A Tree and a Death Wish

Does God care when I am depressed or discouraged? Man often over-simplifies God’s response to the hurting, basing our understanding on our own lack of compassion and patience. The extent of a Christian’s compassion is sometimes quoting 2 Corinthians 12:9—“My grace is sufficient for thee”—and expecting the person facing hardship to suck it up and move on.

But our Heavenly Father is not a God of clich├ęs, neat little quotes chiseled into wooden plaques, and ‘feel good’ messages that leave the hearer still searching for relief. In fact, in James 2:15-16, God’s Word discourages such empty patronage: “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”

The completion of 2 Corinthians 12:9 reads, “my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Just what does that mean?

Hebrews 4:15 says “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” So, if he cares, then what does he do about our discouragement?

The God Who Steps In

I’ve often heard saints and ministers alike degrade those who struggle with depression, telling them that they don’t need counseling but, instead, need to learn to pray—thereby implying that they have no walk with God at all. However, I find in the scriptures a completely different response from our Heavenly Father. I would truly love to hear one of these scoffers tell the prophet Elijah that he needed to learn to pray! Elijah once called down fire from heaven with only a 63-word prayer!

[[File:Tree Canyonlands National Park.jpg|
Tree Canyonlands National Park]]
Following this miracle, however, he ran for his life with Queen Jezebel hot on his heels. As he lay beneath the juniper tree, “he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19).

Just days following one of the most incredible manifestations of God’s power and support, this fiery prophet is curled up in a fetal position, moping that he’s no better than those who betrayed truth and turned to paganism. He’s suicidal, depressed, despondent, feeling forsaken.

What I find so beautiful is the fact that God didn’t—as some would have—thump him on the head and say, “What’s your problem? Get over it!”

  • Our God is not the God of “get over it.” We find instead that God laid out dinner for him (6, 7). Almighty God served this fallible, despondent man who didn’t have the emotional fortitude to raise himself from the stone against which he rested.
  • God sent an angel, an emissary, to encourage Elijah back onto his feet and into a place of safety where he could regain his strength until the time of God’s deliverance (7, 8).
  • God himself visited the prophet as a still, small voice. Verses 11 and 12 are so intriguing: “And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (11-12).

Why would God use such a small manifestation when Elijah really needed the support? Elijah had already seen the awesome, mighty power of God shown on Mount Caramel; the mighty wind, the earthquake, and the fire were indeed ways God showed his power but the still small voice was personal.

In response to this soft touch of God, Elijah’s heart completely broke. Verse 13 tells us “when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle” (13). That tells us that God comes to the hurting in the way that will reach them—not necessarily with the fanfare of showmanship or the brashness of almighty, all-powerful, cosmically enormous superhero but as the sweet, sincere and calm voice of a friend.

  • As Elijah’s despondency resisted comfort, God even went so far as to show him that he was not alone. He said, there are “seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal” (18).

God is a personal God and he is the greatest friend to those mired in despair.

Is My Problem Spiritual Enough to Warrant God’s Help?

Attacks against the child of God do not always come with a clearly posted sign saying “You are being attacked because you are a child of God.” An attack against one’s faith is just that—a trial that tests your faith.

People who mock you, gossip about you or question your character may never mention your walk with God. They may challenge your abilities on the job, how you raise your children, or even your physical appearance.

Those who discriminate against you or single you out for criticism may never say that their actions are because your holiness condemns their sinful lifestyle. In fact, attacks can even come from fellow Christians who are unaware of how their words and actions can be used by Satan to divide the family of God.

Just remember that you are not defined by what men say about you. Jezebel and Ahab had a very low opinion of Elijah as an upstart who troubled Israel, but God viewed him differently. Don’t let the words of others define how you view yourself or who you become.

With God’s help, Elijah became a leader who showed the Israelites reason to overthrow idolatry. He was a powerful prophet of God who never saw death but was instead carried into the heavenlies. He was mentor to Elisha who performed twice as many recorded miracles as Elijah did.

As my grandfather often said, you can outlive what people say about you. Elijah outlived the image of trouble maker by continuing to trust in the Lord. We can do the same.

You Don’t Earn God’s Love—He Gives It Freely

You may think, “But I’m not a great prophet like Elijah; why would God care for me?”

1 Peter 2:9 says that “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

2 Timothy 1:9 says that we should not be ashamed and that God has “called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace.”

We are called as his New Testament church. We are the new Israel, his chosen few. We may feel inadequate, unimportant or even unwanted in this life but as His children, we are chosen, called out, special, wanted, and loved.

Look at Esther. She was just a young girl without a country but she brought about an astonishing deliverance for the people of God by just making herself available.

Look at Gideon. He was hiding from the oppressors when God called him to lead the nation of Israel into victory. We wouldn’t think a coward worth God’s attention but God took the time to call him in person.

God does care for the broken-hearted. He cares for those who battle depression. Spend time in His Word today and let him speak to you in that still, small voice. It is His personal gift to you…His time, His attention, His arms waiting to hold you until you can stand again.