The Second Part of a Nine Part Series which began on February 10, 2016
Over the years I’ve come to realize that many of God’s solutions are surprisingly simple and straight forward. So rather than starting with what causes depression, I want to talk about three things that help a person stay mentally healthy.
First, We all need rest
Elijah had a tremendous victory in I Kings, chapter 18. He saw several miraculous things happen: a fierce fire from heaven consumed a burnt offering; Israel turned back to God; justice fell on the prophets of Baal; and a long drought ended. God was God, and he demonstrated his power to Elijah and all Israel.
But in chapter 19, Elijah’s mood quickly changes. He received a death threat from Queen Jezebel and ran for his life. The Bible says that Elijah went into the wilderness, sat down under a Juniper tree and prayed that he might die (I Kings 19:4). He went from victory to hopelessness and despair. His experience dramatically illustrates a basic truth of life – anyone can become discouraged.
The last sentence in verse 4 reveals the depth of the prophet’s hopelessness: “Take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” Elijah was exhausted and felt like a failure. Have you ever felt like a failure? It hurts deeply to feel you have disappointed yourself, another person, or God. A part of depression is the belief that you have failed and that the future holds no hope for you.
(Keil, 1980, 252-255. Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 3). Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).
In I Kings 19:5-7, God had Elijah sleep, eat, drink, and sleep some more. We often ignore these basic needs in times of stress. Proper attention to the physical needs of the body is essential to spiritual growth and maturity. As humans, created by God, we must live within the limitations of the physical body God provided for us. We cannot overestimate the importance of proper diet, exercise, and rest. Care for physical needs is so important that God sent an angel whose only assignment was to help Elijah by taking care of his body.
God wanted Elijah to rest, so it’s not surprising that current research continues to address the benefits of sleep. “Without restful sleep, mood, concentration, and mental performance suffer. Sleep deprivation is a major cause of car crashes and other accidents, and it has been linked to important medical problems ranging from hypertension, obesity, and diabetes to heart disease.
(Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School. Learning while you sleep: Dream or reality? Harvard Men’s Health Watch. February 1, 2012. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/learning-while-you-sleep-dream-or-reality).
The body heals itself during sleep. Daniel G. Amen, a prominent clinical neuroscientist, says that “one of the fastest ways to age is by getting less than seven or eight hours of sleep at night. People who typically get six hours of sleep or less have lower overall blood flow to the brain, which hurts its function.”
(Amen, D. G. (2012). Use Your Brain to Change Your Age. New York: Harmony Books).
Dr James P Porowski Raleigh NC February 11, 2016