What is the story of the prophet Elijah’s breakdown? How did Elijah repent? What are the steps taken for forgiveness, his assurance, and the result of his life?
After the great victory Elijah got to witness as God used him to speak against the prophets of Baal on Mount Caramel in 1 Kings 18, Queen Jezebel threatened Elijah, causing him to run into the wilderness to protect his own life (1 Kings 19).
We find out later in the chapter that the reason he fled from the queen into the wilderness was because he believed he was the only servant left for the Lord. Out of everyone in Israel he found out that day that the Lord had seven thousand people who had not bowed their need to the fake idol Baal.
As it sometimes happens after great spiritual victories like Elijah experienced, a deep depression can set in, especially in Elijah’s case when the queen threatened him. The same Elijah that stood up to the wicked king and queen of Israel ran this time.
I think part of it goes to how much he did for God in his ministry. Eventually, if ministers are not careful, they burn out. I would not consider this account of Elijah’s life the necessary steps for forgiveness. I think it was more from depression that Elijah acted the way he did.
I think he was tired of doing so much in Israel without his word being listened to. Or perhaps his original thought was to guard himself as the last servant of the Lord. Either way, Elijah experienced what many ministers experience, depression.
Some people believe that Christians should never be depressed because we have the joy of the Lord inside of us. However, like anyone else, we can easily suffer depression and various levels. We should never think that this is sin that we must repent from.
The great part about Elijah’s story in the wilderness is that God stepped in and restored him from his depression so that he could continue to serve the Lord until the end of his life. You can tell that Elijah is depressed because he is more than willing to give up even his own life to call it quits.
God won’t allow it because he’s not finished with Elijah quite yet. Instead of giving in to what Elijah wants to do, God focuses on how he can use Elijah. Elijah just needs to be recharged and revived so he can continue God’s ministry.
So God sends an Angel to take care of Elijah in this time. The Angel feeds protects Elijah. It takes care of his every need until he has regained his strength. And after that, God will speak in the most intimate way to Elijah to recharge him.
God calls Elijah to go to Mount Sinai, that place where his presence dwelt on that out before. You will remember that God came down on Mount Sinai and gave the Israelites the law. His presence was there with Moses when Moses asked God to see his glory.
So Elijah goes to the same place. As you’ll see the presence of the Lord. But what amazes me about Elijah is that he must’ve had a very intimate and powerful relationship with the Lord. When he gets to Mount Sinai, he hides himself in the cleft of the rock.
Three signs of God’s presence come through on the mountain. First it is the mighty wind that breaks the rocks of the mountain. Next, it is a great earthquake. And third, a fire consumes the mountain. All of these have been signs of God’s presence in the past.
But Elijah knows that these are not God’s presence. They are just the beginning of his presence arriving. It’s not until Elijah hears the still small voice of God as he goes out onto the mountain to speak with him.
God asked Elijah what he is doing there. He makes his case, but none of us ever win our own case against the Almighty God. God uses Elijah’s understanding to reveal to him that he is wrong on his perspective. With renewed perspective, God also promises that Elijah will receive an assistant, Elisha.
Elisha will be the next prophet for God in Israel. Elijah must teach him everything so that he can take on the ministry instead of Elijah. As we continue to read his story, after he trains Elisha, Elijah is taken up in a whirlwind chariot to heaven. He is one of two men to never experience death in the Bible.
Elijah was a mighty man of God, a prophet for the ages. But even he experienced weakness and depression in his ministry. No one is free from these things. We all experience these things to what extent or another. But that is always there to help us through them.