Elijah and His Wish for Death

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The last three weeks as a church we have been bringing to light a reality that so many of us have experienced or are experiencing: depression.

Scripture holds many stories that speak directly or indirectly to this reality. One of my favorite passages to read in the Bible on depression is 1 Kings 19. It’s an interesting passage that follows a huge victory the prophet Elijah just had. And it looks exactly like so many of our victories (and failures!) in this life.

Just prior to the events of this passage, Elijah faces down the false prophets of Baal. He sees the fire of God come down and consume an altar of stone, water, and wet wood. He then kills hundreds of those false prophets, prays in an end to a seven year drought, and proceeds to supernaturally outrun a horse and chariot to the nearest town.

In an unfortunate turn of events, the current ruler, Jezebel, who follows Ba’al, becomes angry at what has happened and threatens Elijah’s life. Despite the amazing act of the power of God that Elijah has just seen, this is how Elijah responds:

“It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.”

Elijah is exhausted. He has been living radically, seeing amazing things done by God, been a living sacrifice with his life, and he’s tired. He’s done. He walks a day into the wilderness, sits down on the sandy ground under a small tree, and asks to die.

God responds.

“Arise, eat - because the journey is too great for you.”

What a great endorsement! In response to a plea of weariness, God gives Elijah a little nourishment - and then tells him to keep going.

This is SO OFTEN what we really experience in life. We come home from work and our kids need to be disciplined. We lead Lifegroup and a few hours later get an email with a personal crisis. It takes all of our energy to show up to church, and then we sense God nudging us to go and pray over a friend.

God hears Elijah’s request, but he gives him supernatural nourishment because there is more work to be done.

What happens next?

Elijah walks. For 40 days. 40 DAYS. To a mountain! He climbs up the mountain, crawls into a cave, and waits for God. So of course, what is the first thing God says to Elijah as he sits in his mountain-cave? Good job? Well done, faithful servant? The first time I read this response, I was a little irked by God.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

God! What do you mean, ‘what are you doing here’!? You brought me here! You literally gave me the food and sent me packing. I just did the walking and obeyed you. What are you interrogating me for?

I would have been a little ticked if that’s what God said to me after I walked 40 days with no food, no company, and the knowledge that an entire nation was out to kill me at the command of their queen. I would want to be the one asking God what HE is doing!

Elijah answers God, though. He tells God his story, his narrative. He has done everything to obey God, and he opens up and shares his emotions. He feels alone. He feels that no one else wants to follow God, that he’s the only one left who seeks God.

You may know the next part. God sends a fire, windstorm, and earthquake - all very powerful, big acts. But God is not in them. There is still a delay to God’s presence. Elijah waits.

How does God meet Elijah?

In a gentle breeze.

What does the breeze say?

Nothing fancy.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

It’s the same question God asked earlier. It’s a probing question. God knows the answer. Elijah responds in exactly the same fashion as before. There’s nothing new.

God isn’t asking Elijah his rationale for being there. He’s not looking for facts. He’s asking Elijah about his heart.

What are you doing here? Where are you? Not just your body and mind, but you - your heart. Where is it? Why are you here? How are you doing?

Elijah repeats exactly what he said earlier. And when God responds this time, he gives Elijah a new plan for replenishment and he encourages Elijah that there are others like him who are still seeking God.

Why is this story one of my favorite passages on depression? Because it calls us to continued resistance.

I have read this passage so many times in the mornings, the evenings, when I feel I have nothing left. And I see Elijah picking up his feet forty more days on supernatural food and think - I can do it, too. I must do it, too. I am not the only one who has felt this way. I am not alone. I will press through.

Guys, I want to see God. I want to travel up that mountain even though it is, well, a mountain. I really WANT to see God move in the earth, and if that means picking up my feet one more day, then that’s what I will give. I will give it.

Today, be encouraged knowing that there are major leaders of faith in Scripture who had days just like you! They had days of great victories and days of great despair. Days where they didn’t understand why God was questioning them, and days where God asked them to walk more. But that is not the end of the story. The story continues when God brings Elijah a faithful friend and co-laborer, Elisha. The story ends with Elijah being borne up into heaven. It lives on in Jesus who, like Elijah, pleaded with God to take his cup from him. And when the cup was not taken, he walked on.

Continue on with me, my friend. Walk on with me. I will go, too. Let us journey up the mountain and see the Lord.

About the Author: Allison is a massage therapist working out of her own studio at A2 Yoga. If she isn't helping people’s bodies on their journey to health, she's probably doing something around Antioch! She loves prayer, worship, and spending time with her roommates, the families around the church, and her lifegroup!