Every day is cloudy.
The birds stopped singing and you don't know why.
Life looks like an endless string of heartaches yet to happen.
You'd face the racks before letting anyone know, but you're sick of it all. Sick of life. Sick of the stress and strain. So weary you can't imagine another day, let alone the years ahead.
And the guilt. The guilt makes it worse. You're supposed to have it all together. You're the one they come to for help and encouragement. You're close to God. You've got the Answers! And according to most Christian choruses of the '70's, you're supposed to be happy-Happy-HAPPY!!
But you're not. You're flat fed up. Sick and tired. Weary to the bone. Not too many peppy songs about that, are there?
Well, you're not alone. And you're not a failure. You're actually in very esteemed company.
Depression among God's people is very common. More so than you might think. And it often follows an intense time of spiritual victory.
What comes to mind when you think of the prophet Elijah? (I Kings 19)
You remember Elijah: trouncing the Baal worshippers, calling down fire from Heaven, inflicting evil Israel with a famine, and seven years later making it rain. This was one fearless, faith-filled, idol-stomping hero! Talk about walking with God--there was nobody closer.
But immediately following his victorious defeat of the Baal worshippers, we find him holed up in a cave, head in his hands, ready to give up. "It's enough, Lord," he cries, and we cry with him. "I've followed you, served you, called down your fire from heaven, and now that horrid queen is trying to kill me. I've got to hide for my life when I should be headlining the morning news. I can't take it anymore. Just kill me now. I'll wait here."
Ever feel like that?
Had Elijah done something wrong? Had he failed the Lord by feeling that way? Was God about to rebuke him soundly and send him to a Positive Thinking seminar?
Most of us flinch when we dare admit to God we are depressed. We expect a stern reprimand and another verse of "I'm Happy, Happy, Happy All the Day," as though the only emotion God allows is delirious joy. It's pretty hard to maintain that notion while reading the Psalms, so where do we get that?
If you're reading this wrapped in your comfort blankie with your heart thudding somewhere around your toes, I want you to notice how God responds to his faithful friend, Elijah. He wakes him out of his famished sleep with an angel's touch and a gift of manna. "Here," the angel says. "Eat this. You've got a ways to go and then relief."
This was not just any old MacDonald's Happy Meal he ate. On the strength of that heavenly nourishment, Elijah traveled for 40 days. When he arrived at the place God had taken him, the Lord asked him a strange question: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
The first answer is obvious, so that must not be what God meant. He asked him that twice and each time Elijah got to pour out his frustration.
Do you take God up on his offer to pour out your frustration on Him? He welcomes it. He welcomes honest pain from an aching heart.
Imagine the relief that began to creep into Elijah's heart when he knew that God was listening. If God takes note of every sparrow that falls from the tree, he is certainly concerned when one of his children is crying out to Him. So concerned that he went an extra step and let Elijah experience His presence in a new way.
It is often in our times of darkness that God reveals himself to us in a new way. Elijah had seen God in the crash of lightning, in the power of a supernatural rainstorm, in the adrenaline-pumping slaughter of the evil priests of Baal. But now God wanted to reveal himself in a still small whisper. That Voice that can only be heard in moments of utter solitude. And utter brokenness.
When competing voices have stilled, the clamor of the world has subsided, your own ideas and opinions have fizzled away and all you have is God, He meets us there and shows himself to us so that when we leave that place, we can carry on a while longer in His strength.
God had a few more tasks for Elijah, but he had heard the weary cry of his servant and anointed a successor. Elijah didn't need to die; he needed support. Human support. And God sent it to him so that together, the two great prophets could carry on the work of God a while longer.
So what do you do when you are so depressed you can hardly lift your head? Do you hide in shame? Do you pretend everything is fine for fear that you'll be breaking some unwritten spiritual rule by acknowledging your pain? Do you run from God rather than to Him?
If He didn't rebuke Elijah, he won't rebuke you. Your situation may look hopeless to you, but then Elijah didn't count on angelic messengers and 40-day energy bars, either. And he certainly wasn't expecting God to come near the way He did. We usually don't when we're so wrapped up in our sorrow we can't think straight.
Your situation may feel like the end of the world. Maybe it is. Maybe it's the end of the world as you knew it. And it's okay to grieve the loss. Just don't insist that God take your life when He's got a better idea.
Aren't we glad Elijah kept on a while? He taught his new protege, Elisha, everything he knew and Elisha went on to become one of the greatest miracle-working prophets of the Old Testament.
Let God meet you in your cave. Listen for that still, small Voice--once you've finished dumping your frustration on Him. He may have a plan you hadn't thought of--and wouldn't choose if you had--but it will be better than yours. And it will take into account your weariness, your frustration, and your pain. God has nourishment you didn't know He had and strength you had forgotten about.
So, go meet Him on the mountain and see what He says.
And try one of those 40-day energy bars, while you're at it. I hear they're delicious!