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Depression in the Bible: Elijah

1 Kings 19:4

1 Kings 19:  Elijah Escapes from Jezebel

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword.  Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.”

And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”

Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.”

Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water.  So he ate and drank, and lay down again.

And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.”

So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.

And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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.

So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

And he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

Then the Lord said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria.  Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel.  And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.  It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill.  Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth.  Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him.  And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.”

And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?”

So Elisha turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen’s equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

1 Kings 19:4

Elijah prayed that he would die

He had “had enough”

He felt weak in his faith and “no better than his sinful fathers”

1 Kings 19:10,14

Elijah felt alone

Elijah felt like he had been made a fool of by being so zealous for God and here he was, pursued by his enemies, fearing for his life

Elijah felt vulnerable

Elijah had just experienced a great victory for God but he was mentally and physically exhausted.

Anyone who has ever been led by God to be a servant of God knows first hand that it is emotionally draining.  Once you take a stand for God the spiritual battle begins in your head, your thoughts, and in your heart, your emotions.  Even if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt God has called you, equipped you, and is working in you and through you for His purpose, it still takes a mental and physical toll on the best.

You do not have to be a missionary,a vibrant evangelist, a pastor, or even a church member for this to be true.   Anyone who steps out in faith is going to be challenged.


There are six Greek words from the Bible that translate into the equivalent modern day English words that we associate with light, moderate, and severe depression.  They range from sadness to acute mental anguish, loss of hope, despair, the inability to enjoy life.


Depression is real.  It ranges from discouragement all the way to despair and hopelessness.  

From a modern day medical point of view, if a person experiences at least five of these symptoms for one month they have major depression. Mild depression would typically be defined as having two to four of these symptoms for over one month:

  • deep sadness or emptiness
  • apathy, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • agitation or restlessness, physical hyperactivity or inactivity
  • sleep disturbances
  • weight/appetite disturbances
  • diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • feelings of excessive guilt, self-reproach or worthlessness
  • feelings of fatigue or loss of energy
  • morbid thoughts of death or suicide

Often times children of God are afraid to admit they are suffering because they feel it will be seen as a spiritual problem. Depression CAN be the result of a spiritual problem, of sin in one’s life, and of disobedience to God, but it does not always follow it IS a spiritual problem just because you are a believer.

There are many factors that cause depression and usually there are more than one at work. These are common factors known to contribute to depression:

  • not having proper nutrition whether eating too little, too much, or not eating the right foods for your body
  • chemicals such as prescription drugs, illicit drugs, or common accepted substances such as caffeine and sugar
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can leave you feeling exhausted, depleted, lacking energy and mental clarity
  • hormonal imbalances
  • allergies
  • heavy metals
  • mental, physical, and sexual abuse from your past that you have not dealt with and overcome the emotional scars
  • microbial over-growths/toxins
  • any number of medical conditions (stroke, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, thyroid)
  • natural light deprivation as sunlight is a key factor not only in mood but also in natural production of key vitamins your body needs to function properly
  • imbalances of naturally occurring chemicals in the brain along with other neuro and psychological disorders
  • life trauma such as severe loss as the death of a loved one, close friend, family member, also the loss of a job, or of the support of a church or group of friends

There is a huge difference between having the “blues” or the “blahs” or having a bad day or even having a bad week, and severe clinical depression.  There is no shame in admitting you are weak or have need of help.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10    And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Many of the Bible’s most faithful suffered from bouts of depression, including Jesus.  As in anything, if you are struggling, or sense that you have or may have some level of depression, always, go to God first.

Proverbs 3:5-6    Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

If you even remotely suspect it is a spiritual problem then talk to God about how you can make it right.

1 John 1:9    If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

But also remember that if you fell off your roof and your arm was broken you would get in the back of the ambulance without thinking twice about it.  It is doubtful you would sit around worrying if you fell off the roof, or down the stairs, [or slipped on ice on a winter’s day, or whatever misfortune befell you that would render you in a situation that called for an emergency room visit], whether or not sin in your life got you to that point.  Maybe it did or maybe it did not but if your arm is broken you need a doctor to set it.  Likewise, if your mental state is broken, seek professional help.

Proverbs 1:5    A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel

Proverbs 2:6    For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding

Proverbs 16:22    Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it. But the correction of fools is folly.

God calls us to have life and to have it more abundantly.  Letting pride or embarrassment prevent you from being able to have and enjoy your life is as much of a sin as any sin you may think you have committed to get you to the point of depression in the first place.

The Cure for Elijah’s Depression

Elijah was ministered to by God

Elijah got some sleep

Elijah ate some food

Elijah was refreshed by spending time with God

God gave Elijah a new perspective

Elijah was busy being a martyr.  Sacrificing himself for God when God never asked him to.  During Elijah’s pity party, “Oh woe is me! I am the ONLY ONE helping God!”  God reminded him, “You aren’t the only one, I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

The Bible tells us that there is a time for everything.  If you are feeling depression looming because you are exhausted, over extended, don’t know the meaning of the word “NO” or you just need some rest, that is perfectly OK.  Say so.  Believe it or not, the world is highly unlikely to stop spinning just because you took a nap or a vacation.  Your work WILL be there when you return.  Ask God to help you take care of yourself so you can be ready to face each day and be all you can be for Him.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,

And a time to heal;

A time to break down,
And a time to build up;

A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.


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Depression in the Bible: Moses
Depression in the Bible: King Saul
Depression in the Bible: Hannah
Depression in the Bible: Jonah
Depression in the Bible: Elijah

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2 comments on “Depression in the Bible: Elijah

  1. Pingback: “I am feeling suicidal” | daily meditation

  2. Pingback: The Testing of Faith « The Daily Bible Plan

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