In my mental health struggles, I have often wondered if mental health was biblical, if it was ever mentioned in the Bible. I have often wondered if it was a sin to feel as I felt. I felt isolated, as if I was the only one who struggled with a mental health issue, and I felt guilty and ashamed for struggling. Although the Bible does not specifically mention depression or other mental health issues, the Bible talks about being brokenhearted, downcast, in despair, miserable, and in mourning. Throughout my journey I have found examples that speak about mental health issues. I’d like to share an example of mental health and hope in the Bible, one of my favorite stories to which I relate.
1 Kings 19 tells the story of Elijah, a prophet, who was afflicted with depression. Elijah was discouraged, weary, and afraid after running away from the threats of Jezabel after his victories in Baal. He dropped to his knees and pleaded with God to take his life:
“I have had enough Lord, he said. Take my life, I am not better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4
Elijah had just come from a huge battle, and he was exhausted, burnt out, and afraid for his life. He ran away. When he arrived at Judah, he left his servant there, his support. When we struggle with depression, we often isolate ourselves and desire to be alone. Elijah did that. He then went a day’s journey into the wilderness, alone, and asked God to take his life. Elijah was suicidal. Elijah waited for the answer…yet, God did not answer him. Elijah’s prayer went unanswered. Feeling defeated, worn, exhausted, and full of fear, he laid down and fell asleep. Elijah had given up.
Suddenly, an angel the Lord had sent woke Elijah, who told him to get up and eat. There, provided for him, was bread and water. He obeyed by eating and drinking, and then laid back down. The angel came back to him a second time and woke him, requesting that he eat and drink again, but this time, foreshadowed that Elijah was going to be on a long journey which would be too much for him in his current state without the sustenance of the food and drink. Again, Elijah obeyed and ate, which granted him the strength to travel on the long journey.
In his struggle of hopelessness and despair, Elijah felt alone, much as we often do when we are struggling. Yet, God did not condemn Elijah. God did not disown Elijah for being honest with him. God did not become angry with Elijah. Instead, God sent help, His strength. He sent His strength through an angel. You see, God sends us help through others, whether it be the people who ask if we are okay, members of the church, random strangers whom we encounter, unknowingly sent by God to help us. In our own struggles, God is sending us help through others. In Elijah’s time of need, God sent what Elijah needed. God sent His strength to Elijah through food and water, through an angel. God foresaw the journey that Elijah was about to take, and he helped him. God is helping us, too. Not only did God send food and water, God also allowed Elijah to rest. God could have commanded him to rise up and begin the journey after the first time the angel woke him up, yet God chose not to. God knew he was not ready to move forward yet…God still had some work to do in him first. To me, that’s beautiful.
I recall a point in time in my own story which found me on the floor in my home, crying out to God, pleading with him to take my life. With tears streaming down my face and my body wracked with sobs, I cried out in anger, frustration, fear, guilt, and shame. You see, I felt very much the same as Elijah felt. I had battled against the thoughts in my head, I had come back from depression before, yet this time I felt weary, tired, abandoned, and I felt as if I could not fight anymore. I sat there after I cried out to God, yet…He did not answer me. He did not answer that heart-felt plea of a desperate heart, and I didn’t understand why. As I went out to my car, to finish what I had set out to do to end my life, I received a text, which turned into multiple texts, which turned into multiple phone calls. God was sending me an angel. That was His answer. That God-sent friend reached out to me, leading to a 3-hour phone call that saved my life that day. God gave me the strength to endure the long, strenuous journey ahead through someone He sent to me.
God knows what we need. When God allowed Elijah to rest, He was allowing Elijah to “Be still and know that I am God.” Sometimes being still is allowing ourselves to rest. Often, we expect ourselves to progress through our mental health journey so quickly as if we are on a sprint, and we choose to get up and move forward when it’s not time yet. Other times we refuse to get up and move forward when God is telling us that we are ready. Just as Elijah’s journey was a long journey, our mental health recovery journey is a long journey too. God is trying to prepare us for that journey, that marathon. It’s one day at a time, not one race at a time. Let us be still and know that He is God. Let us trust that He knows exactly what we need in our time of need. Let us know that He does not condemn us for our struggles. Let us have faith that our God is and always will be the protector of our souls. Let us remember that God is sending us help through others, whether that be through the church, mental health professionals, doctors, family, and friends, or anything else God chooses to send.
Let us be still and trust that He can help us in our mental health recovery.
April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor