The Depression after the Victory

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”     -1 Kings 19:4

In my tradition, we often malign the prophet Elijah for his extraordinary change in disposition. He went from man of faith to man of fear and from calling down fire from heaven to fleeing from the fire of persecution. Often times people wants their heroes to demonstrate unshakeable conviction and perfect faith no matter the circumstances. It’s the price that leaders pay.

The reality is that no matter who we are or what we accomplish, every person is human and is susceptible to our own humanity. Yesterday’s victories are unable to always sustain great faith today.

Elijah fell into profound discouragement and fatigue after having miraculously defeating the prophets of Baal in extraordinary fashion (1 Kings 18:1-40) and then praying for rainstorm (1 Kings 18:41-46). After a great series of victories, he falls into such a great depression that he desires death.

If you are in ministry, you understand that Elijah is not dramatizing. The “depression after the victory” is a very real consequence of being active in the Kingdom. If you haven’t desired to quit ministry on a Monday morning, chances are that you will soon—especially after moments of great physical and spiritual exertion.

In spite of all of this, it is evident through the rest of the story that God is always active in helping us deal with “the depression after the victory.” The following three points can be seen through the narrative in 1 Kings 19:

First—God leads Elijah in to rest (1 Kings 19:5).

Those of us in ministry need to be careful not to make permanent decisions when we are physically, mentally, or spiritually unqualified to do so. This is why it is essential that we guard our moments of rest and prioritize where we invest our time. God and family need to take priority over our churches and ministries.

Let me preface the following statement by saying that although it might seem like a pessimistic view of the church, the truth is that people are generally lead more by their flesh than their spirits. What might seem like good ideas are not always God ideas… and few people have the discernment to know the difference.

Consider that those same people, who demand so much of your time, will normally be the last ones to help you as you suffer through a divorce or see your kids fall into spiritual demise. Those who demand are normally the most critical and divisive. And it is NEVER a good idea to let these people set your agenda (see Galatians 1:10).

Therefore, rest and enjoy your family and your personal time. Work as the Holy Spirit leads you and let God handle the rest. Walk (and rest) by faith, not by sight.

Second—God reminds Elijah of his mission (1 Kings 19:13).

In biblical terms, pastors and those in ministry are not employees in service of a board or congregation. It is a call from God to do the work that needs to be done on this earth. Corporate Christianity is merely a masquerade for trying to apply a capitalistic approach to something that is spiritual. I’ve known too many pastors who have fallen into depression while trying to fulfill the desire of certain members while ignoring what God is asking them to do. (The pressure of supporting a family while in ministry is understood by precious few).

As Elijah suffered from solitary depression, God reminds him that his call comes from no other place than from him. Elijah needed to understand that the work set before him was holy work—a task that is meant to fulfill the divine purpose on earth and is not predicated on the opinions or thoughts of man.

Yes, there will be always an enemy to fight. There will always be criticism of the pastor and the minister. There will always be challenges, pain, and heartbreak. But the same one who called us is also the one who will not only sustain us but give us victory!

After all, it’s not our church, its God’s! When we fight in God’s name, we can topple anything in our path! (See 1 Samuel 17 for a vivid example!) We need to fight “the depression after the victory” with the Lord’s strength!

Third—God tells Elijah that his purpose for his life is not over (1 Kings 19:15-18)

God’s call leads to purpose, and that purpose is to fulfill our destiny. In the case of Elijah, he still needed to anoint people (i.e. affirm people into their destinies) while also setting up his line of spiritual succession through Elisha. In short, there was still work left to do.

Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves that God doesn’t suffer moments of stress as he see events unfold in our lives or in his Kingdom. In fact, God cannot be surprised since he is a sovereign, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God!

If God has called you into a position of ministry (in my opinion, the greatest thing ever), then rest assured that God didn’t make a mistake. He has a purpose for you! You have work left to do.

Again: GOD DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES. EVER!

The “depression after the victory” is made null and void when we understand the above points.

In closing: Elijah was just like us…

The Scriptures say it all…

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” James 5:17-18

In the end, we will never be perfect. Our faith might be tried and tested. We might fall into depression. But we will always have God on our side to help us get through it.

I pray that all of you out there in ministry will have a 2013 full of blessing and success! Happy New Year!