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Delliverance from the Depths of Despair

Deliverance from the Depths of Despair

Recently, Kathy and I watched the movie Anne of Green Gables again. Part of the humor in this movie is Anne’s exaggerated expressions; such as, “Oh, Marilla! I feel as though I shall languish forever in the depths of despair!”

Seriously, depression is a common emotion that may come upon us whenever we suffer the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, stress, rejection from others, divorce, or a personal failure such as committing a sin. Even the strongest believers in God are recorded in the Bible as experiencing the depths of despair. But with God’s grace the sufferer can be delivered.

For instance, Job was depressed. He lost everything, including his children and all his wealth. He regretted he was ever born: Job 3:11"Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?”

David was depressed over his own sin and the consequences it brought to his family and kingdom.

Psalm 6:1-4 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.

Everyone, at some time, faces the depths of despair in some form or another. However, God’s people do not have to live in the dark world of depression! God will hear our cries and answer our prayers!

David said in Psalm 40:1-2 "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire."

Job 42:10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.

God gives us a case study of depression in 1Kings 19. Elijah had preached one of the greatest sermons of his life. He confronted 400 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel and exposed them as the false prophets they really were. And because of Elijah’s faith and obedience, God literally sent fire down out of heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice on the altar. After this show of God’s power, Elijah probably expected a great revival in Israel; instead, he was rejected by the leaders and had to run for his life.

I Kings 19:1-10 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.  So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them." Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."  Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat."  He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.  The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you."  So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

From this text, we see that Elijah experienced many of the classic symptoms of someone in the depths of despair: fear, desire for death, fatigue, hopelessness, feelings of rejection and worthlessness. What this tells us is that even God’s most dynamic servants can suffer from depression. Elijah was THE man of God in his day. And now he’s so far DOWN in the depths of despair that even UP looks wrong to him.

But God is compassionate to His children. God didn’t say: “well sorry Elijah, you have a chemical imbalance, and Paxil hasn’t been invented yet, so I can’t help you!” Oh no, long before psychiatry was ever thought of, long before temporary mood-altering chemicals could be bought, God delivered Elijah of depression. Furthermore, what God did for Elijah and others, He can do for you and me too.

Notice what God did to heal Elijah. First, God did not say “get a hold of yourself Elijah. This is a sinful attitude … where’s your faith man?” No, God didn’t treat Elijah roughly and neither should we when we meet someone in the depths of despair. In answer to Elijah’s prayer to die, God just lets him sleep. Then God’s angel feeds him and lets him sleep some more. Then God sends him down to the desert in the South for 40 days and nights where he will be safe and can rest some more. In all that time, God doesn’t say a word; God doesn’t offer any council. God doesn’t set Elijah down and have a face to face talk. In all that time, Elijah is left alone and given time to rest and to think. No sermons, no long counseling sessions; just love, care, and rest.

After Elijah was rested, notice how God dealt with Elijah’s depression.
1Kings 19:11-18 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel--all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."

First, God sent him to Mt. Horeb, the mountain of God, where the Law was given to Moses. To be delivered from depression, we must get in a place where we can hear God. Sometimes, we need to be alone to hear God; however, when the Holy Spirit is in the church and its members, it is also a place where we can pray, listen to God, be loved, and receive deliverance.

Galatians 6:2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Secondly, God had Elijah tell Him what the problem was. God asked Elijah: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  God didn’t ask this question just once, He asked Elijah that same question two times. Didn’t God know? Of course He knew; He’d sent Elijah to this mountain. But Elijah needed to vocalize what he was doing. Elijah needed to explain what HE thought the problem was.

Thirdly, God dealt with the false ideas that were fueling Elijah’s depression. Jesus said, “The truth shall set you free.” Why is that? Because false ideas, especially false ideas about God, put us in bondage. Our lives are built around what we think is true about life, and if the foundations of our reasoning are based on wrong information or impressions, the result can be devastating.

Elijah’s reply to God revealed what Elijah had wrong. ELIJAH DIDN’T THINK THAT GOD WAS DOING ENOUGH. He said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

Hidden in the midst of that statement was this accusation: "I’ve been beating my head against the wall serving you, Lord. And everything seems to just be falling apart around me. What have you been doing, God? Why don’t you put a stop to all this evil? There is nothing else I can do. I give up, it’s hopeless.”

And so, God corrects Elijah’s thinking. He tells him "Elijah – you’re not the only one left." God tells Elijah, “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel— all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."

When a person is depressed, they don’t think God is doing much of anything. They have no hope, no confidence, and they think God doesn’t care. In the movie Anne of Green Gables, Marilla told Anne, “To despair is to turn your back on God.” While that statement may not be true in every case, it is a potential danger if the depressed person doesn’t come to recognize the truth. Just like Elijah, a person in the depths of despair needs to realize that God IS working in their lives even when they can’t see the evidence.

Lastly, God gave Elijah something to do. Deliverance from the depths of despair comes when we stop focusing on ourselves and get involved in the lives of other people. Therefore, when God finished His counseling session with Elijah, the LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.” Also, anoint Jehu king over Israel, and anoint Elisha to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. In other words, don’t worry about it Elijah, I’ve got it all under control.

So as we focus on Christ and His blessings and wait for God to change things, what can we do?

I. STOP COMPLAINING Phi. 2:14 "Do everything without complaining or arguing."

Griping and complaining only makes things bitter, not better.  Complaining indicates faith in the devil instead of God. God was not pleased when the people of Israel complained.

1 Cor. 10:10 "And do not grumble, as some of them did--and were killed by the destroying angel."

Instead of complaining about what we don’t have or what we don’t like in our lives, we should look at what we do have and thank God for it! Start praising God and you will quit singing the blues!

II. STAY TUNED

One thing that can help when we get depressed is to be reminded that we have a Father who loves us unconditionally. He knows all about us and loves us anyway. He knows everything we have to face in life and He understands. We can find comfort, deliverance, and relief in His tender arms of mercy. God can do things for us that no one else can, but how do we connect with Him?

First of all, we must know God personally before we can expect Him to give us the help that we need. We connect with our Father through His son, Jesus Christ.

John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Acts 2:38 "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Therefore, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and surrender to Him. Be baptized into Him. Be filled with His Spirit. Read His Word. Obey. Praise Him and pray. The more we do these things, the quicker we will be lifted from the depths of despair. I know prayer is hard to say when we are depressed, but it’s the most important need we have at that moment! It is how we stay tuned to God. Let others pray for you, too. One reason we stay depressed is we fail to call on Jesus during our time of need.

Heb 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

III. SHAPE UP   1Tim. 4:8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Add exercise to your prayers and devotions. Exercise can relieve some of the physical effects of depression. When your body feels better, the mind can focus on other things, and your spirit is lifted.

IV. SEPARATE YOURSELF Proverbs 13:20 "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm."

Proverbs 12:26 "A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray."

Proverbs 14:7 "Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips."

1Cor. 15:33 "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character."

Bad company or bad associations corrupt us in many ways, and not just morally. The people we run with can either pick us up or drag us down! Separate yourself from those who can bring you down.

V. SOOTHE OTHERS

Any time our focus is on ourselves, we are the losers and so is everyone else around us. When Christ walked the earth, His focus was on people.

Matthew 9:36 “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

As followers of Christ, our focus should also be on others. We should be quick to see the hurt in people and move to help them if we can.

Romans 12:15 "Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep."

Proverbs 12:25 "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up."

When we bless others, we bless ourselves. Prov. 11:25 "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."

That’s the best advice I know on how to get rid of depression in my life--get my mind off myself and get it on Christ and others. The more we learn to love Christ and love others, the less depressed we will be.

Colossians 3:1-2 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

The longer I live for Christ, the more difficult it is for me to accept easy, cure-all solutions. But in my own struggles with depression, I've found great comfort and help in two wonderful absolutes.

The first absolute is: God really loves me. God does not condemn His children when they sin. He convicts and corrects us as a loving father, wanting only to deliver us out of sin and the depths of despair, if we will let Him.

Unfortunately, we often don’t let Him, and we only recognize His great love after we have hit bottom. However, the bottom is not the end of our life; it is a potential new beginning. When we have learned how weak we are and cry out to Him, trusting in His love and forgiveness, He will deliver us and set us on a pathway of righteousness and usefulness in His Kingdom.

That brings us to the second absolute is: It is my faith that pleases Him the most!

Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

So, what should we do when depression rolls over us like a flood? When our sin nature overwhelms us and we see the reality of our wickedness? Give up? Quit? Never!! We should bring to God all we have left, our faith in Him!

Satan wants to rob us of our faith and joy in the Lord. Satan brings condemnation to destroy our faith and make us believe that God has forsaken us. As a result, he hopes we will despair and turn our back on God!

In spite of pressures that bog the mind and sap the strength, resist the devil and have faith in God. Believe that He will deliver, no matter what it takes to rescue us. After all, He died on the Cross and rose again to deliver us from sin and the depths of despair. Therefore, we have this promise and praise:

Jude 24-25 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy--to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Do you believe Jesus Christ will keep you from falling and present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy? Have you acted on your faith by being baptized into Him? If not, you have an opportunity to profess your faith in Christ and be baptized today.

Maybe you are suffering from depression, guilt, or despair and desire to be delivered from these oppressions. Jesus is the deliverer and you can ask Him to deliver you today.