I Kings 19.3-5
“Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But 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 under a broom tree.”
There is a name for the mental ability to recover quickly from setbacks and adversity. It’s called Resilience.
Unfortunately, Elijah wasn’t resilient. He reacted to the threat from Jezebel with fear, despair, and depression.
Elijah displayed the classic symptoms: Physically exhausted and emotionally depleted. Withdrawal, deep loneliness, and a sense of abandonment. The false belief that no one understands. Brooding over feelings of inadequacy and apparent failure. Self-doubt, self-pity, and even self-destructive thoughts.
Elijah’s emotional state is revealed when he says to God: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” In other words, “I can’t take it any more. Just let me die.” And then Elijah lays down and falls asleep under a juniper tree. You get the sense from the passage that Elijah was hoping never to wake up from the nap. He wanted God to take his life.
Needless to say, this negative emotional reaction rendered Elijah ineffective for God. It took him out of the fight.
There is a warning here for us in the 21st century. It is imperative the followers of Christ develop spiritual and emotional resilience … that we build the skills of mental discipline and apply those skills when confronted with the inevitable difficulties and adversity of life in a broken world.
Resilience starts in the mind. So does despair. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said, “Take every thought captive to obey Christ.” There is no neutral ground with this. If we don’t manage our thoughts, then our thoughts will manage us. Elijah allowed negative thoughts to dominate his mind, and therefore his emotional state was negative. He was taken captive by undisciplined thinking and mismanaged emotion.
When we are caught in a pattern of negative thinking and feeling, we must break the cycle. We must interrupt the pattern. We must do what Paul wrote and “take our thoughts captive.”
Scripture calls it repentance. The Greek word for repentance is metanoeo: meta means “change” and noeo means “to think.” Therefore, to repent means “to change your thinking.”
Because of its impact on your emotional state, the ability to “take every thought captive” and “change your thinking” is one of the most important spiritual disciplines in the Christian life.
At this point Elijah is stuck in a negative pattern. We will continue to follow Elijah’s story to see how the Lord leads him out of it.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.” (Psalm 27)
The Lord is calling.