April 11, 2016

1 Kings 19:4 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.”

This should be an enormously comforting passage to every true servant of God. Elijah was one of the greatest prophets, who appeared with Moses to consult with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, (Matthew 17:1-9) and yet he was so human as to be subject to a depressed pity party. Thankfully he wasn’t to the point of actively taking his own life, but he certainly wanted to die. The cause was very simple: he had relaxed his guard and taken his eyes off of God, putting them instead on himself and his circumstances. Even the situation was common enough: right after a major triumph. Some might try to peg him as bipolar, but I think such labels are greatly overused; everyone has ups and downs. One of his problems was that he didn’t have a real support structure, people to come alongside and keep him from the emotional isolation that can be so deadly. The story as a whole shows us that despite all these things, the Lord got through to him, encouraged him, and continued to use him. The solution to such problems is always to shift our focus from ourselves and our circumstances onto God. Sometimes that’s not easy, but habit can be a big help. If we make it a regular practice to start each day focused on God rather than on all we have to do, correcting focus when we get distracted becomes much easier. We are no better than Elijah, certainly, and even Jesus got up early to spend time with His Father. Regular devotional time with God is not an obligation, it is a privilege and a necessity, and often a life saver.

I am definitely personally familiar with depression. When I was a teenager I called such episodes “pink-and-purple-polka-dotted-funks,” to distinguish them from normal “blue funks.” In college I tried to commit suicide through auto-hypnosis (I had become quite proficient in hypnosis in high school) but the Lord stopped me. Since I have no fear of death itself, suicidal thoughts have come to me many times over the years. However, I have come to realize that suicide is the ultimate self-centered act, which is what makes it sinful. Everyone is born essentially self-centered (though recent studies have shown that altruism is also innate). Perhaps that’s a component in “original sin.” At any rate, yielding to that impulse eventually deprives us of everything genuinely good in life, but we are generally slow to realize that. According to Jesus, both the first and the second Great Commandments are other-centered, loving God first and then loving our neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-40) As a pastor I try to get this across to people, but I have very mixed success at it. Yesterday one person gave me feedback from the message that was encouraging. I must never give up, but keep my own focus first on God and then on those to whom He allows me to minister, so that He may use me to draw them to Himself as well.

Father, thank You for loving and using us in spite of our weaknesses. I pray that Your Spirit through me would cause more and more people to wake up and see through the deceptions of the devil, to walk in all that You intend for them, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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