Conquering Depression

Conquering Depression

“Conquering Depression”

(1 Kings 19:1-18)

Series: More Than Conquerors (2 of 7)

Todd A. Linn, 2-12-06


  • Take your Bibles and turn to 1 Kings, chapter 19.


Last week I began a short series of messages entitled, “More Than Conquerors.”  Paul says in Romans 8:27 that we are “more than conquerors through Jesus Christ who loves us.”  And so we’re taking a few weeks to talk about some of the things we should be conquering.  Last week we looked at conquering worry.  This week we conquer something else that we battle, especially during these winter months.


In 1 Kings we read the story of the mighty prophet Elijah.  Chapter 18 tells of his great victory on top of Mount Carmel.  Elijah performed a powerful miracle there as the people saw God as the One True God over the false god of Baal.  Elijah’s work there led to the slaying of the false prophets of Baal.  It truly was a “mountain-top” experience.  And if chapter 18 finds Elijah on top of the mountain, then chapter 19 finds him down in the valley of despair.  Once Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, finds out that Elijah was victorious over the false prophets, she promises to kill him.  How Elijah reacts to this news is the basis of our study this morning.


  • Stand in honor of the reading of the word of God.


1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword.

2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.”

3 And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”


  • Pray.




It’s called “the common cold of mental illness.”  I read where some 35 million Americans suffer from it.  Somewhere between 1 out of every 8 people listening to me this morning is dealing with this menacing malady.  I am talking about depression.  Depression.  Not clinical depression that results from a chemical imbalance within the body, but situational depression, a depression that affects nearly every one of us at one time or another.


And sometimes depression hits some of the biggest leaders we know.  Moses got depressed.  Elijah got depressed.  Jonah got depressed, Paul, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill.  People get depressed.


Many things can cause depression: the holiday is over, the seasons change, the kids go off to school, a sudden change in our job, an unhealthy self-image—we aren’t happy with our weight, our appearance, or our age.  Sometimes we get depressed just being around depressing people.  Negative people.  The kind of people who approach every traffic light expecting it to turn red.  Can’t ever seem to find the good in anything.


You hang around negative people long enough and they’ll make you negative, too.  Negativity wears off on you.  I heard about a fella who was standing on a bridge planning to jump off the bridge and into the river below to end his life.  A policeman cautiously approached the man and tried to talk him out of it.  He said, “Before you jump, give me some time to tell you why I think life is worth living and then you can tell me why you think life isn’t worth living.”  He said, “Is that fair?”  The man said, “I guess so.”  After about 20 minutes of talking they both jumped into the water.  Negativity wears off on you. (Source: James Merritt)


In a former church I pastored, I remember visiting certain people in their homes.  I distinctly remember one afternoon driving back to the parsonage feeling so depressed.  I mean they were depressed and before long I felt depressed.  I mean by the time some of those folks got through talking about their former pastor, I remember thinking, “No wonder he left—the poor guy couldn’t take it anymore!”


Often we get depressed right after a great victory.  That was the case with Elijah.  He had just experienced one of the greatest success stories of all times.  I mean, you’ll have to read it again later in chapter 18.  Here’s a guy who boldly challenges the false prophets to a battle on top of Mount Carmel and he wins big time.  It seems nothing can hinder his achievements.  And then—bam!  Depression hits him like a sudden, winter storm.  He goes from “mountain-top” to “melt-down,” from a “battle ace” to a “basket case.”


I mean, Mrs. Jezebel gets word to Elijah that she’s going to have his head on a platter.  Seems to me, Mrs. Jezebel wore the pants in this marriage.  One time a man told me that he had to be sure to get up a little earlier than his wife each morning or else she would get the pants on!  Well, I sort of picture ol’ Ahab with his head down, reporting the bad news to his wife and then Jezebel takes charge.  She gets word to Elijah that she’s going to kill him.


So Elijah is running for his life.  He runs away about a day’s journey into the wilderness.  And there verse 4 says he sat down under a tree and prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough!  Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”  Now, I don’t think Elijah really wanted to die.  If he did, he could have just stayed where he was and let Jezebel take care of him.  The very fact that he ran away demonstrates that he wanted to preserve his life, but he had reached the bottom.  He was depressed.  And when you get depressed, you often say things you don’t really mean.


It is at this point in the story that we can we learn how to conquer depression.  How we can conquer depression.  Number one:




I. Draw Strength from the Provision of God (1-8)


5 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.”

6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again.

7 And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.”

8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.


Elijah had been running for his life and he was running on pure adrenaline.  I’ve got an idea he hadn’t had a bite to eat since before his victory on top of Mount Carmel.  That’s easy to do.  You get so fired up about something and your body can function just on the high of the experience.  Or sometimes you can have so much to do that you focus all of your energy into accomplishing that one thing—a sales proposal, a presentation, a speech, an interview, a term-paper—and when that one thing’s over, you come crashing down like a house of cards because you’ve been running only on adrenaline and sheer determination.  And you can only run so long without the provision of God.


God has provided two necessary things for the human body to function well: food, and rest.  We must draw strength from the provision of God.  Elijah needed to eat and sleep.  I mean, he’s exhausted.  And so he sleeps there under a broom tree and an angel taps him and says, “Arise and eat.”  Those are always encouraging words, aren’t they?!  Arise and eat.  I like to do that.  Arise and eat.  Elijah wakes up and looks over and there’s a fire with a loaf of bread baking on top of it—some “Angel Food Cake!”  So he ate and drank and lay down again.  And again, he sleeps and gets up and eats again.


When you stress your body without getting enough sleep and nutrition, you are setting yourself up for an emotional breakdown.  You burn the candle at both ends and you’re going to hit bottom.  The Bible says in Psalm 127:2, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.”


Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, used to say, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”  And he’s right.  You don’t get enough sleep, and you don’t get enough nutrition, you become vulnerable to depression.  So often though we want to project this image like we’re superhuman.  We never tire!


I heard about a minister who said, “I never take a vacation because the devil never takes a vacation.”  One member nudged another and said, “That’s not the only way he resembles the devil.”


Adrian Rogers used to say, “A preacher who is “always available” isn’t worth much when he is available.”


We all need to take time to recharge our batteries by getting the proper amount of sleep and nutrition.  And that’s one of the best ways to avoid depression.  Make sure you have a healthy diet of nutritional food.  Healthy eating habits, proper sleep, regular exercise—all of these things will help you conquer depression.  Resolve this morning to do this.  Draw strength from the provision of God.  Number two, if we’re going to conquer depression, we must:


II. Draw Strength from the Presence of God (9-12)


9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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;

12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.


Elijah draws strength from the provision of God and the presence of God.  A lot of people are really good about taking care of themselves physically, but not taking care of themselves spiritually.  We need not only physical food, but spiritual food, too.  We draw strength from the presence of God.


Elijah goes into a cave and it is there that God speaks to him.  God asks in verse 9, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  Now, of course, God knows what Elijah is doing here, but he asks Elijah in order to force him to deal with his little pity party.  Elijah says, “I’m the only one left who cares about the One True God and they’re all out to get me.”


Note the question very carefully that God asks.  God asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  That is, “What are you doing here?”  God doesn’t ask, “What are you doing there, what are you doing in that cave,” as though God were only a God afar off, but He asks, “What are you doing here,” because God is also a God who is near at hand.  God is in the cave with Elijah.  God is always with us.  He is always present.


You can’t go anywhere that God is not already there.  That’s why Jesus was able to say, “I am with you always.”  There’s something about just knowing that God is always with us that makes us strong.


Remember that, boys and girls, when you feel alone and scared.  God is there.  He’s in the darkness with you.  Remember that, young people, when you feel anxious at school, God is there with you.  And you single mothers and fathers, and adults of all ages, when you find yourself in the darkness of your circumstances, remember that God is there in your darkness with you.  He’ll provide the light you need.  Draw strength from the presence of God.


And I love this incredible revelation of God to Elijah.  God says, “Go out and stand on the mountain.”  Then the Lord passes by.  We picture Elijah there trying to sense the presence of God.  A strong wind blows by, breaking the rocks in pieces, “but the Lord was not in the wind.”  Then, an earthquake shakes the ground around Elijah, “but the Lord was not in the earthquake,” either.  Then, a fire burns near Elijah, “but the Lord was not in the fire—and after the fire a still small voice,” a “delicate whispering voice” of God.


It seems to me that God is saying, “Elijah, you may not realize it, but I truly am with you always.  You can’t always feel me like you feel the wind, or hear me like you hear an earthquake, or see me like you see a fire, but I’m here with you.  I may often be imperceptible to you, but I am here, quietly working all things together for good in your life.”


Draw strength from the presence of God.  Get alone with God and listen to the delicate whisper of His voice.  Jesus did that.  So often you find Him in the New Testament, retreating away from others, getting alone with Father to commune with Him, drawing strength from His presence.


You can tell the people who draw strength from the presence of God.  They are the ones you want to be around.  They are not stressed out, worried about this or that.  You listen to them talk or pray and you can tell that God is near.  They know God’s word.  They read the Bible regularly, quoting often from the Word.  They are such an encouragement to be around, whether they’re experiencing good times or bad, facing success or surgery, they are drawing strength from the presence of God.


Take time to read the word of God and listen to His still, small voice.  God wants to encourage you.  He is speaking to you in the Bible.  Listen to Him speak tenderly to you as you read His word.


If we’re going to conquer depression, we must draw strength form the provision of God and the presence of God.  Thirdly, we must:


III. Draw Strength from the People of God (13-18)


Elijah was learning how to deal with depression.  He was drawing strength from the provision of God and the presence of God, but he’s still not quite ready.  So God teaches him about drawing strength from the people of God.  Look what happens after Elijah hears the voice of God:


13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 And he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”


Now watch as God shows Elijah how he can draw strength from the people of God.  God gives Elijah a ministry assignment.


15 Then the LORD said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria.

16 “Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.

17 “It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill.

18 “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”


God gives Elijah something to do.  He says get busy with my people.  Go anoint Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha.   And by the way, Elijah, you’re not the only one left who serves me.  Verse 18, “I have reserved 7,000 in Israel whose knees have not bowed to Baal.  There are 7,000 others, 7,000 of God’s people.


One of the causes of depression is withdrawal from others.  Elijah ran away and then withdrew into the wilderness.  There he experienced the darkness of loneliness.  We must be careful not to withdraw from the strength of God’s people.  The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two are better than one . . . for if they fall, the one will lift up the other.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls.  For he has no one to help him up.”


When depression hits the Christian, he must be very careful not to withdraw.  “Oh, I feel so bad.  I just don’t feel like going to church.”  You and I need one another.  Two are better than one.  You get around God’s people and you are encouraged.


Carl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, was once asked, “What would you advise a person to do who is experiencing deep depression and unhappiness?”  He said, “Go across the street, find someone in need, and do something to help him.”  (Source: James Merritt).  Don’t isolate yourself from your Christian friends.  Draw strength from the people of God.


Conclusion / Invitation:


You know, I like how the Apostle James describes Elijah.  He writes in James 5:17 that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.”  That’s James’ way of saying, “Elijah was just a human being, like you and I.”  He was just a human being.  Whether he was experiencing victory on top of Mount Carmel, or whether he bottomed-out in Beersheba, Elijah was just a human being with a nature like ours.”  That encourages me.  It reminds me not to put the Elijah of chapter 18 up there on top of the Olympian victory platform, receiving his gold medal, without remembering the Elijah of chapter 19, down there wallowing in self-pity.  Elijah reminds each of us of our human condition.  The reason we often sink to despair is because our mind, will, and emotions have been infected by a virus called sin.  It runs throughout our very beings.  And we’ve got to admit we’ve got the virus before God can help us conquer depression.  We’ve got to quit walking around like superstars wearing Teflon armor.  We try to look good on the outside and inside we’re coming to pieces.  We’ve got to admit we need help.  And then, and only then, can we turn to Jesus Christ and receive the help He provides.  Jesus conquered everything for us 2,000 years ago when He died on a cross for our sins.  Only by turning to Jesus Christ can God completely conquer depression in you and through you.  Let’s stand for prayer.


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