1 Kings 19:1–21, especially verses 1–3a And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. 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.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life….
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a front page story on the subject of nervous breakdowns, saying “The nervous breakdown, the mysterious affliction that has been a staple of American life and literature for more than a century, has been wiped out by the combined forces of psychiatry, pharmacology, and managed care. But people keep breaking down anyway.” According to USA Today’s weekend magazine, anxiety disorders are the Number 1 mental health problem in the United States, costing Americans more than $42 billion a year in doctor bills and workplace losses. In the Bible, the prophet Elijah once had a “nervous breakdown.” By studying his experience we can learn how God deals with us when we’re overwrought and over strained.
The Lord wrote a seven-fold prescription for Elijah. The same therapy will work for us.
- Sleep and nourishment (vv. 4–8). Elijah was exhausted, for he had combated paganism for three years, waged a vigorous war on Mt. Carmel against the prophets of Baal, prayed with exceeding earnestness, and had run a virtual marathon back to Jezreel. When we’re exhausted, we have less control over our emotions. Depression descends more easily. Worry grips us more doggedly. Temptations catch us unawares. Verses 4–8 tell of how God provided sleep, bread, and water for Elijah under the broom tree.
- Angelic help (vv. 5–7). The Lord sent an angel to care for Elijah. Hebrews 1:14 says that angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who inherit salvation. Many times, according to intimations in the Bible, angels minister to us though we’re unaware of it.
- Ventilation (vv. 9–10). God allowed Elijah to repeatedly ventilate his frustrations. When we can express our feelings to a good friend or to the Lord, it helps reduce our swirling emotions to tangible thoughts and words. We can identify them and begin to get them “out of our system.”
- God’s still, small voice (vv. 11–13). The ultimate answer to life’s downturns is rediscovering God’s infallible Word. Elijah needed a gentle word of reassurance, a gentle whisper. The same whisper comes to us as we open the Scripture. Golfer Tom Lehman gave his life to Christ in high school when a friend invited him to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting. After college, Tom worked hard to enter the PGA Tour, and in 1991 was named the Ben Hogan Tour Player of the Year. But in 1995, his doctors discovered pre-cancerous colon polyps, and surgery was required. Tom and his wife got down on their knees and committed the matter to God, and the Lord gave him Joshua 1:9 to strengthen him during the crisis: Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you.
- A renewal of purpose (vv. 14–17). The Lord gave Elijah a set of new assignments. Nothing helps us overcome discouragement like rediscovering our purpose in life and setting to work at what God has called us to do.
- Reassurance (v. 18). Things are never as bad as they appear where God is concerned. Elijah had twice insisted that he was the only surviving worshiper of God. The Lord told him there were 7000 others.
- A Friend (vv. 19–21). The Lord provided the solitary Elijah with a friend, Elisha, to share the load. A healthy life keeps its friendships in good repair.
Are you overwhelmed, stressed, discouraged, depressed? God wants to renew your strength and to restore your soul. The way He revived Elijah is the pattern He wants to use to revive your spirit, too.