Have you ever been depressed? Most of us have. John R. W. Stott, a great biblical expositor, said, “The Christian's two chief occupational hazards are depression and discouragement.”
When we say “depression,” what do we mean? A psychologist once gave a simple but good definition:
“A feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that leads to sadness.”
A person who is depressed has problems—real or imagined—and doesn't know how to get a handle on them. They see no help available and there doesn’t seem to be any on the horizon. Helplessness plus hopelessness leads to deep despondency.
Three Prophets ~ Three Amazing Prayers
If you think “the good Christian” is immune to depression—that it could never happen to you—look at this prayer of Moses. You'll be amazed. Moses says,
“And if Thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray Thee out of hand, if I have found favor in Thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.” Numbers 11:15
In other words, “God, if this is the way You're going to treat me, then just go ahead and kill me.” This man of God felt so wretched, so miserable, so depressed and discouraged, that he said, “O God, if You really loved me, You would kill me.” It's an amazing prayer.
Look at the prayer of another prophet, Elijah.
“But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and he said, It's enough now, O LORD take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:4
Elijah’s saying, “I've had it! God, I've had it up to here. I'm ready to throw in the towel. Kill me, if You really love me.”
Another prophet provides the third of these amazing prayers.
“Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:3
Jonah says, “God, stop this crazy world and let me off! I pray, kill me.”
These were good men who loved God—imminently successful prophets. If it could happen to them, I have an idea it might happen to you. Let's look at the reason for such despondency.
The Problems They Faced
Each one had three major problems.
A Physical Problem
There was a physiological reason these men prayed this way. All three were physically worn to a frazzle.
Moses was leading about two million Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, and they were all complaining. He pastored “First Wilderness Community Church,” and says, “Wherefore hast Thou afflicted Thy servant… that Thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?” Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that Thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom?...I am not able to bear all this people alone because it is too heavy for me.” Numbers 11:11-14 His unbelievable burdens had worn him out. He said, “I can’t bear it—it’s just too much!”
Elijah endured a “triple whammy.” He’d been through an emotional wringer with the prophets of Baal, he’d gone without food for a long time, and he’d just finished a 30-mile cross-country run. Could you do that? Here was a man whose strength was gone, physically debilitated, when he said, “LORD, I want You to take my life from me.”
And Jonah? He had a whale house for a jail house. He’d spent three nights on a foam-blubber mattress. Then he preached a revival crusade in a city the size of Dallas with no hotel, car, or public address system. On top of that, a hot wind from the east blew upon him and the sun smote him. He almost had a sun stroke. At that time he said, “O God, please take away my life from me.”
Vince Lombardi, great coach of the Green Bay Packers, once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Each of these men were physically worn out—and when you are, you’re a candidate for depression.
A Psychological Problem
If you study these Scriptures again, you’ll find out each had a specific problem
Moses had a people problem. You don't have to be a cannibal to get fed up with people. They were coming at him right and left, asking for things he couldn't provide. He was emotionally overloaded. When everyone is crying and pointing a finger saying, “It's your fault,” no wonder he said, “I’m not able to bear all this people alone….”
Depression comes when we get overloaded. Moses was drained, giving of himself. Every time you give of yourself, something goes out of you. Even the Lord Jesus, when the woman touched the hem of His garment for healing, said, “Virtue went out of Me.”
Elijah had a pity problem. Wicked Queen Jezebel had promised she was going to separate him from his head before sundown. He “…sat down under a juniper tree: and requested for himself that he might die” (1 Kings 19:4). Taking his eyes off the Lord, he's requesting something for himself, drinking from the intoxicating cup of self-pity. He adds, “…for I am not better than my fathers.” Perhaps he’d gotten the idea that he was better than they and would be immune from difficulty and persecution.
Jonah had a pout problem. God sent a mighty revival, “but it displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was very angry.” Why? He’d prophesied judgment on Nineveh, but revival came instead. The Ninevites were a murderous, wicked, vile group, always a threat to Israel. He was a super patriot; he loved Israel. He wanted God to wipe Nineveh out. He’s pouting, angry with God.
Often depression comes when something we love and value is threatened or taken from us. It may be a possession; it may be a loved one; it may be some hope. But when it is threatened or taken, and we have unresolved grief, depression turns to anger. Many bitter, angry people are in deep depression because the thing they love and hope for has been threatened.
Before they asked God to take their lives, Moses had his eyes on others; Elijah had his eyes on himself; Jonah had his eyes on circumstances. None of them had their eyes upon God.
A Spiritual Problem
“Ministry” is not “immunity.” All three were in spiritual disrepair even though they loved God.
Why did they get into trouble?
There was a physiological, a psychological, and a spiritual reason.
They were worn out, wrought up, and run down spiritually. They’d taken their eyes off the Lord and put them on people, self, or circumstances. When we do that, any Christian may get depressed.
When did they get into trouble?
When they were already in trouble physically and psychologically.
God's servants, whether in the pew or the pulpit, cannot break God's principles with impunity. The law of gravity works for the saved and lost alike. The devil is a master strategist; he knows exactly when to move in and attack you with despondency and take your eyes from the Lord. When you are physically and emotionally wrung out and worn out, you're a sitting duck for Satan.
They were all coming off a great emotional high, a spiritual victory.
Today, how many people are depressed after the holidays? It’s almost as if we get built up to be knocked down.
- Moses had just come through the miracles of the exodus and the Red Sea. You'd think he’d be on the mountaintop forever. Yet he's down in the valley wanting to die.
- Elijah had witnessed a mountaintop revival on Mt. Carmel where fire came from heaven and the people fell on their faces crying, “The LORD, He is God.” From the mountaintop standing before 450 prophets of Baal to the valley running from one woman!
- Jonah, right on the heels of an entire city repenting in sackcloth and ashes, is down in the valley. From the showdown to the let-down, from a great spiritual experience, now comes a great depression.
Someone struggling with depression frequently uses words like “despair,” “overwhelmed,” and “hopeless” Does this sound familiar to you or someone you love? But we don’t have to be this way.
Jesus went through exactly the same thing. Remember that the devil tempted Jesus after…
- 40 days in the wilderness, physically tired from fasting,
- A great spiritual experience—His baptism, when the Holy Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove.
- “Then cometh the devil,” to argue, misuse Scripture and tempt our Lord.
But the devil didn't win with Jesus. He doesn't have to win with you.
As a closing thought, aren’t you glad God didn’t answer Moses’ request—or Elijah’s or Jonah’s—in the affirmative? Often we ask God to do something that later on we’re grateful He didn’t grant.
Now that we’ve looked at the problem, in Part 2, we’ll see the provision God has made when we find ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted, on the verge—or perhaps in—a season of depression.
If you would like to hear the entire message, including the provision God has made, please call 800-274-5683 and ask for #1150, “Dealing with Depression”