1 Kings 19:11-13 And he said, "Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord." And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
Elijah suffered from depression, just after his great victory over the prophets of Baal. Why?
1. Fear: Despite his recent victory over the 450 prophets of Baal, Elijah was stricken with fear when he was threatened by Jezebel - a woman! Scripture tells us that "he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there" (1 Kings 19:3). Elijah, the great man of faith, fled when a woman threatened. Fear can be a very debilitating emotion. When we are controlled by fear, we become spiritually, mentally and emotionally disoriented. We can lose focus and do irrational things.
2. Physical Exhaustion: Elijah's fear triggered off an adrenalin rush that propelled him on a marathon to flee from Jezreel in the north to Beersheba in south, a distance of more than 150 km! This is almost four times the standard marathon distance of 42 km! By the time Elijah reached Beersheba, he had exhausted himself physically. He was ready to call it quit.
3. Lack of food & rest: When fear gripped Elijah, he ran for 150 km, and probably did not eat nor rest. But when he reached Beersheba, his lack of proper nutrition and rest took a toll on his spiritual well-being. He was not only ready to quit, he was ready to die: "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers" (1 Kings 19:4-5).
God's solution to Elijah's depressed state was rest and food. For some extended period, Elijah did nothing but ate and slept! What a wonderful Father we have! God is no Taskmaster. If we feel driven, it's not God, but self or Satan that is driving us.
Ministry can be demanding on us spiritually, emotionally and physically and so we need to know our margins. I was speaking to a pastor of a large church and he was telling me (not sure if it's a regret or a boast) that in his church every staff is expected to work at least 50 hours a week like there is "no night and no day." If it's a boast, I was not impressed: this is a sure recipe for ministry burn-out for his staff and his congregation. Just listening to him describe his church activity stressed me already! It's a church with many activities and programs, but all going helter skelter in every directions. I was too polite to ask, "So, who's the driver here?"
The church has become a mirror of the marketplace--work in Singapore is taking over people's life. It's uncommon now for people to leave office at 6:00 pm. If you're the most committed and hardworking staff, you will be the last to leave office. So everyone is trying to outdo one another by going home last! But what are we working so hard for? Seldom it is for God - not even in the church--because God is not a Taskmaster. When we are over-worked and overwhelmed, we are no longer working for God but for man.
Father, teach us to differentiate self-driven and Spirit-driven work, even if it's done in Your name. For You are no Taskmaster--You are God who gives us time to rest, to eat and to play. Amen.