The prophet Elijah is one of the most revered Prophets of Israel. His accomplishments are well documented in the Old Testament. When I was in Israel last year, I saw a statue of Elijah celebrating one of his greatest feats.
In 1 Kings 18, Elijah challenges 450 prophets of Baal to a winner takes all showdown. An offering was prepared over a bed of wood and whose God answered prayer by sending fire from heaven to consume the offering would be the one true God.
After hours of yelling, cutting themselves and pleading with their god, the prophets of Baal could not get his attention. So, as Elijah steps up to the plate, he requests that water be thrown onto the offering to eliminate all doubt or question when His God answered his prayers with fire.
Spoiler alert, Elijah wins.
But what is most profound is that after this incredible victory, Elijah is terrified by the threat of the King’s wife, Jezebel, and is on the run. We learn that he is afraid, but not your normal run-of-the-mill fear.
“(he) sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die,” 1 Kings 19:4
The trauma surrounding Elijah’s fear caused him to feel hopeless. This is a guy who knew firsthand the might of God. He has seen miracles that most have never witnessed. But Elijah was human.
No matter how spiritual you are, you’re still human.
God’s prescription for Elijah wasn’t a pep talk or a prayer. God sent an angel to wake up Elijah from his sleep and fed him, a physical response. After Elijah ate and drank and slept again.
One of the symptoms of depression is sleep. Sleep becomes an attempt to evade feelings of sadness or fear. When we consider Elijah’s emotional state in this passage, it’s reasonable to deduce that he is feeling the effects of depression.
A second time, Elijah is awakened and told to eat, “for the journey is too great for you,” 1 Kings 19:7. In this passage, God’s remedy for Elijah’s emotional state of mind was to stop running and be physically nourished. This was the proper response to Elijah’s need.
I was in a church service once when a man began to have a heart attack. The church began to pray for him, but someone also called 9-1-1. The combination of prayer and 9-1-1 was the right response. Just doing one and not the other would not be wise.
We need a measured response to issues of mental health. We don’t want to approach it only from a medical perspective and not a spiritual perspective. But likewise, we should not approach it from only a spiritual perspective and not treat the physical symptoms.
It’s a two-step process.
“And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” 1 Kings 19:8
The rest, and physical nourishment God provided Elijah strengthened him for 40 days and 40 nights, the symbol of completion. By addressing the physical symptoms, we clear a path for people to experience a fulfilled and enriched spiritual life.
Mount Horeb was the place the prophets met with God. By addressing the signs of depression God made a way for Elijah to get centered back on God and pray.
There is no silver bullet solution to depression and mental illness, we need both a physical and spiritual approach.
Let’s help people overcome every hindrance that may keep them from living a fulfilled and abundant life!
Here’s an audio version of the talk that inspired this post. Take a listen and click here.
(**I am not a professional counselor or therapist. If you are struggling with depression or some mental illness, there is no shame in that. Seek professional help so that you can learn how to manage these feelings. You can live a fulfilled and joy-filled life!)