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Sep 25, 2021 08:00am
7 Ways to Climb Out of the Pit
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As I write this, another change of season seems to be upon us. It’s a little cooler. The days are getting shorter. And pumpkin spice is popping up everywhere. The change in the daily temperatures was fairly drastic for us. We were over 90 degrees every day one week but needed a light jacket in the mornings and evenings the next.

For some, the end of summer comes way too soon. For others, it doesn’t come nearly fast enough. But it always happens about this time of year, whether we like it or not. Seasons are just a fact of life.

Seasons in other areas of our lives are just as certain as the seasons of the calendar. But they are much less predictable. Events can seemingly hit us out of nowhere and can put us in a season that we neither want nor are prepared for.

While we may have seasons where life seems very good, there will also be seasons where we just seem to exist through them on the treadmill of life. And then there are those where we can barely make it through each day.

They can take us into pits of despair and depression that seem beyond our ability to handle. But handle them we must. And with God’s help we can.

As long as we cooperate.

THE EXAMPLE OF ELIJAH

Perhaps my favorite story in the Bible’s Old Testament involves one of God’s very discouraged servants. It is my favorite story for a particular personal reason, but we’ll get to that later.

In 1 Kings 19, we pick up the story of Elijah. He was in the midst of one of those seasons of extreme success, but in a moment’s notice, his season changed. He quickly went from a mountaintop season of success to a valley season of despair.

All because of a threat to his wellbeing. 

It really didn’t matter if the threat was realistic or not. It didn’t occur to Elijah that the threat might not be credible. It didn’t matter to him that he had a God that he could turn to and depend on.

He simply let the threat to his wellbeing overwhelm him and send him into an immediate downward   emotional spiral. We see self-pity and self-deception quickly replace rational thinking.

Sound familiar?

So what prompted this sudden change of seasons for Elijah?

In a word, it was fear: 

“Elijah was afraid and fled for his life.” (1 Kings 19:3)

Now, I am no mental health professional, counselor, pastor, or the like, but I believe that many of our seasons of anxiety and despair are brought on by fear at some level. It may be fear of failure, health fears, fear of rejection, fear of not being worthy, fear for our family, fear over our jobs, financial fears, or whatever. But at a core level, it is fear.

And like Elijah, instead of challenging our fears for reasonableness, we often fall victim to distorted thoughts and judgments, bad decisions, and ever-increasing regrets. Then before we know it, a self-perpetuating downward spiral engulfs us just like it did for him.

Elijah’s downward spiral was so severe that we quickly find this tragic picture of ultimate depression:

“He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die.” (1 Kings 19:4)

We see the picture of a man who had reached the point of giving up on life. Sure it was unreasonable, but in that moment, it was reasonable to him. It is interesting to me that the first prayer we see Elijah praying in this season of despair was a prayer to die. It seems that he let things get way too desperate before he prayed. I think there is a lesson there.

But in that very dark moment of his life, we see God providing angels to minister to Elijah’s emotional and physical needs. In our dark moments, He will also find a way to minister to our needs.

As long as we cooperate.

A QUESTION FOR ELIJAH

Then after we see God provide for Elijah’s immediate needs, we see Him ask Elijah a question. A question important enough that He asked it twice:

“Why are you here, Elijah?” (1Kings 19:9 & 13)

That is a question not only for Elijah but for each of us who find ourselves in seasons that we never wanted nor prepared for. How did this happen? What are the lessons from my situation? What is the “reason for my season”?

Until we are brutally honest with ourselves in answering that question, we are not cooperating with God in the handling of our circumstance.

Certainly, things happen that may have been completely out of our control. But often if we peel back the layers, we find something that God needs us to recognize and address. And it is only after we answer that question prayerfully and biblically that we open the door for God’s power to guide us through the stormy season. 

As long as we cooperate.

LESSONS FROM ELIJAH

Before we go, let me share a few simple yet profound lessons that we learn from Elijah’s painful descent into despair and depression:

1. Elijah fled instead of facing his fear. That didn’t work for him, and it won’t work for us.

2. Elijah went it alone. It is never God’s intention that we face our fears and problems alone. Seek help.

3. Elijah allowed himself to become physically exhausted, which contributed to his emotional deterioration. It is often when we allow ourselves to be physically drained that we react in regrettable ways. God designed our bodies for appropriate rest. Recognize the need.

4. Elijah did not take care of himself with proper nutrition and hydration to the point that God sent an angel to instruct him of his need for both. And the angel issued those instructions not once but twice. So that must be pretty important.

5. It appears that Elijah waited until the moment of complete desperation before turning to prayer. Certainly better late than never. But it seems to me that prayer should be our first response to any feeling of anxiety, fear, or discouragement. Or even better, a part of our everyday life in every season.

6. God asked Elijah a very direct question about his situation, “Why are you here, Elijah?”. And it was important enough that He asked it twice. He still asks that question of us today. We need to be brutally reflective and honest with our answer, painful as it may be

7. In the end, God gave Elijah a set of instructions to follow to move forward out of his season of depression. Likewise, He has similar instructions for us that can help us move forward.

As long as we cooperate.

ONE LAST THING

I mentioned earlier that this story is my favorite one from the Old Testament and that I would let you know why. It is because this was the topic of the sermon the morning that I truly accepted Christ into my life. I walked into the church building that morning for the first time in 32 years, not really understanding why I was there.

But as I sat down, I looked up at the screen on stage and saw these words:

“Why Are You Here, Elijah?”

Well, my name’s not Elijah, but I was quickly going to learn why I was there. It was time for me to face the “reason for my season”. It was time for me to surrender my life to Christ. And I thank God every day that I did.

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