I love summer, but not so much when it gets outrageously hot. It can make me a bit grumpy, discouraged, and depressed. I liken it to winter in August. It’s cave time. I have to stay inside the air conditioning, hide, and try not to let my emotions and thoughts get to me. Like Elijah, who was running and hid in a cave (I Kings 19:3-18), I know there is only one way out. I must choose to walk out and move forward.
What causes our discouragement that can lead to depression?
Many different things can cause discouragement and depression. We often hear how health issues or chemical and food imbalances can cause it. Too much sugary, fried, or fast food. I found myself in a depressed state many years ago and couldn’t figure out why until I was diagnosed with a thyroid issue that was causing it. Sometimes it is just the weather.
But what about how we spend our time and what we focus on? When Elijah ran for the cave, he left his servant behind. Discouragement and depression make you want to isolate yourself, and that’s the biggest mistake we can make. Many people are still trying to get out of their cave from the isolation they went through during the pandemic. Some live in a cave because they spend too much time on social media comparing their life to others who seem to be living the high life. Sometimes we stay in our cave and hide because of the stigma of being labeled as a failure if we’ve been let go from a job, been caught in an unforeseen economic situation, or perhaps been caught in a family issue. If we hide, maybe it will all just go away. In our “all about me and my influence and success” social media culture today, people back away and don’t want to be associated with someone deemed a loser. It might damage their reputation.
Is the solution spiritual?
Not always, but many times, it can be. I believe that spiritual warfare is real. Prayer must be consistently activated when the demonic strikes our vulnerable souls. II Timothy 1:7 reminds us that the Spirit of God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear but of power and clear thinking. We must remember that we’ve been given the authority of Jesus and God’s Word. Leaders can be particularly vulnerable and attacked because of their bold and courageous actions. However, we all need to be reminded to “resist the enemy,” and he will flee (James 4:7). Elijah was one of the most important prophets of all time, yet we see him in a cave – depressed and fleeing.
Does God allow us to get discouraged and depressed?
You bet God does. Most of the time, it’s the only way we will stop and pay attention to what we’re doing and turn our attention back to Him. If you look at many of the most celebrated leaders written about in the Bible who accomplished great things, you will also find that they had many moments of failure, doubt, and depression. Elijah was no exception. I believe God allows us to see that even the great heroes in the Bible were human. These leaders teach us how to confess our faults, ask for forgiveness from God and ourselves, and move on. Once King David found out his son was dead after he had been praying and fasting on the ground for seven days, he got up, washed, dressed, and went out to worship God (II Samuel 12:18-20). He knew God was sovereign. David had sinned and knew God loved him, but he had to pay the price for his disobedience. When we embrace our human failings, we can lead others out of their caves.
Elijah had to come to terms with his humanity. He was hiding in fear, had lied to God, and succumbed to selfish thoughts declaring, “I’m the only one left.” God, in His grace, allows us to sulk sometimes so that we are forced to remember that we need to rely on Him. He never leaves us. Elijah wasn’t alone. That was a lie of the devil.
As leaders, we often “bite off more than we can chew.” In our 24/7 streaming world, we can take on too much and get overwhelmed. Solomon in Ecclesiastes 4:6 told us, “It’s better to have one handful and have peace than two handfuls and have toil and the chasing after the wind”
Fear keeps us depressed – spinning our wheels if we aren’t listening.
If I had to confront King Ahab, and Jezebel back then, I might have run as Elijah did. They were both exceptionally evil and vicious rulers. Many of us face difficult obnoxious bosses and huge obstacles in work situations, especially in the media and entertainment industry. God knew Elijah was human and provided food for him during the famine that Elijah prophesied. God didn’t take him out of the famine but provided miraculously for Him. Yet, Elijah chose the hiding and lodging of a cave instead of remembering the provision and protection God had been giving him. In God’s tender love, He asks Elijah what he’s doing and tells him to get out and stand on the mount. He then sends a blast of wind, an earthquake, and fire. But it was the quiet whisper of God’s voice that got Elijah to pay attention again. Our minds and hearts must be quieted if we’re going to move forward despite earth moving storms that might happen around us.
Successful leaders must keep consistently choosing to go forward and trust and obey.
Choose prayer, engagement with God and His Word, healthy physical habits, and choose to leave your cave and get back on the long and winding road. It always leads home. – to Jesus.