Let’s use the word HOPE as an acronym and draw four principles out of the story of Elijah for finding freedom from depression.
Honour Your Body
The first step in dealing with depression is to honour your physical body. Let’s keep reading.
Then (Elijah) lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night (1 Kings 19:5-9).
Remember, there is nothing in the Bible by accident. Elijah had recently had a mountain top experience but was now depressed. In fact, he was so depressed that he wanted to die. God did not show up, but he sent an angel. The angel recognised that Elijah was totally exhausted. He was emotionally and physically worn out. He had been through an amazing high and now he was in this deep low. He was in despair. Notice that the angel first began to attend to Elijah’s physical well-being.
It is interesting to note that when we are depressed, we tend to neglect our physical body. If we are going to come out of depression, there is a great benefit from honouring our physical body. The word "honour" means to value, to respect, and to look after.
The angel let Elijah sleep and get some rest. Sometimes when you are depressed, you need to sleep, you need to rest. The average person needs seven to eight hours sleep a night. Life is meant to have a rhythm where we alternate between being engaged in activity then disengaging for rest and recovery.
One of the things that caused my six-month emotional valley was that I had not been living a balanced life. I was not taking a day off regularly. I was not making sure that I had time to recover from intense work and activity. I would be in India for two weeks mission work, then I would come back and speak five times over the weekend at the church I was leading at the time, then I would head off somewhere else overseas for more ministry. I was moving at a pace that could not be sustained.
The angel then brought some food to Elijah. Is this the first reference to angel food cake? Okay, stay with me. The angel cooked up some bread and provided some fresh water.
Scientifically it has been proven that what we eat dramatically affects our well-being. Eating healthy food has a big impact on our overall health and energy. Exercise is important too. Of course, Elijah had had too much exercise. He had run twenty-seven kilometres and he was tired and worn out. The problem in our day is that we usually do not have enough exercise. Of course, when you are depressed, you do not feel like doing anything. Yet, research has proven that engaging in a simple activity, such as taking a walk or playing a sport, increases your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
When you are physically fit and well, you are less prone to becoming depressed in the first place. But if you are experiencing a period of low mood, instead of putting on weight and eating unhealthy foods and avoiding exercise, begin to honour your physical body. It is an important part of coming out of that valley of depression.
We mow our lawns, we clean our houses, we scan our computers for viruses, we repair our appliances but we often do not look after our physical bodies as well as we should. When our physical bodies are run down, it affects our emotions as well as our spiritual well-being. Taking time for regular sleep and rest, eating healthy food, and engaging in regular physical exercise are all good ways to prevent depression and are also beneficial when we are feeling down. God sent an angel to help Elijah look after himself physically – with sleep, rest, water, and healthy food.
Tomorrow: The Next Step