The Prophet Elijah was Depressed

Those of us who have a mental illness are sometimes told and also think that our mental illness is our fault because we lack faith.  This is not the case.  Mental illness is a biological disorder and can affect anyone.  Let me tell you a story found in the Bible.

The people of Israel were worshipping an idol named Baal so the prophet Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest to see who could bring down fire from heaven to burn their sacrifice.  The prophets of Baal went first; they prayed, shouted, and even cut themselves.  Nothing happened.  Then Elijah prayed and fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice as well as the stones of the altar.  Then Elijah had all the prophets of Baal killed.  When this happened, Queen Jezebel said she would kill Elijah, so, in fear, he left his servant behind and ran into the wilderness where he sat under a broom tree and prayed he would die because he lacked faith.  While Elijah slept, an angel woke him up, provided him with food and water, and encouraged him to take nourishment. Elijah ate and drank, but then he lay back down.  Again, the angel told him to get up and eat so he could go on a journey to Mt. Horeb, the mountain of God.  When he got there, he spent the night in a cave, and God asked him what he was doing there.  Elijah complained that he had been very zealous for God, but the Israelites had rejected God’s covenant, torn down God’s altars and put God’s prophets to death.  Elijah said he was the only one left and they wanted to kill him also.  God told Elijah to come out of the cave and stand on the mountain because God was going to pass by.  Then a powerful wind blew and shattered rocks on the mountain, but God was not in the wind.  There was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake.  Then there was a fire, but God also was not in the fire.  Finally, there came a gentle whisper.  God again did not rebuke Elijah but told him to journey back to his life, anoint a man to be the new king and anoint Elisha to succeed him.[1]

When I’m depressed, I feel hopeless, alone, afraid and like a failure.  Occasionally, I blame myself for my situation and have thoughts of self-harm, sometimes of suicide.  While I may overeat, I often don’t nourish myself by doing things I enjoy and find meaningful.  Instead, I sleep or watch Law & Order. 

Similarly, instead of feeling victorious, Elijah felt hopeless, alone and afraid.  He had low self-esteem and wanted to die.  He wanted to sleep and had to be encouraged to get up and nourish himself.  Elijah, a prophet, Biblical hero, and person of faith, was seriously depressed.

I find comfort in my supporters who don’t blame me but listen nonjudgmentally, invite me to do nourishing activities, and encourage me to continue my journey of recovery.  Some may think of these supporters as angels, but I experience them as God’s presence with me.


[1] 1 Kings 18 – 19

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