3Come Out of Your Cave(Long)
COME OUT OF YOUR CAVE
1 Kings 18:1 - 1 Kings 19:19
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt like the world was caving in on you and you had no place to run and hide. God seemed absent from your life , prayers (if you could pray) seemed to go nowhere, your inner being was full of pain, grief, sorrow, sadness, darkness, emptiness, and void of hope? Well you are not by yourself!
Lurking beneath the stigma that many Christians with mental and emotional problems face is a simple question: Can a Spirit-filled Christian have emotional problems? The emotional health gospel overlooks the record of the Bible itself and church history.
The Reformer who penned AA Mighty Fortress Is Our God.@ Martin Luther, in 1527 wrote: AFor more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Chris was wholly lost.@ Luther himself had written that Athe content of the depression was always the same, the loss of faith that God is good and that he is good to me.@
The famous preacher Charles Spurgeon, who lit fires of the nineteenth-century revival movement, struggled so severely with depression that he was forced to be absent from his pulpit for two or three months a year. In 1866 he told his congregation of his struggle: AI am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go through.@
In the Bible we find that Moses, Elijah, Job, and Jeremiah suffered from depression, often to the point of being suicidal. Job cried out in the midst of his sufferings,
Job 3:23 Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? 24 For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water. 25 What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. 26 I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil."
Job 7:6 "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and they come to an end without hope.
Job 7:16 I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning.
So the answer to our question is a definite yes: Spirit-filled Christians can experience emotional problems.
Those who adhere to the emotional-health gospel often believe that negative emotions are in themselves sinful. We need to ask them how they account for the displays of Christ=s emotions. In the Garden of Gethsemane
Mark 14:33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;
AVery heavy,@ literally indicates Jesus was feeling the weight of the sins of the world. Even though He has foreseen His passion, in His humanity He agonized deeply over what was ahead.
Abe very heavy@ This is the strongest Greek word in the NT for depression.
Paul writes with affirmation,
1 Corinthians 2:3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.
Later he wrote:
2 Corinthians 7:5 For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn -- conflicts on the outside, fears within.
While the church should never condone willful sin, it must learn to accept that people within it may suffer from emotional symptoms that are not the result of personal unconfessed sin. We must take seriously Paul=s injunction:
1 Thessalonians 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
The prophet Elijah learned a very difficult lesson in his dark moments of life and found himself hiding in a cave and isolated from everyone including his personal aide.
How Elijah got there, and what God did to bring him out with his life and ministry intact, is a fascinating story. It=s also a lesson from Scripture filled with principles we can use during those times when the darkness seems to swallow us.
The Discouraged Prophet Elijah was discouraged, downcast and even depressed. Now when I say Elijah was depressed I=m not talking about clinical depression.... I=m referring to those periods we all have when we are physically or emotionally drained and the darkness overtakes us. Times like these are a normal part of life.
A Great Victory Elijah=s depression followed a great victory .....secured his reputation as fearless prophet.
Israel ruled by spineless King Ahab and his wicked wife, Queen Jezebel. Baal worship
God sent Elijah to challenge Israel=s paganism, and in a great contest on Mount Carmel
1 Kings 18:19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table." 20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.
There he built an altar to the Lord: 1 Kings 18:38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God. 40 And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.
So the enemies of the people of God were destroyed and defeated and Israel underwent a tremendous spiritual awakening and revival.
A Serious Threat When Queen Jezebel heard of what happened she threatened the life Elijah. And rather that standing his ground strong and confident and courageous...
1 Kings 19:1-3 1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 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." 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there,
A Hasty Retreat Faced with Jezebel=s threat, Elijah chose to run for his life into the desert. By the time he stopped running and fell exhausted under a broom tree, he had sunk into a dark hole of depression. He even prayed, 4 that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."
Elijah became fearful, anxious, and afraid, and he ran over 150 miles. That=s where we find him in 1 Kings 19:4
Elijah was a man just like us. James 5:17. He was susceptible to physical and emotional breakdown just like you and me. Elijah knew what it was like to feel the darkness descend and wrap itself around him.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever said that?
It is possible to be serving the Lord and yet find yourself emotionally and mentally drained, depleted, and depressed?
Elijah=s condition had three components; physical, emotional, and spiritual, and God dealt with each one in turn.
Elijah certainly manifested many of the classic symptoms of a person with normal discouragement. He was fatigued and sluggish.
He had not only lost his zest for life and sense of purpose
He had even lost his will to live.
Elijah was no longer interested in being the man of God, standing against evil.
He no longer seemed to care that Israel was still in the clutches of Ahab/Jezebel.
A sense of hopelessness and helplessness had enveloped him.
Fear and anxiety were clutching at his spirit.
His thoughts had turned to death as his best way of escape.
These feelings are usually a reaction to some loss, tragedy, or problem in a person=s life
When the problem hits and pressure mounts, then discouragement & depression sets in..
Let=s look at Elijah=s problem, because in it we may find help in understanding our problems and where to look for help when the darkness won=t go away.
Mount Carmel was very physically demanding and taxing. It was no cake-walk.
His was hungry. He was tired. He was lonely.
He was worn out and burned out, at the breaking point. HALT
When we are physically exhausted, not sleeping well or eating right
When our nerves are frayed by anxiety and fear,
We become candidates for depression. That=s exactly what happened to Elijah.
He was physically wasted.
Emotional Stress Elijah=s physical stress was mixed with severe emotional stress. We can see this very clearly in 1 Kings 19:4 when he said I=ve have had enough LORD Take my life; I>m no better than my ancestors
What he was saying, ALord, I=ve had it. You=ve brought me to the end. You might as well get it over with and kill me before Jezebel does. I thought I was Your prophet. I thought I was special to You. But I=m no better off than anyone else.@
Elijah hit the bottom as fast as he had risen to the top.
Now Elijah prayed to die, he became obsessed with the idea of dying.
One of the worst things a person in Elijah=s condition can do is to withdraw from everyone and just run away and hide.
For most of us, however, when darkness is the thickest, we need to force ourselves to be with the people who love and care about us. Elijah allowed his fears to well up within him until the anxiety finally put him under.
Meeting Physical and Emotional Needs I want to show you that before Elijah got to the cave, God took care of his physical and emotional needs.
Rest and Refreshment: The first thing God did to deal with Elijah=s depression was to refresh him
1 Kgs 19:6-8 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.
The food and the sleep replenished the prophet=s exhausted supply of strength and energy.
Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to take a good nap.
When you=re physically tired and emotionally drained, you=re vulnerable to depression.
The darkness looks even darker when you=re wiped out.
Dealing with the Emotions: When the dark clouds of depression are clinging to us as they were clinging to Elijah, one of the most important things we can do in the healing process is to admit our depression.
Depression is not the end of the world. That means even though you may be in the darkness now, you will get through it. The dark clouds will lift.
The Spiritual Side of Depression Isn=t it interesting that after Elijah got some rest and the angel ministered to him, he was able to travel 40 days 40 nights, going all the way to Horeb? He was obviously refreshed and strengthened after his more immediate needs were met.
But there was still a dark cloud hanging over Elijah, because he also had a spiritual problem that needed to be dealt with. 1 Kgs 19:9 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?"
Greater Vulnerability: That was a good question. Elijah was not supposed to be in that cave.
Have you ever observed that we=re often the most vulnerable to spiritual attack and defeat right after a great spiritual victory?
Elijah needed spiritual restoration as well as physical an emotional restoration, because part of his problem was spiritual. He wasn=t supposed to be traveling even farther from home by going down to Horeb. But he did, and wound up in the cave.
That is where we often find ourselves, isn=t it?
The devil knows your greatest weakness.
That=s important to understand, because we are in spiritual battle.
If the enemy knows your weakness, he will exploit it to his advantage.
Two of Satan=s chief weapons are discouragement and depression.
If he can put you out of battle by wiping you out physically and emotionally, he can turn you into a spiritual casualty.
Facing the Issue: So even though Elijah had regained his physical stamina, he was still in darkness because he was out of God=s will.
Therefore, after God refreshed Elijah, He rebuked him by asking AWhat are you doing here Elijah?@ In other words, AWhy aren=t you back there serving Me? What are you doing hiding out here in the wilderness? Why did you run away?@
Elijah=s answer reveals that he was still feeling discouraged and depressed.
1 Kings 19:10 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."
Elijah tried to defend his actions, and indulged in a little self-pity. I find it interesting that God did not respond to Elijah=s complaint. He simply told him,
1 Kings 19:11-13 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. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 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?"
A Word from God: Elijah needed to be still and know that God was still on His throne
The prophet was all fearful, fretful and restless. He needed to hear the call of God on his life once again. He heard it in the still small voice.
At first glance, verses 13-14 make you think you=ve lost your place and are reading the same thing again. They are identical to verses 9-10. Why did God ask Elijah the same question a second time?
And why did Elijah give the same answer?
It=s as if God was saying, AAll right, Elijah, you=ve just seen a reminder of My power and majesty, and you=ve heard My voice calling you once again. So now that you know all of this, let Me ask you again: What are you doing here?@
Eljiah=s answer showed that he still didn=t get the picture. He was still in the dark spiritually.
1 Kings 19:14 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."
So God spoke again,
1 Kgs 19:15-16 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. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.
This time there was no argument. God simply said to Elijah,
AGo back to your prophetic ministry. I have some important things for you to do. And by the way, you=re not alone. 1 Kgs 19:18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."
This time, Elijah obeyed and went back, 1 Kings 19:19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.
The darkness lifted. The depression was over. He had come out of his cave into the light of God=s restoring grace and power.
If you are in the cave right now, if the darkness is hanging heavy all around you, you need to wait on the Lord for the renewal of your strength
Music ministry team.
Isa. 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
There are two key elements here that occur in the life of this prophet of God:
Depression is defeated and ministry is restored.
Often when we are in the darkness, we neglect God. We forget to listen to Him.
But when you are in a dark cave of depression, when you are down, discouraged, an defeated, the Spirit of God can use His Word to energize, vitalize, and encourage you, and to keep you going when it seems like you can=t go another step.
So God refreshed, rebuked, and re-commissioned Elijah.
He still had something important for Elijah to do.
When we=re depressed, we often feel like life is over. There is nothing left to do.
But when we listen to God, He says COME, AI have a purpose in life for you. There is something wonderful for you to do, so get up! Be renewed! Go in My authority and power.@
When you=re in the cave, it may seem like you=ll never come out.
Elijah was renewed physically, but he wasn=t really Afixed@ until he got his spiritual bearings outside that cave at Horeb.
Then the last cloud of despair and fear was lifted.
So however dark your situation, don=t give up hope.
Here at this altar today Depression is defeated and ministry is restored. God says ACome home!@
There is life, there is strength, there is refreshing power awaiting you from the hand of God.
You can find the light of a new day as you turn to Him in simple faith.