“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors’” (1 Kings 19:3-4).
I am no Elijah, but I do find this guy awfully relatable.
A lot of folks may be surprised to find that even prophets of God struggled with things like fear, doubt, and even depression, among them Elijah. After God used the prophet to bring a great spiritual victory over the prophets of Baal, Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. Elijah fled into the desert defeated and worn, sat down, and prayed to die. “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors’” (1 Kings 19:3-4). The prophet who had been the epitome of spiritual courage runs away in fear, probably when Israel needs his leadership the most, and ultimately, wants God to take his life.
Elijah’s depression is the result of a “perfect storm”—the convergence of several common causes. The first factor is what we might call unrealistic expectations. Re-read 19:4 – “I’ve had enough” means “That’s the last straw—I can’t take any more.” He is referring to 19:2—when instead of repenting or surrendering, Jezebel ordered Elijah’s death. But why was this the last straw? Why not the time in Cherith or Zarephath? Why not the three years living with Ahab’s death order? Probably because Elijah expected that the dramatic victory on Mt. Carmel would result in Ahab’s and Jezebel’s repentance or judgment (even though God never promised this). When this didn’t happen, Elijah collapsed in despair (The Prophet Elijah – Spiritual Depression).
“When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in human form!’ Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker” (Acts 14:11-12). Perhaps, it’s human nature to set mighty men and women of God up on pedestals. Yet in doing so, at least where I am concerned, not only have I cheated myself out of much of what God wanted to convey through their experiences, but I placed some lofty expectations on myself that God never put on me. Elijah’s depression, for instance, along with that of any number of other biblical figures, should serve as a wake up call to the fact that a commitment to God does not exempt us from becoming seriously depressed at times. I still remember well, the evening I prayed with my friend; him prophesying over me that I would come to know the greatest joys, along with the greatest sorrows, and his words have yet to be proven wrong.
I agree with Gary DeLashmutt (from the link above), Elijah had to have been physically and emotionally exhausted by the time he sat down under the bush and prayed that he might die, but I also agree there was more going on there; I suspect that Elijah did allow his own legitimate spiritual desires to turn into expectations that went beyond what God had actually promised. In addition, once the prophet started to fall apart, I imagine that by isolating himself, Elijah didn’t do himself any favors. I see first hand how easy it is to set under our very own broom bush, because that’s precisely where I find myself right now and for much the same reasons. I believe that my flight into the wilderness began sometime around Easter 2019 at church, and I am no less guilty of many of the same things that stumbled Elijah. Wow, that felt so good to come right out and say.
I have much more to write, but I think I have written just about enough for now. In the meantime, I am going to remain under my broom bush a little while longer. Satan came out of no where in 2019 and did quite a number on me, and it’s going take time to heal. Although it may not always show, I am severely depressed, and I thank God for the handful in whom I can still confide. God’s treatment for Elijah was rest, food, and drink; then more rest, more food and more drink (1 Kings 19:5-9). I don’t know how people will respond to my testimony today, some positively, maybe others negatively, while others still, roll their eyes in indifference, or smirk and laugh. God restored Elijah, and when the page finally turns from this difficult chapter in my walk, believe this—God will be glorified! Satan, you should have just left me alone. “Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: ‘Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the man who made the world a wilderness, who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?’” (Isaiah 14:16-17).
What do I ask of you, my brothers and sisters in Christ? I ask for the same thing as I did two posts back in Frog; I ask for your continued prayers, as I am overjoyed to pray for each of you. I ask for your patience and understanding; again, that you measure out your judgement thoughtfully, and not use my vulnerability as fodder for gossip. I hope that all this openness is helping someone out there, because it’s sure not easy.
Click/press the link here to read Frog; it really is a companion piece to this post, as both are directly related.
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