Summary: The focus of the sermon is unloading exhaustion, depression, and fear.
Sermon: Exhausted, Depressed, and Afraid
This morning (evening), we are going on a journey. First, we will pack a familiar case to all of us and then discover how it can be unpacked so that we can travel lighter. When I was travelling to see my mum in Canada, Hugh texted her and said about our ETA. Mum didn’t know what he meant. Of course, ETA is Estimated Time of Arrival. I’ve titled this message EDA: exhausted, depressed, and afraid. This is how we find the OT prophet, Elijah. He is exhausted, depressed, and afraid. Have you been there before? Can you relate to the mood of this prophet? Elijah didn’t start out with all this excess baggage but he picked it up along the way.
Let’s deal with exhaustion first. Some think that tiredness and exhaustion is the same thing but tiredness can be overcome by sleep. Exhaustion is fatigue and for exhaustion, sleep is not a quick fix. You’ve heard it said, “I’m so tired, my tired is tired!” Last year, someone posted on the internet, “I'm just so tired. Tired of all the stress at work and tired of being too tired to do anything with my family on a night or at weekends cos I'm so exhausted. Last weekend was the first that I actually didn't work all day Saturday since Christmas. This is no life. This is no work-life balance, falling asleep during Corrie! Is it just me?” The response they received was, “Falling asleep during Corrie is a common problem lately. It isn’t gripping enough!” Nevertheless, exhaustion is no laughing matter.
Notice, the blogger wrote, “I’m so exhausted!” The dictionary defines exhaustion as the state of being spent, drained, and depleted. There is nothing left! This was the situation in Elijah’s story. Is it any wonder? He had defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel then ran for his life from Jezebel who was determined to kill him for killing all of her prophets. He had travelled all day and finally sat down under a tree for shade. We find the old prophet in this passage of scripture in this state. He was not in a good place!
Throughout history, scholars and scientists have pronounced their era as the most worn out—and found a variety of sinful activities and modern advances to blame for it. Each generation says, “TODAY MUST BE the most exhausting time to be alive.” There is endless news to read, email to respond to, work to finish, and photos to post, and with it all, rarely a full night’s rest. I think those who lived through the war years would find this description most trivial. I’m not nullifying people experiencing exhaustion.
Exhaustion is cumulative. It can be one small thing followed by something else then another and yet another problem to deal with and before you know it – you feel heavy and loaded down. Another fact about exhaustion is that it often comes after a ‘high.’ Like Elijah, he had experienced the amazing power of God and an all-time high only to experience this all-time low. It’s because all one’s energy goes into a project or an event. What often follows on is ‘a slump.’
Elijah doesn’t get out of this state easily. He then finds he is in full-fledged depression. Depression is a dreadful thing. It’s not something you can just ‘snap out of’. Elijah is in such a deep depression that he wants to die and asks the Lord to take his life. Fortunately, for Elijah, God does not answer his prayer to die.
The Mental Health website describes depression as a common mental disorder that causes people to experience depressed mood, low energy, and poor concentration. It is different from feeling down or feeling sad. Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression is more common among women. This mental disorder causes people to experience depressed mood, loss of interest, feelings of guilt, low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, poor concentration, and negativity, added to a feeling of hopelessness. Depression can happen to anyone. Along with depression comes the other D’s: Despondency, Discouragement, Doldrums, Despair, Disappointment, Dismay, and an overall Damping Down of any enthusiasm. Add this to the bag and you can hardly lift it anymore. Bible characters experience depression, patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, women like Sarah, Hannah, and Esther. If you read the Book of Psalms, you will know that King David, the psalmist suffered from bouts of depression too.
Besides depression, these Old and New Testament characters experienced intense fear too. Have you ever been afraid? Did you know that 13 percent of people are affected by an extreme and persistent fear? Over 23 million people suffer from a fear of heights and a fear of loud noises. 21 million people fear the number 13, which is why 80 percent of high rises do not have a 13th floor. Over 8 million people suffer from aerophobia, yet we are told you are more likely to become a professional athlete than be involved in a plane crash. I have read that over 85 percent of what we fear will never happen. The old adage is true; Fear equals False Evidence Appearing Real! Are you fearful? Do you think David fought Goliath without fear? One glance at that Giant and I would have run the other way but David pushed through his fears and through his God and his well-honed skills, David gained the victory. Of course, our greatest example of courage was Jesus, our Saviour. Do you think he travelled the ‘way of the cross’ without fear? Can you push through your fears?