I would like to give hope to people that recovery is possible, even probable, if people receive appropriate treatment and support. Because of this, I want to share information that will help promote a person’s recovery as well as help friends and family know how to support someone with a mental health challenge.
Sometimes those of us who are depressed or troubled in heart think or are told that the depression is our fault or we should have more faith by praying and reading the Scriptures. Actually, reading the Scriptures is a good thing because we find many people of faith who were at times very depressed. The prophet Elijah was one of them. At one point, he was so depressed, alone, and afraid that he asked God to take his life. Let me tell you this part of his story found in the 19th chapter of 1 Kings.
Elijah had just had won a contest with the prophets of Baal and then had slaughtered them. After King Ahab told his wife Jezebel, she sent a message to Elijah saying she would kill him. Elijah was afraid, left his servant behind and ran for his life into the wilderness where he sat under a broom tree and prayed that he would die. He said, “Lord, take my life; I’m no better than my ancestors.”
Elijah went to sleep under the tree, but an angel came and woke him up. The angel provided him with food and water, and encouraged him to take nourishment. Elijah did, but then he lay back down. Again, the angel told him to get up and eat because he needed to go on a journey. So Elijah again took nourishment and then he traveled 40 days and nights 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 in God’s presence because God was going to pass by. Then a great and powerful wind blew and shattered rocks on the mountain, but God was not in the wind. Then there was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire, but God also was not in the fire. After the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and stood at the entrance to the cave. God did not rebuke Elijah but told him to go back the way he came, anoint a man to be the new king of Israel and anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet.
When I am depressed, I often feel afraid, hopeless and alone. It is not uncommon for me to think I’m a failure and about dying. And often I don’t nourish myself (even though I may overeat) by doing things like calling friends or doing something meaningful. Instead, I sleep and watch a lot of Law & Order. This is what I often experience when I am depressed.
Elijah was afraid, alone, hopeless, and wanting to die. He also had low self-esteem. Elijah the prophet was seriously depressed. It is important to note that God did not rebuke Elijah and tell him that he just needed to have more faith. God also did not make everything right for Elijah. Instead, God sent an angel to provide nourishment for a journey, and eventually, after quite a while, God called Elijah to go back to his life and to proactively do something. God was present with Elijah and nonjudgmentally listened to him.
I have been on a journey throughout my life although it has only been in recent years that I realized recovery was a journey not a destination. And it has not been an easy journey although lately it has been more intentional. It has often felt like a lonely wilderness, but I have not been alone. I have experienced the presence of God through friends, family and supporters. They could be thought of as angels, but I think of them as God’s presence with me. And it is wonderful to be in the presence of someone who cares for me, doesn’t criticize me, encourages me to take nourishment, calls me to proactively do something, and, most important, is present with me while they listen.
May each of you sense God’s presence along your journey.