Biblical Principles for Dealing With Depression

Text: 1 Kings 19: 1-10
Theme:  What to do When You Want to Die.

Causes: Reason For Depression     1 Kings 19:1-5 Depression is one of the great problems in the world today .called the “common cold” of emotional illness. Everybody gets depressed at times, but some people are depressed nearly all the time. Even great saints get depressed and Elijah was such an example.

After one particularly great miracle performed by Elijah, Jezebel’s husband, King Ahab, told Jezebel everything Elijah had done. This made her so angry she responded in verse 1 and 2. She was saying, “if I don’t kill you within twenty-four hours, I’ll be ready to kill myself.”

Here is Elijah, who had been fearless for three years, and now, when one woman threatens his life, he becomes frightened, runs out to the desert and becomes depressed. Read verses 3 through 5.

Elijah was a prime candidate for depression. He was physically tired, emotionally exhausted and afraid for his life.

He was an emotional fruit basket at this point, with all sorts of problems: fear, resentment, guilt, anger, loneliness and worry. However, God says, “Elijah was a man just like us” (James 5:17). He had the same problems we do and in this case, he had a problem with depression.  Elijah was so depressed that he was ready to die.

Why do we get ourselves in such emotional messes? Because of faulty thinking. The fact is that our emotions are caused by our thoughts. If we think in a negative way, we are going to feel depressed. We interpret our emotions through negative thoughts. If we look at life from a negative view- point we are going to get down. If we  want to get rid of  negative  emotions we have to change our thought patterns.  The Bible says that we can be “transformed by the renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:2). The only way we can change our mind and emotions is by changing the way you think.

Why did Elijah get depressed? Because he played mental games that all of us sometimes do when we get depressed.  Elijah was focusing on his feelings, not on the facts. Elijah was so afraid that he ran for his life (verse 3). He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die.

 That was his first mistake. When we focus on our feelings and not on the facts we will always get depressed. Our feelings are fickle. Feelings are not always facts. Elijah felt like a failure because of one incident that frightened him. He thought to himself, “I’m such a coward, What am I doing running?  So because he “felt” like a failure, he assumed he was a failure. This is called emotional reasoning, and it’s  destructive.  It’s  the idea, “I feel it, so it must be true. What we “feel” is not always real! Feelings are NOT facts.  Don’t Compare ourselves  with others

The second mistake Elijah made is in the second thing he said, “I’ve had enough Lord. Take my life 
  because I am no better  than my ancestors.” Most of us have fallen into that trap of thinking, “If I could just be like so-and-so I’d be happy.”  When we start comparing ourselves to other people, we are asking for trouble. The Bible says it is unwise and harmful (2 Cor. 10:12).  Don’t compare yourself with somebody else, because  everyone is unique.  There’s only one person you can be and that’s YOU   We tend to compare our weaknesses with other people’s strengths.

 We also try to motivate ourselves through criticism and condemnation.  We do it by “I should have” ourselves.  

The third mistake Elijah made was that he blamed himself. He took to himself false blame for events that were not his fault.  See 1 Kings 19:10. In his depression, Elijah blamed himself for failing to change the nation. When we take on ourselves false blame, we will always get depressed. If we assume a responsibility  that God never intended us to have,  the burden becomes too heavy.  God has given each of us a free will. When we  assume responsibility for other people’s  decisions, we accept a burden that will only depress us.  We can’t assume responsibility for other people’  responses. We can sometimes influence people, but we cannot control them.  Don’t  be depressed  by something  that CAN’T be control.  

 The fourth mistake Elijah made is that he  exaggerated the negative He said, “I am the only one left, and now they are trying  to kill me too” (v.10).   Elijah had a pity party.  The fact was that everybody was not against him.  Only one person was, and her threat wasn’t for real.  Elijah didn’t stop to evaluate the threat. He just ran away.  His thinking was that everything looked bad.  Elijah exaggerated the problem and that made his depression worse. When we are  depressed  we will  always exaggerate the negative!

Cure:  God’s Remedy For Depression 1 Kings 19:5-10  What was God’s remedy for Elijah’s depression?  It was a remedy we can all use for every bout of  depression.


God Refreshed Him Physical needs.  God’s initial remedy for Elijah’s depression was rest, food and relaxation (See verses 5 – 8).
 Sometimes a good night’s sleep does wonders for  our attitude  When we are physically tired and mentally drained,  we are prone to depression  If we are depressed, the first step toward recovery is to  take care of our physical need   Physical health has a profound influence on moods. Rest is important to the “renewal” of our mind. Notice how tenderly God dealt with Elijah.  God did not scold him or condemn him.  God gave him food and rest. He restored him physically. When we are physically tired and mentally drained, we are prone to depression. Physical restoration is essential for  EMOTIONAL renewal.

God Renewed Him – Emotional needs.
 The second remedy for your depression is to give your frustrations to God. Elijah went into a cave and spent the night there. In the morning the Lord asked him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Notice the reply in verses 9 and 10. Elijah just poured out all of his inner feelings. God allowed him to let off steam. He let Elijah vent his pent-up emotions without criticizing him or condemning him.  Often it helps to share our feelings with a Christian friend. It’s  a catharsis – a cleansing out of all the things that have been pushed down inside of us and helping to contribute to our frustration.   Notice the six emotions Elijah felt:
          1. First, he was afraid (v.3).
          2. Second, he felt resentment (v.4).
          3. Third, he had low self esteem and felt guilty (v.10).
          4. Fourth, he was angry.
          5. Fifth, he was lonely (v.10).
          6. Finally, he was worried.

When resentment is combined with fear, guilt, anger, loneliness and worry, that is asking for depression. So God let him spill all of this out. When we are depressed that’s exactly what needs to be done-Tell it to  Jesus.  

God Reminded Him

 The third remedy for depression is to get a fresh awareness of God’s presence in our life. Notice God’s response to Elijah; see verse 11.   God had put on a real show with the wind, earthquake, and fire, but he was not speaking to Elijah in any of those incidents.  What really got Elijah’s attention was the still small voice the gently whisper. Even today, God usually speaks to us in stillness and quietness.  God reminded Elijah that He was still right there beside him. If you are depressed take your Bible and get alone with God.   Let God love you and speak to you. There is NO greater antidepressant than communication and fellowship with God.  

God  Recommissioned  Him

The fourth remedy for overcoming depression is to let God give you a new direction;  See verse 15.  God gave Elijah a new assignment. He put him back to work. The quickest way to defeat depression is to stop sitting around in self-pity. Get your eyes off yourself and start looking at the needs of other people. Get involved in their lives – in a ministry where there is giving out and God is giving through you;  (See Matt. 16:25.) Get involved in helping other people.  When we are depressed, we tend to think,   “How can God use me I’m such a failure. I keep making mistakes. I disappoint myself, so surely I must be disappointing to God.”

You can never disappoint God, because disappointment can only happen when somebody expects us to do something different from what we are equipped to do. The fact is that God knows everything about us. He knows how we will act in the future. God made us and He knows us.  Let God give a new purpose and direction.  He is NOT through with us yet!  If we let Him, God will pick us up and start us over.  Jesus Christ wants to lift us out of the depression.  He can help us. He can change us.  We do not have to go through life manipulated by emotions.  We can choose to change our thoughts. Let God change those harmful misconceptions, such as:
              1.  “If somebody criticizes me it means I’m worthless.”
              2.  “I must be loved and accepted by everybody to be fulfilled in life.”
              3.  “I cannot admit any area of weakness; I have to be perfect or else I’m a failure.”
            Jesus knew the importance of correct thinking when He said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free   (John 8:32).

Conclusion: The more we know Jesus, the freer we will be.

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