Overcoming discouragement is one of the most important things all of us have to do in life. Discouragement and disillusionment almost always come after unfulfilled expectations. Several people in the Bible found themselves picking up the pieces of shattered dreams and even despaired of their lives. They were Job, Moses, Jeremiah, Jonah, and Elijah. Let’ me share a few thoughts about Elijah so that we can see ourselves in his depression and sadness.
Elijah was an extraordinary character in the Bible; a man of extreme faith and courage. However, there is a scene where he is sitting under a broom tree, and this is what he says, “I have had enough, Lord…take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4). How did the prophet get to this place?
Three and half years prior, he announced to King Ahab a coming drought for the nation. Then Elijah disappeared and God miraculously provided for him during these years, first, by having ravens bring him food and then by sustaining him through the care of a poor widow woman. The scripture declares: “For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry” (1 Kings 17:16). Elijah even raised her little boy from the dead.
Later at God’s command, Elijah challenged Ahab and his 450 prophets of Baal to a showdown. The prophets would prepare a sacrifice and call on their God, he would do the same, and the God who answered by fire would be the one true God. Baal never responded to his prophets, but the God of Israel responded to Elijah’s prayer, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord-he is God! The Lord-he is God!”
(1 Kings 18:38-39).
Elijah was ecstatic, and he prayed for rain, and it came. He then outran King Ahab’s chariot in a twenty-mile race to the palace. Elijah expected things to be different now. Then came the moment he realized they were not. The infuriated Queen Jezebel sent Elijah this message, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them” (1 Kings 19:2-4). Elijah was overcome with fear, so he ran for his life. He ran until he could run no more and collapsed of fatigue, and there he asked God to take his life because he had had enough.
God sent an angel to minister to Elijah in his discouragement: The angel woke him up and gave him food to eat and let him rest. Then again, he woke him and gave him more food (1 Kings 19:5-7). God showed his love for the prophet is such a gentle way.
Several signs help us to discover why Elijah wound up in this state of depression: First, he was fatigued after traveling nearly 200 miles. When we fail to take care of our bodies, we are at risk. Second, he had isolated himself from everyone. When we cut ourselves off from others, we are in a dangerous position. Third, Elijah experienced a roller-coaster of emotions—highs and lows. Extreme emotions take a toll on us. We can’t live on feelings alone. Fourth, he experienced unmet expectations, which caused him to be disillusioned. Fifth, he experienced fear, which caused him to run for his life. Sixth, he felt guilt and shame, which are powerful forces if left unchecked. Seventh this was a spiritual battle, and we need spiritual intervention from God to overcome a spiritual enemy that is seeking to destroy our lives.