Do you ever feel boxed in? We might call depression a form of feeling boxed in. Depression is basically being in a situation that you don't like and can't change, and it becomes extremely uncomfortable. In Scripture we would like to look at two basic kinds of depression. For our first example let's look at First Kings 19:1-16 where we have what could be called a roller coaster depression.
"ROLLER COASTER DEPRESSION"
Elijah had just been through a series of exiting victories and was on cloud nine. God had sent fire from heaven to consume the water soaked sacrifice Elijah had built, proving the power of Jehovah over the four hundred and fifty prophets that promoted the immoral and idolatrous worship of Baal. Then, in answer to Elijah’s fervent prayer to God, torrents of rain fell from heaven upon the parched, cracked fields that had received no moisture for over three years. What glorious mountain top experiences! How could things get any better?
Suddenly he is faced with a serious threat of death: "And Ahab told Jezebe1 all that Elijah had done, and witha11 how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebe1 sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, 0 Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers." First Kings 19:1-4.
Within two days of his mountain top experience, in which he had seen God work in ways that were unbelievable, Elijah had fallen into a suicidal depression! He said, "God, I don't want to live any more"! Note that one of the dangers of a great victory is the temptation to fall into great depression. Within two days Elijah went from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the valley where he asks God to take his life.
THE DANGERS OF SUCCESS
When you have a great victory, get ready, because the strong temptation afterwards will be to to fall into a deep depression. This, however, isn't God's plan! God's plan is that we get a lot of mileage out of our victories. We can't stay on the mountain top, we can't live that way, but God wants us to get a lot of growth and blessing out of our victorys, before He gives us the next mountain top. But that isn't what the Devil wants!
Right after God gives a great victory, the Devil is there to turn your life into disastrous defeat! God's plan is that we get a lot of spiritual energy from our victory, resulting in Christian growth. But Satan wants to push us down into depression, (Lord, take my life), or at least shake the daylights out of us (sift us like wheat) and dissipate all the emotional force of that victory, leaving us weak and worthless.
If after a tremendous victory we find that Satan has thrown us into horrible defeat, we don't need to give up. As soon as we realize what Satan has done to us, we need to remember that God tells us there is still time to get back up there and get some mileage out of that victory. That is why we call this one Roller Coaster Depression (you can get right back up there if you want to). That is what Elijah did! He got way down, he fell flat on his face, but the Devil didn't really get the last word. Elijah got right back up there again and got some real mileage out of that victory.
GOD’S PLAN OF RESCUE
You will notice in verse 5: "And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold an angel touched him and said unto him, Arise and eat." The first thing you do when you start to get depressed is eat - that's what Elijah did! And there's some sense to that: It will give you a boost. (However, if you're on weight watchers, you may have to eat celery! They say you use up more calories chewing it than you actually get out of it!), but eat something. It will help you - it really will. That's how God helped Elijah. He gave him something to eat. Then Elijah took another nap. You'd be surprised what a little extra sleep will do for you. Then he got up and he ate again! (You see, this was really a bad case of depression!) vs. 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." He arose and ate and drank and went on the strength of that food 40 days and 40 nights, unto Horeb, the mountain of God. So after he ate and slept and ate again, he went out and got some exercise. He walked all the way down to Mt. Sinai from Palestine. That's a long walk. When he got there he was worn out! There is one thing about physical exercise, it alleviates depression. When he got there his muscles ached, but he was starting to feel better already.
GET IT ALL OUT
Note verse 9: "And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?" The Lord knew what Elijah was doing there so why did He ask him? God was trying to get him to talk! So Elijah begins to talk: "And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for 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." (v.10) He told God all about it! He got it all out! God knew everything he told him. He knew it before he told him, but he wanted Elijah to get it all out! Elijah said "God, I've been trying to do my best and nobody's been cooperating! And they are really giving me a hard time. They've been opposing You and have been upsetting all the plans for your work and as far as I can see I am the only one on the face of the whole earth that even loves You anymore." (Of course, that wasn't true, but that was the way he felt about it. So, he just poured it all out on God, told Him all about it. In Elijah’s prayer to God in verse 4 he did not even mention his problem, but only asked that God would take his life. When God requested more information in verse 9, Elijah poured out his problem but did not ask God to take his life. Telling God everything delivered Elijah from the suicidal part of his depression.
Our culture tells us it's bad to tell God the truth. We think we have to look good or God won't like us, so we use up emotional energy trying to cover up our problems instead of telling them to God. We fear that if we really told God what we felt, He might not like us! That's not true! Elijah just told God how he felt and that's what God wanted him to do. When God asked Elijah again what he was doing there He simply wanted him to talk some more and get it all out. We need to pour out our whole problem on God. But you say "God won't like me then." Yes he will! He knows what you are thinking anyway and so all those nasty thoughts you have He has already read in your mind. You really are not telling Him anything new. All you're doing is admitting the truth and God loves it when you admit the truth. It's all there in your mind, all bottled and boxed up inside, and when we pour it all out on God He loves it because for once we are telling Him the truth instead of pretending and trying to look good and act nice! We just tell Him what it's all about and that is what He wants!
SEE GOD IN THE PSALMS
God showed Elijah how pleased he was with his truthfulness by revealing to him some of His goodness and greatness: "And he said, go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord, and behold, the Lord passed by and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice." (Verses 11 and 12) As Elijah stood there and saw the glory of God manifested in His power He was awed at God’s greatness, and his heart was encouraged. That is the kind of encouragement we can find in the book of Psalms. When we are depressed, we need to read the book of Psalms! You can't really appreciate the Psalms until you are going through deep water. David wrote the Psalms when he was suffering severe afflictions and we relate best to the Psalms when we are walking down similar paths. Trials are meant to help us see God’s greatness and goodness. That's what God did for Elijah. "And it was so when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, “What doest thou here, Elijah?" (v.13)
GOD WANTS TO HEAR IT AGAIN
Sounds like a re-run, doesn't it? We just went through this back in verse 9! Tell God again! God wanted Elijah to tell him the same thing all over again! "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."(v.14) Elijah, you just finished telling that to God! Yes, he says, but it doesn't sound quite as bad the second time. It is amazing, when you tell it to God the second time it doesn't seem to be quite as serious as it did the first time, and when Elijah did not embellish the story to make it sound more serious God knew Elijah was ready to go back to work. Every time you tell your problem to God it gets smaller, and every time you tell it to people it gets has to be embellished a little to not lose some of its seriousness. By verses 15, Elijah had come out of his depression and was ready to get back to the ministry to which God had called him.
OBEY GOD’S NEXT COMMAND
"And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room." (verses 15,16) The next step, after you've told your problem to God often enough so it's small enough and you can handle it, is to obey God in the very next thing he tells you to do. God now gave Elijah a very specific commandment - something specific that he could do and Elijah did it. He went back up north and anointed two new kings and anointed Elisha to be prophet in his stead. Obey the first thing God tells you to do and that will be the first step toward the new, great victories He has for your life. Elijah was back up on cloud nine and ready for action.
SUNKEN SHIP DEPRESSION
Let's look at another kind of depression. Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm, one that is very clear in its reference to the Lord Jesus Christ in the time of His coming to earth and suffering and dying for us. Nevertheless, this Psalm deals directly with David's life at a time he was going through severe trials. His problem at this time we might call “Sunken Ship Depression". This kind of depression doesn't necessarily follow a great victory, but comes when you're just going along well and the Devil begins to put on the pressure stronger and stronger until you feel you are at the bottom of the ocean and the Devil is sitting on you. This is where David found himself! He even said in I Samuel 27:1 "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul!” David was right down to the place where he was sure he would not live much longer. He was right down at the bottom of a hopeless situation. How did he handle it? David cried out "My God, my God, why hast thou forsake me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 0 my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent." (verses 1-2) David came to God and said "God, I'm disappointed in you - you aren't doing a thing for me"! But you might say, “David, you shouldn't talk like that to God!” But do you know that the Lord Jesus quoted these very words of David to His heavenly Father, saying in so many words "Father, you have let me down. You aren't helping me". He talked to the Father with plain words and told Him just what he felt, and that is exactly what God wanted to hear!
David continues in verses 3-5 "But thou art holy, 0 thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee and were not confounded." How come you helped them? I know you helped them – we have the record - it's in your Word - you helped them! How come you don't help me? What's the matter?"
"But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people." (verse 6) He told God exactly what people were saying and what they were doing. "But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts". (verse 9) He tells God: "God, I've always really trusted in you and right now I want to trust in you. In spite of everything I'm saying, I'm telling you just how I feel, deep down in my heart I still want to trust you, I still want to believe you. And about this time he's saying "God, I don't think I can take any more I'm at the end of my rope." "But be not thou far from me, 0 lord: 0 my strength, haste thee to help me." (verse 19) He begins to ask God for what he really wants. When he got to the place where it was all out, he found that God gave him the strength to trust and he said, God, I'm asking you to help me.
In v.22 David asserts, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.” "My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him." (v. 25) He has the victory now! He's visualizing in his own mind how he is going to praise God in front of the whole congregation for what God had done for him! God hadn't done anything for him yet! He was still down. He had just finished telling God, "God, I'm at the bottom, I don't know which way to turn, I can't take any more. Then, by faith, he affirms, “God, I trust you, I believe you that you're going to answer me and I can see myself now, as I praise your name before all the people for what you've done for me". God hadn't done anything yet. But David learned what it means to visualize what God can do. He had the victory before it actually came and he was delivered before it actually happened and he said, "God, I can see what you're going to do for me."
"All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee." (verse 27) Here he is visualizing the satisfaction that he will feel as he is going to be able to help other people who are going through the depression he was going through! "God, I can see how people everywhere - people I don’t even know - are going to turn to you when I tell them what you did for me".
"They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this."(verse 31) He said, "Even my children, my grandchildren, and my great grandchildren (those not even born yet) are going to praise God for what you are going to do for me right now. Now that's faith and without faith it is impossible to please God! So right after you've told Him everything, tell him "God, in spite of my complaints I believe you and I can visualize right now in my mind the people that are going to get victory in their lives when I tell them what you have done for me".
DEPRESSION IS MEANT TO DRIVE US TO GOD
We find here some basic principles for handling depression. First of all: Depression is meant to drive us to God. Therefore, some depression is good. Don't get depressed if you start feeling depressed because some depression is good! Depression helps you enjoy the book of Psalms. Depression makes you turn to God and helps you look to Him. Some depression is good, so rejoice! If you feel a little depressed today, great, open up the book of Psalms. It will do you good, it will help you, but if we refuse to trust God for depression, if we refuse to get it all out, tell him everything, and then praise Him for what he's going to do for us, depression will turn to bitterness against God. Inwardly we will blame God for the circumstances that are depressing us.
You might think, "I don't hate God - I don't have anything against God!" But if you are right down where depression has you by the neck, you are hating God. Depression is unconscious blasphemy, because basically God is responsible for everything that comes into our lives and if He permitted this, and I'm not facing it then I'm bitter against Him. Depression is meant to drive us to God but if we become bitter against Him, then there's no help for our depression. We get to the place where we can't cope with the real world around us because we were never meant to cope with the world apart from God. You can't cope with your life, you can't cope with the world apart from God! So what happens then? We are forced to turn to an "unreal world". The strange thing is that this unreal world is characteristically a very religious world. Do you know why? Because, we have to convince ourselves that we don't really hate God! In trying to convince ourselves that we don't really hate God, our unreal world becomes very religious. In this unreal world, our problems are gone and God is near, which is just the opposite of that unbearable real world where problems are near and God is very far! This is because we refuse to tell Him everything and trust Him.
Therefore, the solution is very simple. It has three steps:
1. Get it all out. Get all the bitterness out and since it's against God, tell Him. It won't help you to tell people, tell Him! Go right to God - tell God all of your bitterness, get it all out - tell him the truth.
2. Visualize your trust in God (and gratitude to Him.) Thank Him for all the great things He's going to do for you and the way He's going to use you.
3. Take the very next step of obedience He tells you to do. Do it right away, because that's the thing that will put you right back up on top again.
motivational help for overcoming depression
We have some tremendous motivational help for overcoming depression. Depression is a tool of Satan to cause us to miss something great God has for us. Satan has no intention of letting us enjoy the great things God has planned for our lives and he uses depression to take all the "steam" out of our victories, so that we will miss good things God has waiting for us.
Take Elijah for example. After getting all the bitterness out and taking the next steps of obedience he had the joy of anointing a king, choosing an apprentice who would become his successor, seeing that man receive a double portion of God’s power, and finally had the thrill of being taken to heaven in his own private space ship! Great! Don't tell me you wouldn't like that! Imagine Elijah, the man who was so depressed that he wanted to die in the desert, who said, "God, it's enough, take my life - I've had it!" became the only man to go to heaven in a space ship all his own - with his own crew! Great! Now do you see what Satan was trying to do? Now do you see what Satan wanted to prevent? God had some tremendous things lined up for Elijah and Satan knew it and said, "I must not let this happen - I have to do something to frustrate these things God has planned for Elijah's life".
Satan tried the same tactics with David, who was at the bottom when he said "God, I'm going to die one day at the hands of Saul". God had some thrilling things lined up for David: He became king over Israel, which became a mighty nation. David to this day is known as the progenitor of the Messiah, whose throne is called the throne of David. Isn't that an honor? The Messiah! The Eternal God! Christ’s kingdom that has no end is called: "The Throne of David!!. What an honor! David made the preparations for the Temple of the Lord that Solomon built. David didn't die at the hand of Saul. God had some marvelous blessings stored up for David. When Satan drives us to depression, it's because God has some great things prepared for us.
Why do some people seem to live without problems?
Now, you say, "I don't know about that! There are millions of people who live contentedly day after day. They never seem to get depressed and everything seems to go fine for them! Do you want to know why? Because God doesn't have anything lined up for them! They're living for themselves, they aren't concerned about God! They might be religious, they might even be church people, but they're concerned about themselves. They aren't concerned about God's plan for their lives, they aren't concerned about God's best for them so God doesn't have anything special planned for them. Satan has no reason whatsoever to push them down into depression. In fact, he would avoid that - he wouldn't want them in depression because they might get saved! They might get concerned about their souls, so Satan wants them on a nice, even keel, with no big problems and doing just fine.
WHY WOULD SATAN LOVE TO PUSH YOU INTO DEPRESSION?
You are concerned about God, and you are concerned about God's best for your life. God has great plans for you and Satan is frantic to upset those plans. The deeper the depression that Satan pushes you into, the greater God's plan is for you. Otherwise, Satan wouldn't be so concerned. So as he begins to push and get you down there, you can praise God! You go down shouting "Hallelujah", and you come up like a cork out of water, because you know what's ahead. You know the only reason Satan has for pushing you down so hard and so far is because God has something fantastic that He's lined up for you. He has some blessings that Satan is really concerned about and Satan even frustrates his own purpose. You know why? Whether it is Roller Coaster Depression or Sunken Ship Depression, God has big plans and Satan says, "I have to frustrate those plans." - and he pushes harder and harder. What happens to a cork coming out of water? The farther down it goes, the farther it shoots up! He frustrates his own purpose because God brings you higher than ever ~ if you are willing to open up to Him and tell Him all about it and trust Him. That's the motivation.
Depression is Satan's attempt to avoid something great that God has for you! As you go down you can praise God, as you come up you can get mileage out of that victory to the extent that people who aren't even born yet will still be getting blessing from the way you were able to get God's best by simply telling Him all about it and trusting Him. Depression is turned into glorious victory because we see what God wants to do.
Maybe you are depressed right now. If you are will you tell God all about it? Just open up right now and tell Him all the bitter truth. You won't hurt His feelings. He loves you. You can't hurt Him by telling Him the truth. That's what He wants you to do. Just tell Him the whole thing: how miserable you are, how everybody walks all over you, how you can't take it any more, how you don't see why He doesn't help you. He helps other people. Tell Him everything. It works! Get it all out. He wants you to.
Once you've unloaded everything, tell Him you love Him and want to trust Him, that right now you believe Him. Then turn on the little TV set you have in your mind and picture yourself: There you are standing before people and you're telling them what God did for you, telling them how He gave you victory, how He blessed your life. And the big thrill is that after you finish telling them someone says to you, “Thanks for sharing that with me. It helped me so much,” and you realize that God is using you to help people. Tell God you love Him and get ready for the very next thing He tells you to do. Plan on doing it. "Yes, Lord, just show me what it is. I'll do it. You'll find yourself at the top of the hill, going on for God at a rate you never thought was possible!