by: Topher Wiles
Depression. It was
the topic of one of my 20 page research papers at Lipscomb University from my
pastoral care and psychology classes.
It's also an issue that Ashley and I have personally struggled with from
time to time. It is so common a struggle
for families that it gets a full chapter in one of my valuable books, Christian Counseling, by Gary R. Collins.
According to renowned psychiatrists Frank Minrith & Paul
Meier, the majority of Americans suffer from a serious, clinical depression at
some point in their lives. Most people never seek help, but battle this
struggle on their own.
Dr. Gary Collins lets us know that even Christian families
experience this challenge, describing it this way. "The Christian
experience has three levels. First there
are mountaintop days when everything is going well and the world looks bright. These experiences are temporary: they can't
go on forever. It is unrealistic to
expect, as many people do, that we can spend life leaping from one mountain
peak to another as if there were no plains or valleys in between. Instead, most of life consists of ordinary
days when we work at our usual tasks, neither elated nor depressed. The, third, there are dark days when we
trudge heavily through confusion, doubt, despair, and discouragement. Sometimes these days string out into months
or even years before we begin to experience a sense of relief and victory. When they persist, dark days are days of
A friend of mine and fellow preacher, Jeff Strite, pointed out that Elijah in 1 Kings 19 is a surprisingly perfect case study of
depression and how to help someone struggling with through the trials of it. Elijah ran for his life, wished his life would
end, slept for days, felt alone, and felt rejected. He experienced these feelings often
associated with depression for weeks on end.
Previously, this righteous prophet had preached one of the
greatest sermons of his life. He confronted 400 prophets of Baal on the Mt.
Carmel and exposed them as the false prophets they really were. Due to Elijah’s
faith & obedience God literally sent fire down out of heavens to consume
the sacrifice he’d placed on the altar and then provided a long overdue rain to
end a drought.
Why would a man who preached an impressive message and experienced
some of the most powerful displays of God’s power suddenly be crippled by fear,
hopelessness, and despair? I’m not sure the exact reason, but the truth is, even
God’s most dynamic and faithful servants can suffer from depression. Depression
is such a challenge for family members in all walks of life especially in the
wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, God doesn’t leave moms, dads,
grandparents, teenagers, nor prophets in the midst of depression.
Long before psychiatry was ever thought of, long before depression
help could be bought in the little purple pills, and long before we had professional
counselors, God brought help and healing to Elijah. Here’s how.
First, God gave Elijah a restful time of meditation in a
holy place at Mt. Sinai. (1 Kings 19:5-8) This place of rest for Elijah was the
same place God delivered the 10 commandments centuries before to Moses. These meditative
and restful spiritual experiences have been proven by science to be helpful in
healing from depression. As posted on ScienceDaily.com, a 1999 Duke University study
of nearly 4000 older adults revealed a surprising conclusion. “Attendance at a house of worship is related
to lower rates of depression and anxiety."
Giving our depressed family members space and meditative time is one of
the best therapy tools we possess to start the healing process.
Second, after the prophet rested, God let Elijah talk while the
Lord listened. (1 Kings 19:13-14) Obviously God knows all about what Elijah is
thinking or feeling already, but God asked Elijah some questions that allowed
Elijah to open up about his hurt and struggles. Even though he was mistaken in
his thoughts, Elijah shared how alone he felt in the world. God listened,
knowing that simple listening can be therapy itself. Giving an ear to family members struggling
with depression is a great tool we can use to help them heal.
Third, after rest and listening, God began to deal with the
false ideas rolling around in Elijah’s head. (1 Kings 19:18) He reminded Elijah
of his worth and helped him understand that he was not alone in the world, but
that there were many more just like him. Helping our family members understand
that they are not alone but are valued and supported can be a major change as they
continue to heal from the effects of depression.
Finally, as part of the healing process from depression
continued, God gave Elijah an appropriate task that he could complete. He told
him to go meet with other righteous people and help them in their journey. (1
Kings 19:15-17) Family members struggling
with depression often need us to give them some appropriate direction as they
continue to heal from this common mental malady and to connect them to other
positive and motivated people in life.
God provided Elijah rest, meditation, listening, gentle
correction, direction, and connection as the Lord helped the prophet overcome
depression. We can provide the same for our family members too.
Remember, that depression is a common and strong foe
gripping families in America, especially following the pandemic. Yet family
members don’t have to struggle through this mental challenge alone because God
has put us in biological and spiritual families to help us combat these very
real trials. As always, if you are
looking for help or guidance in combating depression, you can always contact me
at Central Church of Christ (931-836-2874) and I’ll be happy to listen and love
in these challenges. If you’re looking for professional counseling services in
Sparta to combat depression, we’d be glad to recommend the counseling services
of Warrior Counseling with Natalie Whorton (931-510-8365). May God bless your family with health, hope,
and family forte.
To view the whole sermon I gave on the topic of depression, click here: Let's Talk About It: Depression.