Trust Only in the Lord

Text: 1 Kings 19:5
Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ (NRSV)

This text from 1 Kings is part of a long complex story whose main character is Elijah.  At this part of the story, Elijah is suffering some classic symptoms of depression.  It seems as if his life has fallen apart and everything he has tried to do has been undone or has not made the impact that he had hoped it would make.  He has simply isolated himself from everyone else and lay down to sleep.  More than that, he has pleaded with God that he might die.

I am one who has suffered with depression off and on.  The worst case came upon me after I had left my deployment to Baghdad as the base chaplain for more than 2,000 people and had returned to the local church as the pastor of a small church.  You would have thought that I would have been overjoyed to be home with my family, friends, and church.  But it seemed as if I was in a very dark place and questioning my very existence.

As I contemplate the reality of the emotion depression, I have to believe that there is a reason that this emotion exists.  I’m not talking about depression that comes from a chemical imbalance or other verified medical reasons, I’m talking about the very normal response to events that are occurring around us that are… well… depressing.  

What is it that depression is supposed to do for us?  I know that pain is supposed to keep us from doing the things that cause pain or to keep us from actions that would cause further, more debilitating damage to the parts of our bodies that are already in pain.  I know that fear is designed to keep us from taking risks that may put our very lives in jeopardy.  But what is it that depression is supposed to cause us to do or not to do?

As one who suffers from the occasional bout of depression, I believe one of the things it causes me to do is to realize that I have been depending on my own strength and power too long.  It causes me to realize that I have put my trust in myself or those around me and not in God.  My depression after I left my deployment in Baghdad had to do with my concern for those whom I had left behind.  I had been deeply imbedded in the lives of many soldieries, airmen, and civilian contractors who were struggling with some very deep issues and now I was home, and they were still there with their struggles.  I had wrongly assumed that they needed me when, what they needed, was God’s power in their lives.  The chaplain that followed me was certainly capable of being God’s man in that place and that is what really mattered.

In the story from 1 Kings, God does not grant Elijah’s wish to die.  Instead, God sends an angel to feed Elijah.  I have learned when I start to see in myself the signs of depression I have been trained to identify in others, I must allow myself to be fed by God.  I must take myself less seriously and take God more seriously.  I must put my trust in God no matter what I see going on around me and realize that it is God and God’s grace that is sufficient for each and every situation in which I find myself.

If you feel like your life is crumbling around you and you have lost control, if you find yourself slipping into depression, turn to God and allow God to feed you with the Bread from Heaven and realize that it is God in whom you must trust.  God is faithful and will carry you through with his grace and love.

Pray with me:

God of power and God of might, when I begin to depend on my own gifts, insights, and power, remind me that my strengths only come from you in my life.  Send me the Bread from Heaven that I might be strengthened and place my trust in your grace for the future.  AMEN.

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