1 Kings 19:1-18 – Elijah. Recovery from Discouragement and Depression

1 Kings 19v1-18.

Elijah. Recovery from Discouragement and Depression.





A few weeks ago England beat Germany 5-1 in a football match on German soil. It was a great performance – free flowing football, great skill and finishing esp. by Michael Owen. The following week they played Albania – not the greatest team but it was a struggle. England managed a 2-0 victory – and they knew it would be tough. Yesterday’s 2-2 draw with Greece showed how tough it is.


After a great victory a team / or an individual is very vulnerable. After the high it is easy to slide into a down-mood.


Elijah has just reached a high point / probably the highest point of his career as a prophet. He has confronted the prophets of Baal – AND in a show down in front of the King and the whole nation he is proved right. God vindicates his prophet.

It was spectacular, sensational! Fire From heaven! Judgements on the false prophets! The drought was broken after 3½ years. AND Elijah had run faster than the king’s chariot.          He was on cloud 99 never mind cloud 9!


Jezebel’s Intimidation Tactics

Now a few days later – Queen Jezebel – who has heard what happened from her husband, is seething! 450 of her prophets are dead and her god has been made a fool of in front of the nation. There is no doubt about who wears the trousers in the royal household – and it is not King Ahab!! A domineering, manipulative, evil woman married to a weak, feeble man is a dangerous combination!


She sends a message to Elijah, “By this time tomorrow you are going to be dead!”

I wonder why she warned him – why not just kill him? Probably – if she killed him the people would turn against her – he would be a dead hero – BUT if she could intimidate him and he ran away the problem would be solved – or so she thought! She is an archetypal bully.


She was right in that Elijah was intimidated and did run!


Elijah’s retreat.


Retreat can be used in two ways – to run away from problems or to withdraw to be refreshed.

Both apply here although I don’t think Elijah had the second meaning in mind but I believe God did.


a)    Elijah ran away.


1/ He wasn’t thinking clearly.

Elijah had just witnessed an incredible exhibition of God’s power. The same God who had miraculously provided food via birds / then via a destitute widow and seen her son raised from the dead.

But now threaten by a mere human – a powerful woman granted – but just a mere mortal. If he had stopped to think clearly he might have responded, “Wait a minute, God’s in control here not this evil Queen. I will just trust God as I have done for years!”

BUT he was not thinking clearly. Let’ not be too harsh. After all he was human just like us!!


2/ He was caught in the aftermath of a great victory.

Elijah was suffering the same emotions as a team after a great win!


ILLUS.: Mountaineer will tell of the elation of reach the summit. They will also tell that the greatest danger is the descent from the peak. The adrenaline rush has warn off and the are vulnerable and at greater risk of making mistakes.


Churches often suffer from this after completing a big project – building – relax and there is a decline in commitment and enthusiasm.


3/ He was exhausted, physically and emotionally.

His Carmel encounter was very draining – then he had run all the way to Jezreel in the rain. Prior to the he had been the nation’s ‘most wanted man’. He had been living on the edge for years.

A Greek proverb “You will break the bow if you always keep it bent!” If you live under constant stress you will eventually break under pressure. You need rest and refreshment. {Some may have too much but that’s another story}


The kind of reaction we see from Elijah is very common in spiritual ministry. Not just amongst ‘full-time’ people.

The lowest day of my week is Monday. Sunday is the climax of a week’s preparation and prayer. Monday is the down slope. That is when I am most weary and vulnerable to discouragement. We have a saying amongst pastor “Never resign on a Monday!” Esp. because Monday is the day people tend to call about things they didn’t like on Sunday!                //   Charles Spurgeon – one of the greatest preachers in the past 100 or so years – suffered from depression on a regular basis.

So Elijah’s cry – 1 Kings 19:4-5 4 HE GOES …. into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep….


4/ He isolated himself.

1 Kings 19:3-4 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. …


Discouraged and depressed people tend to be lonely. When he need a friend the most – he cut himself off. Maybe if his servant had been with him he could have encouraged and helped him.

When we are depressed and discouraged we need fellowship / support / … sadly it isn’t always forthcoming. BUT also sometimes we don’t get t because we push people away.


5/ He wallowed in self-pity.

Self-pity makes us see things as worse than they are / it develops a victim mentality / … in worst cases it will led us to wish we were dead.

We all feel sorry for ourselves at times. Sometimes justifiably because others have treated us badly BUT if we wallow in it, it will debilitate and even destroy us.

b)    God refreshed Elijah.

How does God respond to Elijah’s distressed state?

It is interesting to see how God deals with his fearful, runaway prophet.


1/ He allows him rest and refreshment.

There is no sermon. No blame or shame. No, “What’s the matter with you, just pull yourself together!”

Instead – rest, food and a gentle touch from an angel.

Fatigue / exhaustion can send our emotions into turmoil – It is not unspiritual to be tired. Be careful of judging others, esp. when they have been through a prolonged period of extreme stress! They may behave in ways that are uncharacteristic  – even extreme!

God understands our human frailty.


2/ God communicated with Elijah.

1 Kings 19:9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (NIV)

God doesn’t tell him to ‘snap out of it’ / or say ‘ you should be ashamed of yourself running away like this’.

NO! Just a simple question, “What are you doing here!”


1 Kings 19:10  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.” (NIV)


Elijah’s response is basically, “I’ve done my best, I am all alone and now they are trying to kill me!”

God listens – he doesn’t get in a huff – he is not offended that Elijah had it wrong as we will see – he doesn’t rebuke or reject him.


ILLUS.: I have a friend in ministry who went through an extended time of great stress – Response was similar to Elijah // a hurt, tired, irrational heart-cry that was misunderstood, criticised and ignored by some insensitive, but no doubt well-meaning Christians [Job’s comforter types]. Result – crushed and deeply hurt // and a damaged ministry that will take a long recovery time!


Generally we are far harder and more critical than God will ever be!


God asked a question – then listened! Listening is vital – to the heart-cry NOT just the words!!!


Then shows his power – NOT in the earthquake or storm or fire BUT in the gentle whisper.


We seek the sensational – signs and wonders – we think that if God would do wonderful spectacular miracles our needs would be better met and people would flock to worship him.


The people had seen the spectacular – fire fell from heaven and consumed the altar / sacrifice / water etc BUT the nation didn’t return to worship God. No doubt this was part of the reason for Elijah’s despondency.


The Jews of Jesus day looked for signs and wonders – and they saw Jesus perform many but most didn’t follow him. The NT Church in Corinth did the same – 1 Corinthians 1:22 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, (NIV)

Paul’s response – “We preach Christ” – signs and wonders are of no use whatever unless they lead us to Jesus. It is in Christ that God meets our needs.


God speaks to Elijah in a “still small voice / a gentle whisper”. He speaks to us today through his Word by the HSp. The inner peace of God’s presence is infinitely more comforting than all the signs and wonders.


3/ God reassured and recommissioned him.

After this encounter with God in the ‘gentle whisper of the breeze’ [the Spirit of God comforting and strengthening – God asks the same question “What are you doing here!”

And gets the same reply

1 Kings 19:10 I zealously served you / the Israelites rejected you / I am the only one left / now they want to kill me!”

BUT this time God’s response is different.

Elijah go back. I still have a job for you // you are not alone // there are 7000 others who have remained faithful to me AND I am going to give you Elisha – a companion and successor – my work and kingdom will go on in spite of what appears in the nation as a whole!”


We all have down times – sometimes severe depression even – BUT the mark of Christian characters and maturity is not the we have spectacular experiences of God’s power BUT that we respond to his Word & his Spirit and get back to faithfully serving Him in our witness to Jesus his Son.

The Bigger Picture.


God takes Elijah to a mountain – the same one Moses was on 100’s of years earlier where God revealed himself to Moses. Both men witnessed God’s power and glory. Both became despondent and wished for death. Both spent 40 days and 40 nights alone in this isolated place. Both were sent back to their tasks, re-commissioned. Both were the objects of God’s special care at the time of there death.


Centuries later Jesus would stand on a Mountain – enveloped by the glory and splendour of God and God the Father would say “This is my beloved Son” – there it was Moses and Elijah who stood with him. BUT unlike Moses and Elijah, Jesus did not succumb to despair – he with stood the threats and temptation of Satan for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. He took on the forces of evil against him on the cross and defeated them by rising from the dead.


And the story is not over yet ….


God is still at work in his world. And like Elijah and Moses and all his people before us he calls us to faithful serve him even if other refuse to do so.


Things were bleak for Elijah – even after the victory of Mt. Carmel, the worship of Baal went on. After Jesus died and rose again evil remained – and to think that we can ‘rid the world of evil doers’ as some have claimed is a pipe dream. We may share those sentiments BUT only when Jesus Christ returns in glory and judgement will evil be done with.


Until then we are to be God’s ‘Elijahs’ – he was a man “just like us” as we read in James [NT]. We will have ups and downs – but God is faithful. He will not abandon his people no matter how difficult things may seem. If we will hear him in the ‘gentle whisper’ of his Word by his Spirit he will comfort and refresh us and then re-commission us to the tasks of His Kingdom. And ultimately there is no greater fulfilment because we were created for his glory.



Elijah. Recovery from Discouragement

                                               and Depression.


1 Kings 19v1-18.


Jezebel’s Intimidation Tactics


Elijah’s Retreat.


a)   Elijah ran away.




1/ He wasn’t thinking clearly.

2/ He was caught in the aftermath of a great victory.

3/ He was exhausted, physically and emotionally.

4/ He isolated himself.

5/ He wallowed in self-pity.


b)        God refreshed Elijah.




1/ He allowed him rest and refreshment.

2/ He communicated with Elijah.

3/ He reassured and recommissioned him.


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