I know, from reading James before in the KJV, that Elijah was “subject to like passions as we are” (James 5:17). I know, from reading James before in the ESV, that Elijah was “a man with a nature like ours.” I know that the great prophet who stood up to King Ahab, the one who took on 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel with a pyrotechnics performance never before seen on earth, that, from reading James before, he was just a human being, a guy wired much like me. And I know, from reading 1Kings this morning, that Elijah was done!
When [Elijah] came to Beer-sheba that belonged to Judah, he left his servant there, but he went on a day’s journey into the wilderness. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. He said, “I have had enough! LORD, take my life, for I’m no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree.
(1Kings 19:3b-5a CSB)
I’ve had enough! Take me home, Lord! My accomplishments count for nothing. I don’t have it in me to try again. I’m just going to lay here and sleep the sleep of the depressed. Not getting out of bed until forever.
Heavy sigh! A man subject to like passions as we are. In a word, relatable.
So, I take note of three commands found in this passage. Not commands like “The Big Ten” from Mt. Sinai, but more down to earth commands for those subject to like passions. And in noting those commands, they form some principles which I think could apply to the rest of us with a nature like Elijah’s who was “human just like us” (MSG).
Suddenly, an angel touched him. The angel told him, “Get up and eat.” Then he looked, and there at his head was a loaf of bread baked over hot stones, and a jug of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. Then the angel of the LORD returned for a second time and touched him. He said, “Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.” So he got up, ate, and drank. Then on the strength from that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. He entered a cave there and spent the night. . . .
Then [the LORD] said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the LORD’s presence.” At that moment, the Lord passed by . . .
Then the LORD said to him, “Go and return by the way you came.” . . .
(1Kings 19:5b-9, 11a, 15a CSB)
Get up and eat. Go out and stand. Go and return. A three-course meal this morning.
Depression is not a sin nor a shameful weakness . . . it’s what comes with being “subject to like passions.” It is the frailty of the flesh encountering the immensity of life. And sometimes, you’re just done. Wanna call it a day. Crawl into bed and tell everyone to wake you up never.
But if there’s something in this passage to help with how to combat that inevitability (and I think there is), then it’s worth noting for the next time I can’t seem to get out of bed.
Not to be overly simplistic with a complex issue, but at the heart of what’s here, could the principles at play here be: 1) give attention to your physical self — Get Up and Eat; 2) then attend to your spiritual self — Go Out and Stand; 3) and do so with the intent to trust God again with all yourself — Go and Return? I’m thinkin’ there could be.
There’s a lot that can be invoked to make sure we are seeking to be healthy physically. Everything from enough water, a proper diet, and a daily walk, to addressing chemical imbalances through some sort of supplements. Equally, go out and stand in the presence of God might engage everything from solitude and prayer to crowded fellowship around the word. And going and returning? Well, only as we discern the will of God, and trust the will of God, will we know what those paths look like.
Again, so cautious about being too simplistic. Just some high-level, simple principles here while recognizing that the deeper we are in “being done” the more complex the details for addressing the physical and spiritual needs so that eventually we become “undone.”
But for this morning, Get up and eat; Go out and stand; and Go and return are the principles of encouragement I’m taking into the day.
Glad I got out of bed.
And that, by God’s grace. And that, for God’s glory.