What's The Use?

Huddled in the darkness of a cave all alone, Elijah continued to beat his drum of depression. How had God’s prophet ended up here after the powerful victory over the false prophets on Mt. Carmel? The fire of the Lord had fallen upon his soggy sacrifice and altar to send up even the rocks in a pillar of smoke. Israel had shouted, “Yahweh He is God.” So why was Elijah feeling so beaten down?
Like most depression, the initial impetus for his all-pervading gloom was a particular situation. The fury of an evil, powerful woman had been focused upon him. Jezebel had vowed upon her own life that Elijah would be slaughtered within the next 24 hours.
A shroud of fear had covered Elijah’s heart driving him to run for his life. Undoubtedly, an endless tape had played over and over again in his head with each step as he ran. Those thoughts initially spilled forth in a summary fashion under a broom tree south of Beersheba. “I have had enough, LORD. Take my life.” 1 Kings 19:4 Later, in the darkness of a cave Elijah poured out before the Lord the details that had hounded his mind. In essence he said, “Look at everything I have done. But it was all in vain. What’s the use?”
Is this not a mirror for how depression even today fuels those feelings of defeat which can shut down the activity of God’s servants?
? Look at all that I’ve done to win my spouse to serve the Lord. Nothing has changed. What’s the use?
? I have tried to love my spouse, but my spouse is so unresponsive. There’s no hope for our marriage to improve. There is no reason for me to keep trying.
? I have sent out resumes, but it’s been to no avail. I might as well give up. It does not make any difference.
? Look at how hard I’ve tried to reach others with the gospel, but no one is responding. What is the use in trying anymore?
? I have sacrificed and worked hard at church, but what difference has it made in the attitudes and lives of people? What reason is there to keep trying?
Before describing a path out of the woods, several observations are in order. First, depression tends to focus on self rather than the goal. Second, as someone begins to dwell upon negative thoughts that pattern of thinking will trigger brain-based chemical reactions causing a person to feel depressed and hopeless. The natural response to feeling depressed is to try to find more evidence to justify feeling so bad. Thus the vicious cycle of the pity party and feeling defeated is unleashed! You can read Elijah’s wallowing in 1 Kings 19:10, 14. Similarly, all evidence which points toward a positive conclusion is either ignored or reinterpreted negatively.
What did the Lord do for Elijah? Three things. First, he gave him concrete actions to perform. 1 Kings 19:15-16 Second, he gave him hope. Elijah’s actions would produce results. 1 Kings. 19:17 Third, God provided information that contradicted Elijah’s negative beliefs. 1 Kings 19:18
God does the same for us today. God calls us to focus upon deliberately taking action to fulfill our purposes. Those purposes range from conducting ourselves in a manner which will cause God to be glorified, in spite of our situation, to spreading the gospel. Furthermore, regardless of how others might respond to what we are doing, there is reward for those disciples who use their time and resources in faithful stewardship. How I live now does make a difference!
Not only this, but we are not bound by hopeless situations. Scripture assures us that prayer is powerful. Sure, there are forces of evil, but God and Christ are more powerful!
As a child of the King, living faithfully does make a difference! But the path out of the gloom requires making the decision to leave the dark cave behind in order to take those first steps.

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They are the parents of two young men.

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