Four Steps To Climb Out Of A Pit Of Depression
While planting my first church I experienced the worst depression of my life. It seemed as though I had worked so hard with such minimal results. I felt like a terrible failure.
At meals I hardly spoke and stared blankly. I was too embarrassed to share my feelings. I suffered silently, miserably and alone.
Sadly, I even doubted God’s love and His Word. This caused me to question whether I should be a pastor. My negative doubts and thoughts threw me into a tailspin of confusion and despair.
I was stuck in the pit of depression.
Since then I have learned to manage life and discouragements better.
From the Life of Elijah, here are Four Practical Steps to Climbing Out of a Pit of Depression:
1. Develop Trustworthy Friendships
Though highly revered, James 5:17a says, “Elijah was a man just like us.”
Like us, Elijah suffered with depression: “Then he traveled through the wilderness for a day. He sat down under a broom plant and wanted to die. ‘I’ve had enough now, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life!'” (1 Kings 19:4 GW)
When discouraged, God wanted Elijah to engage with people and not isolate. God had Elijah train Elisha as his successor and he became his close friend.
“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. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.” (1 Kings 19:15-16)
One breakthrough for me came when I confided in three trustworthy friends. They were helpful, and listened compassionately.
A skilled professional counselor can become a great confidant and advisor for those dealing with depression.
2. Get Proper Nutrition, Rest and Exercise
Elijah was exhausted and that fed his depression. So God provided rest and nutrition.
“Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ 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.” (1 Kings 19:5-8a)
Don’t overlook the importance of caring for your body in order to manage your emotions.
3. Give Your Problems to God
Elijah gave his problems to God: “And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ 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.’” (1 Kings 19:9b-10)
Elijah thought all the Israelites had rejected God. But 7,000 remained who were faithful.
Talk with God. Unload your burdens and gain His perspective.
When my mother died suddenly at age 69, I mourned her loss deeply. I was angry and confused by her relatively young passing and I shared my feelings with God. I honestly complained that she died too young.
My open and straightforward dialog with God helped keep me from depression.
I did not curse, threaten, abandon or insult God. But I shared my problems and emotions.
Instead of hindering my relationship with God, my grief became the catalyst for drawing me closer to Him.
If you doubt that we can be honest about our emotions with God, just read the Psalms—such as Psalm 69 and 88.
4. Listen to God’s Gentle Whisper
“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. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 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?’” (1 Kings 19:11-13)
Elijah heard God’s gentle whisper and was led out of depression.
Phillip Keller wrote in his autobiography about his half-hearted commitment to the Lord. Determined to hear from God, like Elijah, he went to a mountaintop. He paced for hours, with arms raised, crying out for God to fill him.
God whispered that submission, not emotion was required.
Phillip wholly committed his life to the Lord. This sacred interlude between man and God’s Spirit left him radiant!
Special Crisis Information:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)