Can You Honor God and Be Clinically Depressed?

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, and indeed he had. For a full day a war of words and strong emotions had used up his energy until he was spent. There was much at stake including the future of his nation.

He won the confrontation, though perhaps the emotional draining that followed was unexpected. 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 in a country strife with famine, watching his people turn from God,  he had publicly expressed his sorrow and worry. Persecution for his beliefs expanded into a threat on his life,  and 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. Through an angel, the Heavenly Father sent a message. “Get up and eat for your strength.” 

Was this an admonishing command? It sounds more like “Take care of yourself,” to me. 

The man’s name was Elijah, and he was famous for ministry and an upright life.  His earlier contention had been a holy one as he stood his ground in faith against an unbelieving world. Yet now he was 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? He asked God to kill him, 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’s messenger had asked.  Carrying a weight that seemed to be actually dragging 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 the angel’s second offered meal would have come later.

Then he 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 the disease of depression in a person’s life. Trauma, thinking errors, false beliefs about one’s worth, false guilt, fear-  God does not swoop in and make our thought processes instantly perfect because we honor him. It is a process of stumbling, suffering, and learning that renews our minds. Major depression may remain a challenge.

Elijah courageously stood to take a first step. In no way does the Bible imply his mood lifted soon. In fact, at least forty days later he was repeating his negative thoughts.

Depression messes up one’s ability to reason, and that is why his actions and thinking may seem confusing to outsiders who readily value Elijah’s life. He did not see anything but pain, and believed himself to be expendable. Still, he got up and participated in self-care by eating. He walked in spite of the deepest desire not to that anyone can experience. He went into a journey guaranteed to be too much for him.

What is important to take from his experience is that no matter how you feel, God has not rejected you. He is not distant, and is ready to answer your cry.

Can you honor God and be clinically depressed? Absolutely. Depression, even major depression is not sin. We grow weary emotionally and physically. God is not angry when one of his children needs to rest.

Even if all you do today is get out of bed and brush your teeth, that is a worthwhile accomplishment. If you cannot do that much, then someone is probably reading this to you. God knows how you feel, he feels it along with you and is patiently guiding you toward a more peaceful mindset.

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 can be yours.

*photo by MZACHA from rgbstock.com

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