Have you ever watched someone who, in your opinion, is on the road to self-destructing? You’re pretty sure they’re going to hit a wall, but they seem unaware of their destination.
Sometimes it’s the choices they’re making on the road to success. Other times it’s the choices they’re making in adversity.
Sometimes my opinion is wrong. They are more resilient than I thought. Or there are more positives going on than what I can see. Sometimes they make course corrections along the way.
Sometimes I’m right.
I have no idea if I'm usually right or wrong, but I suspect it’s harder for me to see when I’m the one making self-defeating decisions. I’m not talking only about moral, right from wrong decisions but also about unwise and unhealthy decisions.
1 Kings 19 records Elijah’s battle with deep discouragement, disillusionment, and despair.
The man who asked God to call down fire—and the fire came!—now asks God to take his life. He’s that discouraged.
We are not always the cause of our own emotional distress. Sometimes the cause can be traced to a medical condition.
Years ago I knew a guy whose personality changed from cheery to perpetually angry after a head injury. No one could deny the injury was the cause. But for some reason, a lot of people can’t get their heads around other medical/physical causes for emotional struggles, and they seem to always assume there are moral or spiritual causes.
Our emotional distress can have physical causes, and sometimes our circumstances or events are so traumatic that the only way out of deep discouragement is through a process of healing that takes time, lots of help, and tons of attention.
When you look at Elijah, there is a certain inevitability to his deep discouragement. Many of us relate to the discouragement that follows great, but hard fought victories.
At the same time, Elijah makes a series of decisions that would make any checklist of what to avoid if you want to be emotionally healthy. I can see his story being used as a case study on self-inflicted emotional turmoil in a psychology class. It reads like a recipe for discouragement.
So, this weekend we’ll look at that recipe and do some self-reflection. Maybe your small group or a good friend can offer you insight as outside observers.
But we’ll also look at how God patiently and gently encourages Elijah and offers a renewed perspective and a road to healing his emotions.
What God does for and says to Elijah is not just for him. It’s recorded in 1 Kings 19 for you and for me.
We’ll all get a lot out of his story. But do you have a friend who could also use some encouragement from God? Invite them to a weekend service.