God’s Encouragement for the Discouraged and Depressed

Lighthouse Leader Guide

Date: April 22, 2018

Series: The kings and the King: Season 3 (1 Kings)

1 Kings 19

This Week’s Printable Resources:


Overview of this Lesson

We ended 1 Kings 18 on a high note: fire rains from heaven destroying the 850 prophets of Baal. The fervent prayer of a lone man brings precious rain, ending a 3-1/2 year drought. Revival is breaking out in the land. God’s people turn from their wicked ways and cry out to the God of Israel.

God is good. Life is good. It is time for rejoicing!

Unfortunately, not everyone saw this as a time of revival in Israel. 1 Kings 19 opens with King Ahab telling his wife, Jezebel, what had just happened on Mt. Carmel.

Can you imagine that conversation?

“Uh, honey, I’ve got some good news.”

“What?”

“It’s starting to rain. The drought is over. Also, all the prophets of Baal are dead. What time is dinner? I thought we’d go to Naboth’s Vineyard for supper. I know you like their Chicken Cacciatore with their house Merlot.”

Forget dinner a Naboth’s. This is not going to be a good night for King Ahab. Jezebel is enraged. Before Ahab can reach out to take her hand, she summons a messenger with a simple note to Elijah: You’re dead.

Wow, talk about a sudden crash. Elijah goes from the exuberance of Mt. Carmel to a sentence of death, all within a short time.

Fearing for his life, Elijah became the model for Forrest Gump and he just ran. When he got to the edge of Jezreel, he kept going. When he got to Samaria, he kept going. Elijah ran clear across Israel until he came to Beersheba, and when he reached Beersheba, he kept going until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. When he arrived at Horeb, he said, “I’m pretty tired, I think I’ll stop now.” (The Bible doesn’t really say that.)

And that’s where we find Elijah this week. He is tired, overwhelmed, and depressed. He’s found a cave, crawled inside, and falls asleep. In this dark season in Elijah’s life, even though he wanted to die, the Lord came to Elijah in the cave and encouraged him.

How does the Lord encourage us when we find ourselves discouraged or depressed and hiding in a cave? That’s what we will look at this week as we study 1 Kings 19.

This Week’s Take Home Truth

Knowing God is ‘here’ and ‘there’ moves us to realize our fear is unfounded and revives us to worship and work for our gracious King.

Memory Verse for This Week

Psalm 42:5 – “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Core Virtue: Patience

Patience (Proverbs 14:29): I take a long time to overheat and endure patiently under the unavoidable pressures of life.


Introduction

When has silence been golden to you?

What things in life tend to discourage you the most?

Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?

Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead to one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.


Read the Text

Elijah had just experienced a great victory over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40). Elijah then predicted the coming rain after a long drought, and God responded with rain (vv. 41-46). But when Elijah was threatened, he became discouraged and afraid—in spite of God’s presence and power in those great victories. Read 1 Kings 19:1-18.


Digging Deeper

How would you describe Elijah’s feelings and emotions in 1 Kings 19?

In a word—depressed.

There is a difference between discouragement and depression. We all deal with times of discouragement when things just don’t seem to be happening the way we want them to happen.

  • The job we applied for went to someone else
  • We discover we owe on our taxes instead of getting a refund
  • A good friend moves away
  • We get a call from the school letting us know our child has done or said something that requires “a meeting”

We’ve all been there. Discouragement often falls under the banner of “life happens.”

Depression is different. According to June Hunt, the marks of depression can include:

  • Pervasive depressed mood
  • Diminished pleasure in usual activities
  • A significant change in appetite or weight
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, evaluate, or concentrate
  • Slower or more agitated movements
  • Too little or too much sleep
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Suicidal thoughts/attempts

How do we know Elijah was depressed on not just discouraged? Look at v. 4: “And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

Elijah wants to die, and given the powerful demonstration we witnessed in 1 Kings 17 (raising the boy from the dead) and 1 Kings 18 (defeat of the prophets of Baal and the end of the drought) in response to Elijah’s prayers, we can assume that he fully anticipated God to take his life at this very time.

Sometimes we may think biblical figures did not experience the same problems we do. Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah were not superhuman. They wrestled with temptation, experienced failure, felt fear, and struggled with depression, even as all of us do at times. It shows, however, that God can use us ordinary people in wonderful ways, just as He used Elijah.

NOTE: I believe it is important to have a clear distinction in your own mind (or at least in the eyes of your friends and family) between discouragement and depression. Again, we all deal with times of discouragement, but depression can be a life-altering, even life-threatening condition.

The rest of this lesson will focus on dealing with discouragement. This is not meant to downplay the significance of depression. If you believe you or a family member is dealing with depression, you need to see your family doctor. He or she can help you. There are many different paths that your doctor may recommend to treat your depression that could include medication and/or counseling. Follow your doctor’s advice. You should not feel any shame connected with being depressed. There is no reason to live in a depressed condition.

 

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your circumstances? What did you do in response to cope with your feelings?

Wow, how many of us can raise our hand and say, “Yep…been there, done that.” Life can be overwhelming, but often times we heap more weight upon yourself than is necessary.

When I get overwhelmed, I begin to see physical red flags:

  • I am tense and confrontative
  • My sleep becomes restless
  • I start to feel “tired all the time”
  • People grate on me and I want to be alone
  • I start to make needless mistakes
  • My sense of humor disappears

These are signs I’ve learned to recognize that help me recognize I am pushing too hard or life’s circumstances are pushing too hard against me.

What do I do when I recognize the warning signs?

  • Tell those close to me (Todd, RJ, my wife), that I am overwhelmed right now and to help guard my reactions to things and watch for confrontative over reactions.
  • Rest. If I can’t rest right now, schedule a time of rest in the near future so I can unplug and recharge.
  • Worship. I have a “Trials” playlist that I play and worship with when I am overwhelmed and discouraged. This reminds me of God’s love for me and His sovereign control over my life. (You can see the list here on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/eller0001/playlist/5SMOIzQjKuBv9TrMaD5wzD
  • Spend time in the Psalms. The words of comfort, reassurance, and hope that pour out of the psalms refresh me and keep my eyes focused on the Lord.

Is there a passage of Scripture that is particularly encouraging to you when you are discouraged or overwhelmed?

As I mention above, I find the Psalms to be particularly helpful during times when I am discouraged or overwhelmed.

Take, for example, Psalm 42:

Yearning for God in the Midst of Distresses

To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of the Sons of Korah.

1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?

3 My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”

4 When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.

For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,

With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.

6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.

7 Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.

8 The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.

9 I will say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

10 As with a breaking of my bones,
My enemies reproach me,
While they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

A book I have found to be a blessing as a companion to the Psalms is In the Secret Place by Jerry Rankin. He provides a devotional on every Psalm. Here are his thoughts on Psalm 42:

The most important characteristic in our relationship with God is to have a heart that desires Him. Being obedient to His will and becoming the kind of person whose life glorifies God comes from finding pleasure in Him above all else. A chorus we often sing repeats the refrain, “I’m desperate for you. . . . This is the air I breathe. . . . Lord, I’m desperate for you.” Several years ago one of our mission volunteers was kidnapped; he was tied up, and his captors threatened to kill him. After eventually being released, he related how desperate he was to be set free and said, “God seemed to say to me, ‘You should be this desperate to know Me!’”

We know what it is to be like a thirsty deer, panting for water. Maybe we have been running or working on a hot day, our mouth is dry and parched, and we desperately crave a drink of water. That should reflect our desire for God and desire to experience the reality of His presence in our lives. In my life and ministry I have always had a longing for something to happen that could not be explained by my own work, personality, programs, and efforts—something that has no explanation except the touch of God’s Spirit! Those times when we don’t have a sense of God’s constant presence are characterized by loneliness, helplessness, and despair. Having a heart for God and His righteousness is really the only thing that will keep us from yielding to temptation and being vulnerable to sin. There is no abiding joy and spontaneous praise apart from an awareness that He is dwelling within us, providing a constant flow of His all-sufficient grace, filling our hearts with His love, and anointing us with His power.

The psalmist mentions the times in the past when he experienced the joy of worship and being in fellowship with God, just as we can remember those times when we felt a personal intimacy with God and authentic worship experiences. When we no longer have a manifestation of that divine relationship, it is no wonder our soul would be in despair and downcast. We feel dejected and forgotten by God. It is terrible not to have access to the spiritual resources we need to cope with the stress and pressures of life and to be totally dependent on our own limited strength. Situations oppress us like a horde of enemies coming against us, set on defeating and overwhelming us.

The key is to keep our hope steadfast and to keep praising the Lord until we become conscious of the flow of His loving-kindness sustaining us in every situation throughout the day. His presence becomes like a song in the night, bringing peace and blessing.

 

How can you encourage someone who is struggling at this moment?

 

How can we support each other when God seems silent?


Becoming A House of Prayer

“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices; Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7.

Prayer Focus for the Week of April 22

Using Psalm 42:1-2, lead your group in prayer and ask them to focus upon the the glory and majesty of God. When we are thirsty, nothing will satisfy us like a cold glass of water, and when our soul is dry and thirsty, nothing will meet our need except the Lord God and his righteousness.

Lord, regardless of how we feel, You are there. Lead us to always say as the psalmist did, “Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11).


Next Steps

Questions to consider as you continue to reflect on what you learned this week:

  • Take Action: Do you recognize the signs of discouragement? What is your action plan to combat discouragement? Do you have a friend who is a natural encourager? If so, do you listen to them? If not, where might you find one?
  • Take Courage: Discouragement is a part of life. Learn how to push through times of discouragement and climb the out of the cave. Keep moving, look forward, not back. Put your faith in God and trust Him to be with you and to keep you.

Work to memorize this week’s memory verse: Psalm 42:5 – “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

This week’s Core Virtue is Patience (Proverbs 14:29): I take a long time to overheat and endure patiently under the unavoidable pressures of life.

Remember to use the Daily Bible Reading plan as part of your walk with Christ, taking the time to reflect on each passage and what it means for your lives.


Study Notes

1 Kings 19

19:1. Once King Ahab arrived in Jezreel, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done. He recounted Elijah’s proposal, the failure of Baal to respond to the prayers of his prophets, God’s incredible display of power, the people’s response, and the slaughter of all the prophets of Baal. Jezebel could look outside and see Elijah’s prophecy of rain also had come true.

19:2. Hearing Ahab’s account, Jezebel viewed Elijah’s action as a vicious attack on her god Baal, something she refused to tolerate. She sent a messenger to Elijah, vowing he would die as had the prophets of Baal. As Elijah ran to Jezreel (18:46), he must have been overjoyed at God’s great victory over Baal. The people had recognized the Lord as Victor and had acclaimed Him as their God (18:39). Surely Ahab also had been convinced that Baal did not exist and should not be worshiped. Elijah probably expected to return to Jezreel as a victorious prophet. Jezebel’s message crushed his joyful celebration.

19:3. Elijah responded to Jezebel’s threat with fear and ran for his life. Elijah’s flight might have indicated a lack of strength to continue the fight against Baalism and Jezebel or a lack of faith in God’s ability to protect him from Jezebel. His victory had turned into defeat.

Many characters in the Bible experienced fear, including Abraham (Gen. 26:7), Jacob (32:11), Joshua (Jos. 8:1), and Peter (Gal. 2:12). We also face fear and sometimes, as Elijah, we seek to escape from frightening situations. When we allow threats to intimidate our faith, we cannot see how God can help us; fear then can overwhelm us.

Elijah traveled south through Israel and Judah and arrived at Beersheba (bee ehr SHEE buh), the southernmost boundary of Judah. There Elijah left his servant, probably the same young man who had reported to Elijah on the status of the gathering rain clouds (1 Kings 18:43-44). Elijah’s dismissal of his servant indicated his intention to abandon his prophetic ministry. He would no longer need a servant.

19:4. Alone, Elijah traveled another day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, a small shrub, and sought shelter in its meager shade. Elijah prayed that he might die. He had had enough of standing alone for God. He had grown tired of facing one enemy of God after another. He believed his service for God had been in vain. He, as his ancestors, had failed to lead Israel to a permanent commitment to the Lord. In his depressed state, death seemed the best alternative.

Sometimes we may think biblical figures did not experience the same problems we do. James’s statement that Elijah was like us emphasizes Elijah’s humanity (Jas. 5:17). It shows, however, that God can use us ordinary people in wonderful ways as he used Elijah. Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah were not superhuman. They wrestled with temptation, experienced failure, felt fear, and struggled with depression, even as all of us do at times.

19:5. The past three years in Elijah’s life had been trying and exhausting. As a known opponent of Baal, he topped Ahab and Jezebel’s list of troublemakers (1 Kings 18:17). Although God had miraculously provided nourishment for him (17:6,15-16), he had watched his people suffer through the drought and still not repent and trust in the Lord. God’s impressive victory on Mount Carmel had filled Elijah with joy and confidence, but that evaporated with Jezebel’s threat. Within a short time he had journeyed approximately 100 miles, passing beyond the boundary of Judah and into the wilderness.

Physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion finally caught up with Elijah. He lay down under the shrub’s shade and fell asleep. Believers are not immune to exhaustion and depression. Sometimes we exhaust ourselves through Christian service, spending all our time ministering to others without spending enough time with God and at rest. At other times the demands and stresses of life can take their toll. With no physical energy to face or complete tasks, we can despair of ever getting them done. With no mental energy, we cannot think clearly and can become discouraged when we cannot make sound decisions. With no spiritual energy, we lose sight of our divine source of strength.

In Elijah’s time of need, God provided for him. God sent an angel who touched Elijah and told him to get up and eat. As God miraculously had cared for Elijah earlier (17:6,15-16), so He did again.

19:6. Elijah roused from his sleep and saw a freshly baked cake of bread and a jar of water. God provided the basic necessities for His servant. Elijah did not awaken to find a multicourse meal, a freshly drawn bath, and a warm bed. Elijah awoke to find hope. In the last few days, Jezebel’s threat and the apparent ineffectiveness of his ministry had overwhelmed and depressed him. Now he realized God had not given up on him. The food and water brought hope but did not cure his exhaustion or depression. After eating and drinking, he lay down again.

19:9. God, who had spoken to Moses and Israel at Horeb centuries before, spoke to Elijah. He asked Elijah what he was doing at Horeb. While we might think God spoke to Elijah in a stern, accusing manner, He probably did not. God knew what Elijah had been through. Out of His great compassion, God encouraged Elijah to tell Him exactly what he was thinking. Of course, God knew.

19:10. Elijah held nothing back. He told the Lord he had been very zealous for Him. By contrast, the Israelites had rejected God’s covenant, destroyed altars dedicated to the worship of God, and killed God’s prophets. Elijah thought he alone remained of all God’s prophets, and Jezebel had turned her full attention to killing him too. As Elijah reflected on his ministry, he could see nothing but a great investment of time and commitment for God that had produced little results.

19:11-13. God first reveals His presence to Elijah in His greatness and power, but He did not speak from that position. The Lord instead spoke to Elijah in a soft whisper, showing Himself to be a God who communicates via a still, small voice as well as powerful displays.

19:15-16. God’s commands first pointed to judgment. Elijah was to anoint Hazael as king over Aram, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as his own successor. God was still controlling events.

19:17. This command indicated the extent of God’s judgment—death at the hands of Hazael, death at the hands of Jehu, and death even at the hands of Elisha through His pronouncements of judgment.

19:18. The second part of God’s response gave hope. God still had 7,000 people through whom He could work in the future.


 

    Chris Eller is a Christ Follower, Husband, Father, Pastor, Geek, Writer, Photographer, and Church Technology Consultant.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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