7 Lessons About Depression From Elijah: A Suicidal Prophet
Depression isn’t a new phenomenon nor are the ways to combat it… hopefully these 7 lessons about depression from a suicidal prophet will show you that.
None other than the famous Elijah.
Let’s get straight to it.
Who was Elijah?
You’ll find this prophet featured in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious texts and as far as prophets go, he’s a pretty big name.
Some of his accolades include:
- Raising a widows son from the dead.
- Speaking out against a tyrannical Monarchy.
- Getting fed by ravens.
- Beating a horse in a race on foot.
Needless to say, he had a lot of stuff going for him, yet it wasn’t a mountaintop experience for him the whole way…
Was Elijah suicidal?
You tell me.
“He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” – 1 Kings 19:4
That sounds pretty convincing. Turns out he’s not the only suicidal prophet or biblical figure to feel the same way.
Other big names who were suicidal in the bible include:
- David (have you read the Psalms?)
- Sauls armour bearer #loyal
Each of these figures has a story to tell and there are plenty more, but we’re just going to focus on a few days of Elijah’s life recorded in 1 Kings chapter 18 + 19 (click to open the passage in a new tab.)
Lessons about depression from a suicidal prophet
I by no means am an expert, but hopefully, these points will encourage you that depression and mental health issues are experienced by the best of us and it’s possible to overcome them.
1. Depression can often come after big achievements.
What always stood out to me about Elijah’s suicidal outburst was the fact that he had just experienced the biggest highlight of his career.
Here’s what happened just a few hours before he was asking God to take his life:
- He prayed for rain and it came after a 7-year drought.
- He had just called down actual fire from heaven.
- The nation of Israel had turned back to God.
- He had just taken out 850 pagan prophets in a showdown.
- He got Jedi-like speed and outran the king’s chariot.
Needless to say, things were going very well for Elijah, yet all it took was a threat from Queen Jezebel to send him shaking, fleeing, fearing for his life and feeling suicidal.
Often the next-stop from the mountaintop is the valley.
We tend to let our guards down and get lulled into a false sense of security only to be blindsided by something.
An awareness of this can help you get through that low when it comes.
2. When depressed, we have a tendency to isolate ourselves
Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree” – 1 Kings 19:4
Despite gaining a huge crowd of supporters after the showdown on Mount Carmel, Elijah chose to isolate and cut himself off from the community.
This is a tell-tale sign of depression and unfortunately, can hurt us rather than hurt us over long periods of time.
3. Depression tells us that we are alone
Not only do we isolate ourselves physically, but depression often is a very isolating experience emotionally and psychologically.
We feel like we’re the only people who struggle with this and the social media feeds (highlight reels) of others only affirms this.
Look at Elijah, twice he makes the following claim:
“I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” – 1 Kings 19:10
He felt alone in his struggle, a common sentiment we can feel when we are depressed.
4. You are not alone
The problem with this sentiment is that it’s not true, with high rates of depression being experienced across the board by people from all walks of life and a wide variety of ways to get help.
Elijah wasn’t alone either. He failed to remember that a whole mountaintop of people had just turned back to God.
Thankfully God stepped in and drove the point home for Elijah explicitly.
God told Elijah where he would find his next apprentice (Elisha) and that there were 7000 other people in Israel who would stand by him (1 Kings 19:16-17.)
Often we need an external voice to tell us that we aren’t the only ones… so let me say it again: you are not alone.
5. It’s good to get up
I know for me, my tell-tale sign of depression is a lack of motivation to do anything mixed with a desire to lounge around and stay down.
That’s exactly what Elijah did… or least tried to do, check it out:
Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” – 1 Kings 19:5
Now absolutely, it’s important to rest and take time off, Elijah undoubtedly was tired and had to catch up on some sleep, however:
The key is knowing when enough is enough and when it’s time to get up.
Having a routine even in seasons of rest can be an important strategy: not only to keep yourself safe but means that you rest properly.
(Anyone ever felt more tired after a time off?)
6. Having an angel helps
Getting up is easier said than done and let’s be honest, it’s the last thing you feel like doing when depressed.
Having an angel: a friend, family member, individual or community who can cheer you on is invaluable.
Even if it’s someone who will go for a walk with you once a week or grab a coffee – something as simple as this will get you out of the house, realise you’re not alone and give you someone to chat with.
Remember: you also have the opportunity to be this figure in the lives of others too.
7. You have a purpose
This account of Elijah – our suicidal prophet – ends with God instructing him of what’s next and reminding him that he has a purpose.
You’re no different.
We all have a purpose to live for.
Knowing this often gives me the hope I need to see through a season of depression.
Elijah went on to achieve amazing things and raised up another leader who achieved even more than he did.
His journey wasn’t over yet.
Neither is yours.
More from Matthew Thompson
You can get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox by joining my free monthly newsletter.
Click here to sign up (it takes 10 seconds and you can opt out at any time.)
Other than that, thanks so much for reading.
All the best
– Matthew Thompson