his people. David would play anointed music and the spirit of depression would leave king Saul. Worship lifts our spirits and helps us focus our thoughts on what is really important.
The world can be falling apart but there is just something about turning your eyes towards God and worshipping Him that makes the depression go away for that moment. When you enter into the throne room of God there is such peace, such protection, such security.
I love what David wrote in Psalm 42:5. “Why so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him my Savior and my God.” David says, even though I am downcast I am going to praise God. David knew the way out of his depression was to worship.
So, first, God sent Elijah to church
2ndly - God had Elijah tell Him what the problem was.
God asked Elijah: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:13) God didn’t ask this question just once, He asked Elijah that same question two separate times. "What are you doing here?" Didn’t God know? Of course He knew, He’d sent Elijah to this mountain. But Elijah needed to vocalize what was wrong in his life. Elijah needed to explain what HE tho’t the problem was. And once Elijah verbalized his belief of what was wrong, then…
SEEK GODLY COUNSEL. If you suffer from prolong depressing you may need to see a professional counselor. That’s does not mean you are weird or crazy. It just means you might need help. There is nothing wrong with talking to a professional who can help you take some steps to improve your life. If you have battled deep depression for sometime, can I encourage you to consider talking to a counselor.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” A counselor can be a friend who can help you get back up if you have fallen to depression.
find a counselor that is a Christian and who believes in the Bible. You need someone who can give godly advice. Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
3rd – God dealt with the false beliefs, the false ideas that were fueling Elijah’s depression.
Jesus said, “The truth shall set you free.” Why is that? Because false ideas, false beliefs (especially false ideas about God) have power put us in bondage. Our lives are built around what we think is true about life. And if the foundations of that reasoning are based on wrong information or impressions, the result can be devastating.
Elijah’s reply to God revealed what Elijah had wrong. ELIJAH DIDN’T THINK THAT GOD WAS DOING ANYTHING.
In 1 Kings 19:14 Elijah replied to God and said, "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."
Hidden in the midst of that statement was this accusation:
"I’ve been beating my head against the wall serving you Lord. And everything seems to just be falling apart around me… What have you been doing God???
And so, God corrects Elijah’s thinking. He tells him "Elijah – you’re not the only one left"
In 1 Kings 19:18 God tells Elijah
“I have reserved seven thousand in Israel— all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."
"Elijah, I’ve not been doing nothing (God seems to be saying)… in fact, I’m just getting started"
"Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu … king over Israel, and anoint Elisha …to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. (I Kings 19:15-17)
In other words, don’t worry about it Elijah… I’ve got it all under control. I AM doing something.
ILLUS: When our allied troops were making their way across Europe to cross Hitler’s forces, they came across a bombed out building that had this inscription scrawled on a basement wall:
"I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when it is not shown.
And I believe in God even He doesn’t speak."
When a person is depressed, they don’t think God is doing much of anything. They have no hope, no confidence, and God isn’t easily seen by them. A person in depression needs to realize that – just like Elijah – God IS working in their lives… even when they can’t see Him.
CHOOSE TO REDIRECT YOUR THOUGHTS. Steven Wright says, “If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.” And I am not naïve. Life sometimes stinks and there are a lot of negative things out there. But we must not dwell on the negative. If you’re thoughts are constantly negative you are going to be depressed. Proverbs says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so he will be.”
People who have low self-esteem, who consistently view themselves and the world with pessimism or who are readily overwhelmed by stress, are prone to depression. Whether this represents a psychological predisposition or an early form of the illness is not clear.
Women experience depression about twice as often as men.
Dr. David Burns in his book Feeling Good says, “Most depression arises from erroneous thinking. We have it within our power to control the thoughts that dupe us into needless gloom
Philippians 4:8 Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.
2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, Who comforts and encourages and refreshes and cheers the depressed and the sinking, comforted and encouraged and refreshed and cheered us by the arrival of Titus. (AMP)
One way to do this is through Thanksgiving : Illus of paying 2 million dollars for eyes, million for ears, million for taste.
Jeremiah 30:19 (MsgB) Thanksgivings will pour out of the windows; laughter will spill through the doors. Things will get better and better. Depression days are over. They’ll thrive, they’ll flourish. The days of contempt will be over.
Illus. During the 1st part of the 20th century, J. C. Penney presided over a very powerful empire of over 1,700 stores. At the time he had the country’s largest chain of department stores, each one bearing his name.
Although his enterprise made him incredibly wealthy, J.C. Penney’s life was not devoid of setbacks and troubles. In fact, beginning in 1929, events took place that nearly cost Penney his life.
When the Great Depression struck the country, it came at a time of great financial vulnerability for Penney. In the good times, before the Depression, Penney had overextended himself and had borrowed heavily to finance many of his ventures. But when the Depression hit banks began to request repayment of his loans sooner than anticipated. Suddenly cash flow was tight, and Penney was finding it difficult to meet payment schedules. Constant and unrelenting worry began to take a toll. "I was so harassed with worries that I couldn’t sleep, and developed an extremely painful ailment," he said.
Concerned about his deteriorating health, Penney checked himself into the Kellogg sanitarium at Battle Creek, Michigan, (kind of the Mayo Clinic of its era). There, Dr. Elmer Eggleston, a staff physician, examined Penney, declaring that he was extremely ill.
Penney later recalled "A rigid treatment was prescribed, but nothing helped," He was constantly tormented by periods of hopelessness and despair. His very will to live was rapidly eroding.
"I got weaker day by day. I was broken, nervously and physically, filled with despair, unable to see even a ray of hope. I had nothing to live for, I felt that I hadn’t a friend left in the world, that even my family had turned against me."
Alarmed by his rapidly deteriorating condition, Dr. Eggleston gave Penney a sedative. However, the effect quickly wore off, and Penney awakened with the conviction that he was living the last night of his life. "Getting out of bed, I wrote farewell letters to my wife and to my son, saying that I did not expect to live to see the dawn."
Penney awakened the next morning, surprised to find himself alive. Making his way down the hallway of the hospital, he could hear singing coming from the little chapel where devotional exercises were held each morning. The words of the hymn he heard being sung spoke deeply to him.
Going into the chapel, he listened to the singing, the reading of the Scripture lesson, and the prayer.
"Suddenly something happened," he said. "I can’t explain it. I can only call it a miracle. I felt as if I had been instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into a warm, brilliant sunlight. I felt as if I had been transported from hell to Paradise. I felt the power of God as I had never felt it before."
In a life-transforming instant Penney knew that God, with His love, was there to help. "From that day to this, my life has been free from worry," he declared. "The most dramatic and glorious 20 minutes of my life were those I spent in that chapel that morning."
The words from the hymn that spoke so eloquently and miraculously to J. C. Penney were these (sing it with me if you know it).
Be not dismayed whate’er betide, God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide, God will take care of you.
God will take care of you, through every day, o’er all the way;
He will take care of you, God will take care of you.
And lastly, God gave Elijah something to do
When God finished His counseling session with Elijah, Elijah was still in his complaining mood, but God basically tells him: “Get back to work. I’ve got a job for you to do… make yourself useful”
The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu … king over Israel, and anoint Elisha … to succeed you as prophet.” (I Kings 19:15-16)