Count me among those whose knee-jerk reaction to depression has typically been “Toughen up, read your Bible, and pray. Sissy.” A verse a day keeps dark moods away, after all. As a result, those who are going through times of painful sadness have often been reprimanded by Christian leaders rather than pitied and helped. I think we’re prone to at least two mistakes, or at least I have been.
First, we deny the reality of deep depression. Conservative Christians, probably in an overreaction to the Oprah-ization of our society, have almost denied that depression happens. Quite a bit. To godly people. I was struck by this fact again while reading through Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress this week with TCBC. Last night’s study focused on Christian and Hopeful’s bondage in Doubting Castle. Bunyan—who has never been confused with Dr. Phil—described Christian’s depression as so deep that it twice brought him to the point of suicide. And when I stopped to think of it, Christian is in good company. Even a cursory study of Scripture reveals that Job, Moses, Elijah, Jonah, and Jeremiah all experienced grief to the point that death seemed a welcome solution—to say nothing of the lamenting psalmists. Paul had a time where he despaired of life—either desiring death or at least believing that it was inevitible. To pretend that God’s choice servants won’t go through bitter depression is to ignore the biblical record.
Second, we respond to deep discouragement in a less than helpful way. It’s complicated, to be sure. Some people may need to be reproved for self-pity. They certainly need to know that suicide is a murderous, selfish, God-denying thing. Others may need empathy, which is especially challenging for those of us who are naturally “chipper.” All need gospel grace. The point is, the knee-jerk reaction with which I opened the article isn’t the answer.
With these thoughts in mind, I invite you to think through Elijah’s deep discouragement in 1 Kings 19 with me. Read over it, then answer two questions:
1. What caused Elijah’s discouragement?
2. How did God respond to Elijah’s discouragement?
I’ll share some thoughts in time, along with a personal example, but first I’d like to encourage you to think through the passage yourself and share your thoughts with the rest of us. I’m not looking for something in particular—there are multiple right answers. Chime in.