With Postnatal/Postpartum depression I have found my faith and relationship with God really struggling. Therefore, it is a great encouragement that Scripture is so real. In it we get to read of and learn from the great heroes of Faith, who also struggled through life, just as we do.
Elijah is one of my favourites.
One might argue that Elijah had nothing to be depressed about. He had just experienced two incredible spiritual victories! Firstly the defeat of the prophets of Baal and then God’s answer to his prayers for rain. Talk about being on a spiritual high!
But it’s interesting note that often a great high is followed by a deep low. From the mountain down into the valley. This is especially true when a person has just experienced a high that required great deal of physical or emotional effort.
Mmm…sounds like childbirth!
A slide into a deep valley
The valley was a scary place for Elijah and he ran for his life. He ran away from the place of his victory perhaps thinking that by distancing himself he could escape the fear. He then went one step further and left his servant behind as he went alone into the wilderness.(vs 3&4)
I did the same. After the amazing experiences of giving birth to my children, reality would sink in and I would feel so overwhelmed by the responsibility of having to care for these little souls! There would be moments of sheer terror where I would think that I couldn’t cope and wanted to run from my responsibility as well as from everyone else. I would isolate myself alone in the wilderness.
The wilderness in Scripture is synonymous with a place of trial, testing and isolation from God. A place devoid of life and blessing. Not a nice place to be wandering aimlessly around. Yet in that barren place, Elijah found a solitary tree where he could rest and catch his breath. A glimmer of life in the desert. A reminder that even in our most desolate of moments, God always sends us hope and refuge.
As he sat down under the tree his emotions overwhelmed him and he pleaded with God to taken his life. This burden and heaviness of heart was too much for him to bear. He wanted to be free of it and death seemed to be the only option. Thoughts of death and suicide are common amongst those of us who suffer with depression. There were moments when even I have wished that I could go to sleep and just not wake up. Moments where I would look at another woman and think to myself, “She would make a better wife for Kobus and mother for my kids. They are better off without me.”
But thanks be to God that he knows our hearts and understands where our incoherent mumbling comes from! I love the fact that God doesn’t give Elijah a lecture on how silly he sounds and that he should be grateful for his life and ministry or that as a spiritual leader he should not be depressed, etc.
Many moms with Postnatal Depression suffer from the feelings of guilt placed on them by family and friends, “What do you have to feel depressed about? You have a loving husband, a beautiful healthy baby and a comfortable home in which to raise him? So, just chin up and count your blessings!”
God understands how fragile we are
Yet God understands how fragile our bodies are and how that if we are not well physically then every other part of us suffers too. We are physical, emotional and spiritual beings and each of those parts are interlinked.
So, he laid Elijah down to sleep and then later sent an angel with food and drink. Elijah woke up, ate and then went back to sleep again! When I read that I had a laugh. I always feel guilty if there are days when I can’t bring myself to do anything but eat and sleep. Now I know that it is a God-approved treatment for depression! Bring on the duvet and snacks!
But God didn’t leave him there to sleep his life away. Once Elijah was physically stronger, the angel came once more and sent him off in a journey to Mount Sinai where God would do some spiritual healing. (vs 7-9).
Part two to follow next week!
From my heart,