September 8, 2019 Emotional Weakness

 

Scripture reading: I Kings 19:1-18

 

Elijah was the greatest of the prophets. He appeared on the amount of transfiguration with Moses and spoke with Jesus. Jesus Himself was thought to be Elijah because of the miracles that he performed. John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah. And Elijah was only one of two people who never died. He was taken directly into heaven by the Lord.

 

Remember the absolute victory he had over the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel. This was mainly a victory of God Himself over the false god, but it was also a personal victory for Elijah, vindicating him as Yahweh’s true prophet. Things sometimes do not turn out the way we expect after personal victories.

 

Yes, Elijah had a great victory! Against overwhelming odds he both made the prophets of Baal look foolish and he had them killed. Most importantly, all of Israel now knew that Yahweh is God and not Baal! What was Elijah’s expectation now? The text does not tell us but, knowing human nature, he likely expected the leaders – Ahab and Jezebel – to acknowledge his victory and proclaim, along with the people, that Yahweh is God.

 

Instead, Jezebel sends a messenger to Elijah saying that he is going to be murdered within 24 hours. In verse 3 we read,

 

            “Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life…”

 

Elijah afraid? The man who saw miracle after miracle? The one who was not afraid of Ahab? The one who was not afraid of the prophets of Baal even though a hundred other prophets of God were afraid? Yes, he was afraid. No matter how great our faith and how considerable our victory over a matter, when we are faced with certain circumstances in life we can become fearful.

 

He ran. He travelled to Beersheba, the southernmost town in Judah. He went as far away from Jezebel as he could get and still remain among God’s people. He left his servant in Beersheba and then went further into the wilderness. He sat under a tree and asked that the Lord would take his life. He was depressed. Not only depressed, but severely depressed. Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, was depressed. This shows that:

 

Any child of God, even those with strong faith, can succumb to emotional weaknesses, like fear or depression. We are a broken people. Because we are, various difficulties in life affect us more than they would if our natures were not corrupted. Our emotional stability can become weak at times.

 

What is the cause of depression? The cause of depression is unfulfilled desire. It is sometimes true that the person experiencing depression may not even be aware of what their desire is. It may be an unspoken desire. It may be a desire that is not identified by the depressed individual. Nevertheless, when a desire or expectation exists and it appears that it will not be fulfilled, depression results.

 

What was Elijah’s desire or expectation? In verse 10, when he is answering the Lord’s question as to why he went to the mountain of God, he answers:

 

             “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

 

He is jealous. This means that he desires that Yahweh be honored and exalted. But the people have forsaken their promise to follow the true God only. This is a legitimate jealousy, a justified jealousy, a holy jealousy. Elijah desired that God’s people be true to Him, but they were not. They destroyed the altars of the Lord – they ceased worshipping God and they ceased dealing with their sins. Elijah desired that they worship God and make sacrifices for their sins. They killed the prophets. Some of those prophets who were murdered must have been friends of Elijah.

 

He says, “Only I am left.” In that he was mistaken. Depression makes us see things more pessimistically than they really are. I remember well, when I was an undergraduate in college, and was experiencing some troubled times I shared my woes with a brother in the Lord. He listened to me patiently and, when I was done talking, he said, “Do you know what, brother? You are doing a lot better than you think you are.” As soon as he said that I knew he was right. I felt better just with that realization. Depression makes us see things more pessimistically than they really are.

 

Then he said, “They seek to take my life.” In this he was correct. Jezebel was sending soldiers to kill him. Everyone desires to keep their life, at least under normal circumstances. The fact that his life was in danger of being taken from him contributed to his depression.

 

So, Elijah had desires: that the people of Israel be true to their covenant with Yahweh, that they wouldn’t kill the prophets but honor them as they should, and that the de facto queen, Jezebel, would stop seeking to murder him.

 

Think about how these desires, all good, are similar to desires that people have today. In some ways they are quite different. Sadly, most people are not concerned about whether others follow the Living God through Christ. There are not many prophets today and neither are they murdered, at least not in the West. (Faithful followers of Christ are martyred in Muslim countries.) And, there are few people who have someone trying to kill them.

 

But, in other ways, there are similarities to Elijah’s desires. There are many who wish the best for their family members, but they see them living in such a way that either brings harm to themselves or limits their success in life. They may see them drinking alcohol in excess or not keeping themselves sexually pure. This is similar to Elijah’s desire that his people follow God.

 

The prophets that were killed were likely Elijah’s friends. When your friends and close relatives die, there is no question that this precipitates sorrow and even depression.

 

And, although no one may be trying to kill you, you may feel dishonored, unloved, or neglected.

 

See then, that the desires that we have are like Elijah’s in deeper ways than outward circumstances would indicate.

 

God did not want Elijah to remain in his depression. How will he get him out?

 

Since depression is caused by unfulfilled desire there are only three ways to come out of depression.  One can fulfill their desire. One can make a plan that seems to have a high degree of success in obtaining their desire. Or, one can change their desire.

 

How did Elijah come out of his depression?  His desires were changed. This is actually the easiest and usually the best way to overcome depression.

 

We must see the state of emotional and psychological weakness Elijah found himself. He travels from Mt. Carmel to Beersheba. That is 120 miles and would have taken him six days. Then he goes another day’s journey into the wilderness. He is, to use a contemporary expression, beside himself with fear and worry about Jezebel’s designs on his life. He is likely weak and hungry from the journey and this would have only contributed to his poor state of mind. Our physical condition and health go a long way in contributing to our mental state for either better or worse.

 

The Lord then supernaturally provides a meal for Elijah, just as he had done before. The Lord continues to care for Elijah in his time of weakness. The Lord continues to care for you in your time of weakness!

 

Elijah then travels to Mount Horeb. This is another name for Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Mt. Horeb is 250 miles from Beersheba through rugged and difficult terrain. It would have taken 12 or 13 days to get there. But it takes Elijah 40 days and nights. Forty in the Bible is a number associated with trials and testing. At the end of periods of forty (whether days or years) there is something new that the Lord brings about.

 

 

  • At the end of 40 days in Noah’s day, the face of the earth was changed. It was water.
  • At the end of 40 years of wandering in the desert, Israel entered the promised land.
  • At the end of 40 days and nights on Mt Sinai, Moses received the Ten Commandments.

 

Elijah arrives at Mt. Horeb and God asks him a question: “What are you doing here Elijah?” You see, whereas before Elijah would wait upon the Lord to get direction from him as to where to go and what to do, this time he goes to Mt. Horeb on his own. He is desiring to hear from God. God had not spoken to him after Jezebel’s threat, other than the angel simply telling him to eat something.

 

God is asking him why he came to Mt. Horeb. Elijah came of his own accord, desperate to get a word from God. The Lord will teach him something regarding this matter. But, presently, we should take note of Elijah’s frame of mind. He travels over a hundred miles fleeing Jezebel. Then, he walks 250 miles to Mt. Horeb. He is fearful, depressed, and desperate. Even mighty men and women of God can become depressed and desperate. At least Elijah’s desperation kept him looking towards his only hope, the Lord himself.

 

He gives him a commission. A commission is an authoritative order which includes the grant of authority to carry out the order. In verses 15 and 16 we read this commission and it begins with “Go.” His mission is to begin immediately. He must go to the wilderness of Damascus, find a man named Hazael and anoint him king over Syria - a nation, by the way, that is an enemy of Israel. He is to anoint Jehu king over Israel. And, he is to anoint Elisha as prophet.

 

Elijah was focused on himself. The Lord takes his mind off of himself and to where it belongs: his calling. Where Elijah’s duty is will be the place where he will also find fulfillment and satisfaction. God knows Elijah better than Elijah knows himself.

 

The Lord would fulfill one of Elijah’s requests. He would deliver him from Jezebel by taking her life. But these other desires of Elijah’s are replaced by new ones – to carry out God’s will.

 

If we are experiencing depression, one way to be lifted out and find a new perspective on life is by changing our desires.

 

  • Many times we have desires that are unrealistic.
  • Many times we have desires that are too idealistic.
  • And sometimes we have desires that may not be sinful, but they distract us from better desires that we should have and nourish. We place too much emphasis upon certain desires when there are better desires to seek.

 

Let me give an example. A spouse (it could be either the husband or the wife) desires to be loved by their marriage partner. This is not only normal but a good desire. They perceive that the love that their husband or wife has for them is not as great as they wish. They may even perceive that their spouse does not love them at all. However, this is probably the pessimism that we saw in the words of Elijah similarly working its way into the mind of our subject. So, they become depressed. Possibly, in this situation, the best way out of the depression is to fulfill the desire. (This will be our second way out.) But, while our subject is waiting for that to happen, they can change their desire. In a marriage relationship there are better and greater desires than being loved more.

 

For the husband, he can focus his desire on what he is called to do by God as a husband. He can

 

  • love his wife,
  • nourish his wife,
  • cherish his wife, and
  • sanctify his wife (Eph 5:25-32).

 

Why is this a better desire? First, because it is better to love than to be loved. Second, the husband can control this desire. He can fulfill it by his own actions, but he cannot control how much he is loved.

 

For the wife, she can focus on her desire on what she is called by God to do as a wife. She can

 

  • submit to her husband,
  • obey her husband, and
  • respect her husband (Eph 5:22-24, 38).

 

Why is this a better desire? First, because it is better to obey than to be obeyed. Second, the wife can control this desire. She can fulfill it by her own actions, but she cannot control how much she is loved.

 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with trying to fulfill these desires through a plan (gentle discussions, vacations, counseling, etc.) but people don’t always cooperate with our plans.

 

Notice one last thing about Elijah’s experience that applies to every child of God. Although Elijah’s desires were good, once he became depressed he also became self-focused. He was self-absorbed. He says, “I am no good.” (vs. 4) He says, “I have been jealous for the Lord” (vs. 14) …and others have not. “They are trying to kill me.” But the Lord gives him work to do.

 

There is work for the Lord that needs to be done. I tell you, once you do it, it is one of the best feelings in the world! There is nothing better than knowing you are within God’s will and living for Him.

 

When we take our eyes off of ourselves and immerse ourselves in the Lord’s work we discover that the purpose that we have overshadows our own personal desires. This was Elijah’s experience.

 

Take up your authority and your purpose! Have done with lesser things and find your freedom! Then, in God’s timing, you may discover that you receive what you had at first desired.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments
Mitzi B. on 09-09-2019 at 4:47 PM
Aloha Craig. I providentially happened on this right now I really needed to hear this today. I'm glad things are going well for you and your ohana. Mahalo for prayers.
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