Did Elijah suffer from mental health struggles?

1 Kings 19:3-5 – [Elijah] was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life…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.” And he lay down and slept…

In this scene from 1 Kings 19:1-8, we see Elijah go from the highest of highs calling down fire from Heaven on Mount Carmel and God bringing rain in answer to his plea after three years, to running for his life. Despite seeing God do the impossible for him, Jezebel’s threat to kill Elijah came with demonic oppression so powerful that he “ran for his life…into the wilderness…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.’ And he lay down and slept under a broom tree.” (1 Kings 19:3-5) Jezebel was so possessed that the demonic in and around her came over and oppressed Elijah. 

Jezebel is the most extreme example of a domineering, overbearing, controlling wife. She doubled down on control after the demonic “gods” she demanded be worshipped in Israel lost the battle on Mount Carmel to the real God of whom she had torn down the churches, closed the Bible teaching schools, and killed the prophets. This is the telltale sign of the demonic Jezebel spirit – control at all costs, emotional fury, and a complete unwillingness to repent. She makes an oath to her demon “gods” that Elijah will be martyred for standing up for his God. Her demonic power is so great that it overwhelms Elijah.

Abraham Heschel once wrote, “To be a prophet is both a distinction and an affliction.” This is true of all ministry calling, especially the prophetic, because the stronger the anointing, the deeper the suffering. It has been said that an hour of good old-fashioned Bible preaching taxes the preacher the same amount as working a full eight-hour day at another job. This is because not only do people show up to church, so do demons. Their anti-ministry causes ministry to be like running in water up to your waist. It is exhausting. Most pastoral resignations, we are told, happen on Mondays when the preacher is spiritually depleted and depressed. This is precisely the letdown Elijah is experiencing and needing to recover from. 

Paul describes this same low point saying, “we were completely overwhelmed –beyond our strength – so that we even despaired of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8, HCSB). On a very dark day, Jeremiah the prophet was upset with God saying in 24:14-18, “because he did not kill me in the womb”, wished “my mother would have been my grave” and asked, “Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?” Following repeated spiritual war that gutted his life, Job “opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth” (Job 3:1).

What bouts have you had with spiritual depression?

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