Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2013 Nancy Virden
Exhaustion swept through his body. He felt as though he had finished a workout. There was much at stake including the future of his nation.
He didn’t remember when it started, but it seemed as if he’d been fighting this low mood and deep discouragement for a while.
As a well-known religious leader, watching his people turn from God in their country strife with famine, he had publicly expressed his sorrow and worry. Persecution for his faith increased until the queen threatened to kill him. He was afraid. Now he was ready to walk away from everything. Literally.
Ditching his companion, and without any food or water, he began a long trek on foot into the desert. His feet practically dragged behind him. Reaching the point of collapse, he fell to the ground wondering why he was not yet dead.
“God, please kill me!” he prayed. He was in agony. His soul had been torn apart. Dread covered him in an iron sheet, and he saw no hope for himself or his beloved people.
God’s answer was kind, and exactly what the man needed in his despair. The Lord told him, “Get up and eat for your strength.”
Was this an admonishment? It sounds more like, take care of yourself.
The man’s name was Elijah, and he was famous. It seems as if he is severely (known as clinically) depressed, ready and eager to die, as a day-long journey into the desert without sustenance suggests.
Look again at him. Did his faith fail? It is God he turned to, did he not? That proves he did not forget who was in charge. He never denied his Lord. No doubt, many who have read his story in the Old Testament have judged his motives and heart. Let’s look a little deeper into what followed.
Elijah did as God asked. A weight seemed to drag him back to the burning desert surface. He rose just enough to eat the food God provided for him. Something amazing then happened in that God allowed him to rest. As there is no specific time frame described in this true story, it makes sense that the second offered meal would have come later.
Then the Lord said to Elijah, “The journey ahead will be too much for you.” Truth is, life can get to be too much for us. Earth is not home for those who follow Christ and desire to honor God.
Such a variety of issues can exacerbate depression. Trauma, thinking errors, false beliefs about one’s worth, false guilt, fear – and in all this, God does not swoop in and make our thought processes instantly perfect. It is a continuum of stumbling, suffering, and learning that renews our minds. Depression may remain a challenge.
Elijah did not see anything but pain and believed himself expendable. Still, he got up and participated in self-care by eating. He walked despite the deepest wish to not. He went willingly into a journey guaranteed to be too much for him.
What is important to take from his experience is God does not reject us over our emotions. God is greater than our hearts. He is not distant and is ready to answer our cries.
Can you honor God and be clinically depressed? Absolutely. Elijah appears to be an example of this truth. Depression is not a sin. God is not angry when one of his children needs rest.
God understands how we feel, feels it along with us, and patiently guides us toward more peaceful mindsets.
Trust him, he is not defined by your emotions. And neither are you.
NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or if you are concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.
*photo by MZACHA from rgbstock.com