Friday, January 16, 2009

Depression: Under a Juniper Tree

After a decisive victory over Baal's prophets, Elijah was slumped under a juniper tree in the vise grip of depression. His plea to the Lord was for immediate death. Better there under God's merciful hand than through the cruel fingers of Jezebel, whose threat of death was what primarily instigated his state of despair in the first place. His case offers us a glimpse of an aspect of the nature of depression, the knowledge of which will prove valuable especially to those currently in the midst of this debilitating mental condition.

The New Bible Commentary (21st Century Edition; edited by G.J. Wenham, J.A. Motyer, D.A. Carson and R.T. France) states:

"It is often suggested that Elijah was suffering from depression. Depression can have many different causes (from suppressed anger to vitamin deficiency) and we should not assume that when we are depressed our problem is the same as Elijah's, or his the same as ours. In his case, depression and discouragement seem to have stemmed from his skewed perspective. He both underrated his own achievement and undervalued the contribution of others. The answer, in part at least, was for him to be given a glimpse of things from God's point of view. We need such glimpses too, if we are not to become discouraged in the Christian life."

Elijah's depression was caused by his loose grasp of the truth. What were the lies that he allowed to creep into his soul that eventually brought him to the pit of despair?
  • GOD is distant and unable, or unwilling, to deliver me from the hand of Jezebel.

  • My triumph over Baal's prophets, for the glory of God's name, is futile and I will still end up dead.

  • I am the only one left in all Israel who has not defiled himself with the worship of Baal and remained faithful to God.
The solution to the dilemma came when God debunked all the lies by revealing the truths of the following:

I. The physical and mental welfare of God's servants are important to Him.

1Ki 19:5
And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.

1Ki 19:6
And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. 1Ki 19:7 And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.

1Ki 19:8
And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.

The sight, or just even the knowledge--if Elijah didn't actually see--of an angel providing his physical needs sure would have boosted both his morale and glycogen reserves.

II. God's commitment to His own glory ensures that our labor for Him, when done in the power of the Spirit, will result in the outcome intended by Him and is not to be measured by our our own finite calculations.

1Ki 19:14
And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

1Ki 19:18
Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

Elijah erringly counted his exploits for God as of little significance, even subtly implying that, since he is the only one left, God's cause is at a loss. This undoubtedly caused much of his mental suffering. The instructions of God given to him in a whisper, right after the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, proved that God was still at the helm of the Elijah ship.

In the quest of the alleviation of depression, it is paramount that the truths underlying the situation be firmly apprehended and lived out. The truths applied to life will then manifest itself in holy patience, in waiting for the Lord to act.

Isa 40:31
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

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