In 1 Kings 19 Elijah hears that Queen Jezebel wants to kill him, so he “ran for his life” (v. 3). Just four verses earlier Elijah “ran in the power of the Lord” (18:46) but now he is running scared. After 42 days of despondent wandering, Elijah ends up in a cave and God asks Elijah, “Why are you here?” (v. 9).
Elijah’s answer seems unresponsive. He tells God — as though He didn’t already know! — all about the spiritual conditions in Israel, but he never really answers the “why” question. God reveals Himself to Elijah more intimately (as “a gentle whisper” [v. 12]) and asks him again, “Why are you here?” (v. 13). Elijah gives the same, word-for-word answer.
During difficult times — when my “enemies” seem too numerous to count or too big to defeat — the eyes of my soul become cloudy. It becomes harder to look out and so I naturally tend to look inward. As a result I become the center of my entire universe: “Now they are trying to kill me!”
In Psalm 42-43 the psalmist is clearly depressed. Look at his inward, me-focused questions —
- When can I go and meet with God? (42:2)
- My enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?” (42:3)
- Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? (42:5, 11; 43:5)
- Why have You forgotten me? (42:9)
- Why have You rejected me? (43:2)
Just as God’s question to Elijah was supposed to get him to look outward, the psalmist does begin to turn his gaze from himself. But notice how he does it —
- My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You (42:6)
- Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God (42:11; 43:5)
When I’m battling depression, it takes an act of my will to praise God, to look outward and upward. Feelings follow actions. I don’t feel like praising Him because my problems feel so overwhelming, but when I will to praise Him, the feelings will follow.
Look how David did it —
I will extol the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together. (Psalm 34:1-3)
My friend, if you are depressed — if you have become inward focused — only an act of your will can lift you out of this funk.
Use your willpower to act — look out — look up — praise God — and the clouds over your soul will begin to lift!