This article is based on my book, Free Your Mind, and it describes one of the most important lessons God has ever taught me!
Have you ever struggled with severe depression, or are you struggling now? Have you ever had the thought that you wished your life would end? Thoughts like that are scary and overwhelming, and I encourage you to be open with the people in your life and seek the support you need. Please don’t suffer alone. I also want to encourage you to take heart, because the Bible tells us that two of the most amazing people in God’s Word also experienced this same trial: Moses, the most influential Old Testament leader, and Elijah, the most influential Old Testament prophet. You may be surprised to learn that, in spite of the mighty ways God had used these two men, both of them experienced a time of depression in which they asked God to end their lives. In their stories below, we will see how God helped them to overcome.
After God freed the Israelites from Egypt, they spent a long time wandering in the desert. At one point, all the people came to Moses in anger, complaining that God was not giving them food, even though he was providing manna. When all the people complained, this is what happened:
Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?… I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now if I have found favor in your eyes and do not let me face my own ruin . – Numbers 11:10-11, 14-15
And then we have the prophet Elijah. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah performed an incredible miracle displaying God’s power in the face of His enemies. But when the Jewish queen Jezebel threatened his life, Elijah fled in fear, then prayed for God to take his life:
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life…. he came to a broom tree, sat down under it, and prayed that he might die: ‘Take my life Lord, I am no better than my ancestors – 1 Kings 19:3-4. If you read on in both these stories, you will see that God comforted and shepherded both of these men through their depression. What do we learn from God’s responses to Moses and Elijah?
1. God is patient and loving when his servants face depression.
God remained lovingly faithful to Moses and Elijah at these dark times in their lives, and he will do the same for us as well! Let us not allow the emotion of our current trials to make us forget the patient, loving nature of God. God does not give up on us even when we are tempted to give up on ourselves.
2. God does not pull away from us even when our faith is weak.
In Numbers 11:16-25, we read God’s response to Moses, and in 1 Kings 19:3-18, we see God’s response to Elijah. Although Moses and Elijah were lacking faith in these moments, God by his grace was still faithful to them. If your faith is weak, God will still see you through. He will strengthen your faith and help you through your trial.
3. Depression can happen when we take on too much personal responsibility.
Moses incorrectly believed that God had placed the entire responsibility of caring for the Israelite people on his shoulders. No wonder he felt overwhelmed! But God showed Moses he was concerned and responsible for his own people, and that Moses wasn’t alone. If you are feeling overburdened with concern for people in your life, remember that God is with you, helping you as you seek to help others. Others’ burdens are not yours to carry alone.
4. Moses and Elijah are later sent to encourage Jesus.
Hundreds of years after Moses and Elijah overcame their trials and left this world, God sent them back to earth to encourage Jesus in his trials (see Matthew 17:1-5). What a powerful moment that must have been, as these men who had overcome their own difficulties were able to turn and comfort Jesus through his! One day, when your current challenges are past, God may use you to strengthen others!
Dear brothers and sisters, let’s learn from these stories that God wants to empower us to overcome discouragement and depression. He can help to free our minds from depression as we set them on his grace!
Editor’s note: For further resources, please see Tim Sumerlin’s four-part series on depression. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek professional help if needed.