Study 7 WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE, ELIJAH?
(Scripture Portion: 1 Kings 19: 1-18)
Our studies thus far have shown Elijah to be a man of deep devotion, unquestioning obedience and daring faith. But then there comes a chapter describing breakdown, humiliating failure and defeat - 1 Kings 19. A sad chapter - yet, so up-to-date and applicable to our own experience. “A man just like ourselves!” (James 5:17).
- Do you ever get discouraged, depressed and despondent?
Do you ever find yourself in the grip of despair?
Does fear ever possess you?
Do you ever have doubts?
Do you ever experience loneliness and a feeling that nobody understands?
Do you ever feel at the end of your tether?
Do you ever go to sleep and wish you need not wake up?
1. NOTICE THE DESPERATE CONDITION IN WHICH ELIJAH FOUND HIMSELF
- He was suddenly gripped by fear and alarm. Is this the courageous man of 1 Kings 18:17-18 and 40, the same man of which 1 Kings 19:2-3 speaks? Elijah - running for his life! Fear is a dreadful thing, which we have all experienced in some measure.
- He was unable to bear the presence of his servant. Verse 3 tells us of Elijah’s self-imposed isolation. When we are over-strained, even the presence of friends and loved ones can irritate us.
- He was overwhelmed with depression, despondency and despair (verse 4). Poor Elijah! - sitting under a juniper tree! Have you been like that? Are you under the juniper tree now? - look up Psalms 42:11 and 43:5.
- He was presumptuous and unwise in his praying (verse 4). He felt as the psalmist did in Psalm 55:3-8.
- He was filled with self-pity (verse 4). This is always a dangerous state to get into.
- He had an unbalanced view of things (verses 10, 14 and 18). In times of overstrain and illness, everything gets out of perspective and little problems become greatly exaggerated in our minds.
- He temporarily lost his faith in God. He still believed in Him, but he could not trust Him in this emergency, so “he went to pieces”.
There is little doubt that Elijah was experiencing a nervous breakdown. We are all subject, in a greater or lesser degree, to some or all of the above-mentioned emotions or reactions. When one is in a normal state of health such experiences are only very temporary, but when they persist and all come together, as with Elijah, then we are in a bad way. Is there no deliverance from these disturbing experiences which, if not checked, will lead to breakdown? There certainly is, and it is most important that in this high-speed age we learn the secret of wise living, and thus avoid the emotional upsets which result from unwise living.
2. NOTICE HOW ELIJAH GOT INTO THIS CONDITION OF DEPRESSION AND BREAKDOWN
- He was MENTALLY overstrained. For 3 ½ years he had experienced terrific tension, culminating in the great victory on Mount Carmel and the slaughter of the priests (1 Kings 18). Is it to be wondered that he was exhausted mentally and nervously?
- He was PHYSICALLY exhausted. Not only had the experiences of the past years made heavy demands upon his body, but now he had just taken an 18-mile cross-country run!
- He was SPIRITUALLY out-of-touch. In 1 Kings 19:2-3 (KJV) particularly notice the words “when he saw that…” - and compare Matthew 14:30. Elijah took his eyes off the Lord and looked at his circumstances - the threats of Jezebel. If you want to be depressed, fearful, filled with self-pity etc., take your eyes off the Lord and look at your circumstances, the problems of this weary world - just take a good look at yourself!
These were the three reasons for Elijah’s collapse - he was sick mentally, physically and spiritually, and these must be considered together, for the mental affects the spiritual, the physical affects the mental - and so on.
3. NOTICE HOW ELIJAH WAS DEALT WITH BY THE DIVINE PHYSICIAN AND THE CURE THAT WAS PRESCRIBED FOR HIM THAT SET HIM ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
- Elijah was physically exhausted, so the Lord attended to the needs of his BODY. Look up Psalm 103:14. God prescribed food, sleep and plenty of fresh air - read verses 5-7. He gave His servant a six-weeks’ holiday! It is essential that we pay attention to these three simple rules for bodily health: (1) nourishing food, regularly taken; (2) regular and sufficient sleep; (3) fresh air, exercise and relaxation.
- Elijah was mentally overstrained, so the Lord dealt with his MIND. His mental outlook was distorted and unbalanced, so after six weeks of rest and care, good feeding and fresh air, the Lord came to him and repeated His question (verses 9 and 13). His object was to cause Elijah to face realities - to face up to his fears and problems and look them squarely in the face.
- Elijah was out-of-touch spiritually, so the Lord dealt with his SOUL. He gave him a wonderful vision of His power, glory and tenderness - with verses 11-12 compare Psalm 46:10. Elijah needed physical restoration and mental renewal, but most of all spiritual revival.
Most wonderful of all, the Lord did not accuse Elijah of his failure, but when He restored him He recommissioned him - verse 15!
Closing Thought: Psalm 27:13.