The Elijah Complex

Elijah was a “man of God.” He had just witnessed the power of God displayed against the prophets of Baal. When Jezebel heard of it, she responded, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them” (1 Kgs 19:2). This incredible man of God was afraid and ran for his life. He left his servant in Beersheba and went a day’s journey into the desert. He ran because he believed a lie, just as any one of us can. Then he cried out in despair, “’I have had enough Lord,’ . . . ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under a tree and fell asleep” (vss. 4,5).

Elijah was exhibiting many of the classic signs of depression. He was afraid, fatigued, felt like a helpless failure, isolated and all alone. That can happen after a mountaintop experience. Brimming with confidence and flushed with victory, Elijah was vulnerable. Confidence in God can easily turn to self-confidence when we let our guard down. God in His mercy prescribed some food and rest for His discouraged warrior. “All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water” (vss. 5,6).

We can become depressed when our electrolytes are depleted and our bodies are malfunctioning for lack of nutrition, as was probably the case for Elijah. God addressed these deficiencies by prescribing food and rest. However, the precipitating cause for Elijah’s depression was not physical. This faithful servant had always been obedient to God, but now the Lord asks him twice, “What are you doing here, Elijah” (vss. 9,13). Elijah responds, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (vs. 10). Elijah ran, because he believed a lie, not because God sent him into the wilderness, and Elijah wasn’t the only one left. There were 7,000 others who had not bowed their knees to Baal (vs. 18).

God was not asking Elijah (or us) to establish His kingdom or bring judgment upon those who did not keep His covenant. He was asking Elijah (and us) to trust Him and follow wherever He leads. He will bring judgment in due time, and establish His kingdom His way, and in His timing. Elijah was assuming sole responsibility for doing it himself and ended up mentally depressed and physically exhausted.

Dr. Neil

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