WHEN WE ARE FEELING “DOWN” OR DESPONDENT

In the course of life, we all have our “ups and downs.” Those “ups and downs” may involve financial matters, our relationships with other people, our health status, or our performance in our job or other tasks. We also go through mental “ups and downs,” do we not?

Sometimes we just feel like we have “the blues.” Wemayormaynotbeableto put our finger on exactly what is causing us to feel “down.” The truth is, dealing with the feeling of being “down” or despondent is a real part of life.

Even faithful servants of the Lord have to deal with bouts of depression or despondency. The prophet Elijah did. In two consecutive chapters in the book of 1 Kings, we see Elijah go from being “sky high” to hitting “rock bottom” mentally. God’s prophet enjoyed the high of his victory (actually, it was God’s victory) at Mount Carmel over hundreds of false prophets (1 Kings 18). Then, things took a turn for the worse. What happened? Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab, sent a messenger to tell Elijah that she planned to have him killed (1 Kings 19:1,2).

How did Elijah respond to that news? “And he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’” (1 Kings 19:4). This was no joking matter. This was not a movie. It was not a novel. It was the prophet’s real life. When it becomes real in our lives or comes into our minds, it gets personal.

Thankfully, in Elijah’s case, after the Lord communicated to him, he was able to get out of the doldrums (defined as “low spirits; dull, gloomy, listless feeling”; (www.yourdictionary.com). Based on this incident in Elijah’s life, please consider some suggestions/observations.

(1) Analyze the situation. Why am I down, and is it (whatever “it” might be) as bad as it first seems? For Elijah, it was not. The Lord’s question to His servant was, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (19:9). Elijah cried, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts . . . I alone am left, and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:10). Elijah was not seeing things clearly. In reality, as God told him, there still were seven thousand people in Israel who had not yet bowed the knee to Baal (19:18). A challenge for us when we are feeling down: keep things in proper perspective.

(2) Take care of your physical health. One’s mental health and outlook can be affected by the status of his bodily health. Due to his depressed state, Elijah was convinced it would be better for him just to die. God’s angel told him to eat and drink, which he did. The same scenario was repeated. In the end, Elijah “went in the strength of that food” on his journey (19:5-8). Consuming food does not cure all that ills us, but taking care of our physical health is important when we are facing mental challenges.

(3) Listen to what God has to say. Elijah did, and he was blessed for it. “The word of the LORD came to him” (19:9) and the prophet paid attention. “Then the LORD said to him . . .” (19:15), and the prophet took His message to heart. Turn to God’s word to receive insight, reminders, and comfort. It really helps!

(4) Get busy in the Lord’s work. At that point in his life when Elijah was way down, the Lord’s instruction to him was to get up and get active in His work. He told him to go and anoint a new king of Syria, anoint a new king over Israel, and anoint Elisha as a prophet (19:15-17). Being busy in God’s work: for some of us, that may mean to stay busy in what we have started doing, or for others it may mean that we need to step up our efforts or get back to being about our Father’s business. Elijah did, and it helped.

(5) Make a special effort to be encouraged by good things that are going on. As we noted, Jehovah told Elijah, “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (19:18). Rather than emphasize what is weak, lacking, or wrong, try to find something positive and focus on it. It helps.

(6) Make an effort to seek out other faithful servants of God and spend time with them. After Elijah received his “get-up-and-get-with-it” charge from the Lord, “he departed from there, and found Elisha . . . Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant” (19:19,21). Having association and camaraderie with Elisha had the potential to be a great blessing to Elijah. Spending time with faithful followers of the Lord can boost our spirits, open our eyes to the reality that others also face challenges like we do, and help us to see how blessed we are.

For further study, consider an occasion when David was disheartened after his own people turned against him. David’s response was to strengthen himself in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:3-6). Think about it.

— Roger D. Campbell

[I have been carrying around handwritten notes on this topic for a couple of years. I think I wrote them while flying to or from Southeast Asia, but I am not 100% sure. If any of the ideas were borrowed from others, I do not recall doing such, and any failure to give proper credit to someone else is unintentional.]

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