The following is an expanded version of a chapter from my book 100 Days on the Road to Grace; a Devotional for the Sexually Broken.
Chapter 59 from 100 Days on the Road to Grace
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.”
1 Kings 19:4
It’s not uncommon to fall into depression after coming off lust (or any sin). After the clouds part, we see our life as it is. Perhaps we come to terms for the first time that our marriage is a mess, or our eyes are opened to all of the pride, selfishness, greed, fear, emptiness, and anger within. Perhaps the consequences of our sin have caught up to us and it appears there’s no way out.
Or maybe you’re a wife who recently discovered that your husband has been acting out for all of your marriage, and you’ve fallen into a deep hole of despair.
In such a place, overwhelming discouragement or depression are natural. We’re not a freak if we fall into an emotional hole. Unfortunately, the church doesn’t always help. I once heard a pastor on the radio say that “joy should be a part of every Christian’s life.” At the time, I was battling discouragement and depression on several different fronts; I felt guilty for not being able to put on a happy face.
When I’m in the pit, I need someone to talk to who’s been through hell. I yearn for someone who knows what pain is and can relate to my suffering. Their story doesn’t have to match mine; I just want someone who speaks the language of pain.
Pain and suffering have a language of their own; we can’t fake it or study our way into understanding it. Hearing a sermon or reading a book on suffering doesn’t come close to going through the furnace yourself and enduring all the turmoil, pain, weariness, and warfare involved.
Perceptive listening skills are everything. I once shared a painful situation with a pastor, after which he launched into a 30-minute monologue. I felt neither heard nor cared for and couldn’t wait to get out of his office. Most of our friends won’t have answers to our problems, but they don’t need to. Job’s friends made their biggest mistake when they opened their mouths. If they would have just stayed with grieving with him, even in silence, they would ministered to Job in his pain and sorrow (and avoided God’s wrath).
Climbing out of the pit can feel impossible. For Elijah to have asked God to take his life (1 Kings 19:4) he must have felt like there was no hope—which is often at the heart of depression. If we look for hope in our circumstances, we may fall further into the pit. Some trials take months or even years to resolve. Allowing ourselves to withdraw into a cocoon and feed on depression is dangerous; we can drive ourselves down into a darker place of despair.
God’s prescriptions to Elijah were simple:
“Arise and eat” (1 King 19:5,7). God told Elijah “Arise and eat” twice. When we’re going through depression, we need to make extra effort to take care of ourselves. This includes eating right, exercising often, getting out in sunlight, and plenty of rest. I find that getting out in nature often provides a boost. Taking care of ourselves means sharing our struggles with our tribe or a trusted friend, or with a counselor. We give ourselves the space to slow down and the freedom to take time to heal and ask the hard questions. It’s okay to be broken or struggle with depression. Some churches send the message that our faith is weak if we struggle with doubt or depression. That’s a crock. If Elijah, one of the most powerful prophets in all of Scripture fell into a hole and God accepted him, so should we.
“Go!” (1 Kings 19:15). Isolating ourselves or numbing out with mindless entertainment will not lift us out of the pit. God gave Elijah a new assignment which involved people. One surefire way of putting a dent in depression is to ask God to show us one person we can help, serve, or encourage, and get involved. Doing so will take our eyes off ourselves and our problems. Obsession with our pain keeps us in bondage to it.
Remember that God met Elijah in his place of discouragement. Rays of hope begin to break through when we see that all is not lost and God has not left us, just as He has promised (Hebrews 13:5), even if circumstances haven’t changed. During this time, it’s more important than ever to seek Him daily so we can immerse ourselves in His truth, kindness, and love. The Psalms are packed with David’s cries when he was in the pit, including times when he’d blown it. Perhaps this is because the Lord wants us to know He has a special place in His heart for the hurting.
And, He doesn’t require a fake, Sunday smile.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
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