Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Helping someone when they get down





All photos courtesy of Unsplash

How do you help someone when everything gets on top of them, and they feel that it is not worth living?

I am interested to see how Bible characters handled these episodes in their lives. It is easy to dismiss them and say that they didn’t experience pressure like we do, but I think some of them had a really tough time.


Take, for example, Elijah. He was a real character. I think most of us would have thought he was quite a resilient and strong person. That in itself is a warning.


Elijah was a spokesman for God. These men were commonly known as Prophets. God communicated with them, and they were expected to pass on His message ‘word for word’. No changes or adjustments, their terms of engagement were - just tell them what I told you - ‘thus says the LORD’. As a result of this, Elijah had met Kings, military leaders and other influential people. All in all, he was an impressive man. You couldn’t imagine him being brow beaten by anyone or getting depressed by his circumstances - but he did.


We discover this in 1 Kings chapter 19. If you are interested, read 1 Kings chapter 18 (it’s a captivating read) to get the background. Elijah has just been involved in a major event where God used Him to prove that He (God) is a living and powerful God and that the so-called God, called Baal, was nothing but a sham, a figment of the imagination and powerless. After this, Elijah should have been ‘on a high,’ but he wasn’t.


The current Queen, Jezebel, sent Elijah a death threat. No holds barred. She was out to get him for destroying her religion (the worship of Baal), and she made no secret of the fact that she hated Elijah and wanted him dead.


Elijah very quickly (and very understandably) slips into depression. 1 Kings chapter 19 records his reactions:

  1. He runs from the problem rather than face it, 19. 3;
  2. He wants to be completely alone - he leaves his servant in Beer-Sheba, 19. 3; 
  3. He decides it would be better to die than to live, 19. 4;
  4. He feels that he is no better than anyone else, especially his parents and grandparents - he feels he has let everyone down, 19. 4;
  5. He thinks he is the only man left who stands for anything worthwhile but that God is not the least bit concerned about him, 19. 10.

Please read the chapter to see how God handles this situation:

  1. He lets him sleep - sleep is a wonderful healer when you get to the end of your tether - I know some people would love to sleep and can’t, but we all know that we need rest in a crisis, 19. 5;
  2. God sends an angel to give him food -  we all need food even when we don’t feel like eating. The angel says to Elijah, ‘Arise and eat’. Sometimes we need someone to tell us to eat and to make sure that we do it, 19. 5, 7;
  3. The angel let him sleep after he had eaten - there was no talking at this stage, just eating and sleeping, 19. 6;
  4. The angel is aware that he will need strength for the next stage of his journey, 19. 7.

Then God brings His word to Elijah - after allowing him to sleep, feeding him and getting him to a solitary place with God.

  1. The next stage is for God to face Elijah with the reality of why he has arrived at this place. Asking questions to help us think through where we are in life can very helpful, 19. 9;
  2. God then comes near to Elijah. He doesn’t argue with him; He just draws near to him. He comes with a quiet, calm, still, whisper. Elijah has already experienced the mighty power of God, but now he needs to experience the presence and comfort of God to calm all his fears, 19. 12.

How does Elijah react?

  1. Elijah covers his face and avoids the presence of God (do we?), 19. 13

What does God do?


The LORD is quietly persistent and keeps talking to Elijah, as He does to us as we experience life, 19. 14.


In the closing stage of this story, God does two things for Elijah;

  1. He shows Elijah that there is a future and that He has already identified the people who will continue to put into action the plans that He has, 19:15-17. In other words, He is telling Elijah - ‘I am still in control’;
  2. He makes Elijah aware that he was never really alone and that were 7,000 people in Israel who were loyal to the true and living God. Elijah, it’s not as bad as you thought it was.

I find this episode very helpful. It is an honest account of how one man felt when he was overwhelmed by his circumstances and gives us some hints about how to help someone who is in this state of mind. 


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