Depression and Anxiety, 18 November 2018

When Being Down Gets Dangerous (Depression and Anxiety)
D6 Series—When Life Gets Hard
1 Kings 19; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 5:7; Revelation 21:4

Series Overview:
In this world we will have trouble, but we are never alone.

Big Idea: Depression and anxiety are real…but not insurmountable with help.


He was one of the greatest, most godly people in the Bible. He had just seen God do one of the most incredible miracles in the history of the world, literally calling fire down from heaven! “When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” (1 Kings 18:39) What a moment!

In the very next chapter, 1 Kings 19, it says

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:3-4)

We’ve all had bad days, perhaps even bad months. This has been a challenging year for our church with a great many losses of various kinds. But have you ever asked God to take your life? Have you ever been so depressed you wanted to die…or even tried to die?

I want to give you—especially parents—a heads-up; our subject for today is heavy. Today as we continue our series
When Life Gets Hard, we’re going to look at the subject of anxiety and depression: when being down gets dangerous. If it seems like suicide is a growing problem in our nation, it’s because it is. The CDC reports it grew 24% between 1999 and 2014 and continues to rise. It’s the second leading cause of death for young people between 15 and 24 and the third for those between 10 and 14, yet it has been growing the most among men in their fifties. And every day more than 20 veterans and active military members take their life.

Anxiety and depression do not always lead to such an extreme outcome, of course, but they can be debilitating. There are three types of people listening to me right now: those who have or are experiencing mental illness, those who are helping those with mental illness, and those who simply don’t understand it. I hope to provide biblical help and encouragement to all of you today.

Depression and anxiety
are real human experiences. The ADAA reports anxiety affects 40 million adults in the US. Although anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only 36.9% of sufferers receive treatment. Nearly half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. And I know it is impacting many people in this room.

Elijah certainly experienced anxiety and depression, ironically following one of the greatest triumphs of his life. Let me set the scene.

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah the prophet meets Ahab the king and accuses him and his family of abandoning the LORD and following the false prophets of Baal. Then,

Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing. (1 Kings 18:21)

Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’S prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” (1 Kings 18:22-24)

Elijah offers a challenge. He says let’s each take a bull, put it on the altar, and see whose God will set it on fire.

The people shouted for hours, dancing and calling on the name of Baal to deliver fire to the altar. Nothing happens.

At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. (1 Kings 18:27-28)

Evening comes, Elijah gets his altar ready, has the people dump four large jars of water on the offering and on the wood. And again. And a third time. The altar is soaked. The crowd is watching and waiting. Elijah prays to God.

Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” (1 Kings 18:38-39)

Elijah and the LORD are victorious, the prophets of Baal are seized, and Elijah announces the end of a famine as a heavy rain begins. The next chapter begins:

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” (1 Kings 19:1-2)

You have to admit, when the queen wants your head, it’s understandable to be concerned, but Elijah had just seen God’s power unleashed on Mount Carmel in front of the masses. Surely God can deal with an angry queen! This is Elijah the prophet!

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:3-4)

Elijah is a godly man, yet he freaked out. His actions exasperated the situation. He literally runs away, abandoning his servant, and later meditates on his mistreatment and hides in a cave! These behaviors are not unlike those who suffer with anxiety and depression.

God has uniquely created you and me. Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s masterpiece. Despite being made in His image, we all have flaws. We have physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual weaknesses. Although our souls are eternal, our bodies and minds have significant limitations.

Unfortunately, many have dismissed mental illness as imaginary or the result of demons. While our bodies are flawed and decaying as a result of sin, mental illness can be every bit as real as a physical issue…and can often have the same causes.

If mental illness were simply a spiritual issue, only non-Christians would struggle. Furthermore, godly men like Elijah would never even think of asking God to take their lives.

I’ve been privileged to have several friends who are Jesus-loving, Bible-based Christian counselors. I want to acknowledge some of my material today is from Eileen Sappington from Ann Arbor. Here are some important facts to consider:

- All cultures have had problems with mental illnesses.

- Mental illnesses can affect any age, race, religion, or income.

- Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing.

- In many cultures, those with a mental illness were considered the bottom of society and were often locked away in jails, back rooms, abused in Asylums, and used for entertainment.

- Christianity and mental illness is a complex issue, even for professional counselors and therapists, theologians, pastors, and Christian researchers.

As Christians, we have historically had no problem helping those suffering from heart disease and cancer, but we often blame mental illness on the patient. Many Christians have been told “If you just prayed more and developed a better attitude, you wouldn’t be so depressed.” Tell that to Elijah! He was a prayer warrior! James even wrote,

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. (James 5:17)

Like heart disease, mental illness can hit any of us, and can subsequently impact all of us.

Obviously our time is very limited. There’s no way in half an hour or half a day I could ever fully address all of the issues related to mental illness, but I want you to hear a story and then I want to share some next steps for all of us.

My Story: Kaytee Schultze, Celebrate Recovery assimilation coach

For those of you taking notes, I’ve already said

Depression and anxiety are real human experiences.

If you encounter someone struggling, ask how you can help. Ask how you can pray for them. Don’t try to fix them! Seek understanding. Listen.

God gives us wisdom.

This is true for the struggling, the friends, and the professionals alike. Surgeons don’t have all of the answers, therapists don’t have all of the answers, but God does. I don’t know why He says “no” or “wait” when we cry out to Him, but I do know He is good and faithful.

Our scripture reading for today says

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

I know, I don’t like trials, either, let alone consider them pure joy! However, trials have a purpose. This includes physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, and relational trials. The bottom line for every follower of Jesus is God’s glory. We might not understand our present sufferings, but someday we will. I’m not saying life is easy. I’m not saying, “Don’t worry, be happy!” But I am saying we need to lean into God…and one another. As we noted recently in the psalms, we can be real with God. Peter wrote,

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

It might not feel like it, but it’s a fact.

Often we struggle because we’re so focused on our own issues we fail to look to God. We need to seek His wisdom, His perspective. He even promises to give it!

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:6-8)

Often God has used trials in my life to get my attention, to develop humility, to bring me to my knees in surrender. God never seeks to harm us, but life can hurt. As we are shaped into the image of Jesus, the potter’s tools can be uncomfortable as our pride, comfort, and selfishness are chiseled away.

If you’re struggling with mental illness, I want to offer a few simple resources:

- The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is

- The Battle Ready podcast, episode 2 (mental illness), available in audio and video

- Celebrate Recovery, Wednesdays at 7 PM in the Fellowship Hall, 2214 Monroe

- Professional Counseling with Jane Ginter from
Christian Care Connection

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook (not a Christian publication)

- Tell a friend, spouse, co-worker, church staff member; don’t do this alone!

- Fill your mind with the truth. Garbage in, garbage out. Good stuff in, good stuff out. I’m not being simplistic, but rather stating the importance of our environment, our entertainment, our minds. My wife’s favorite scripture says,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

At any given moment, I can list 100 things I’d like to change about life…but also 100 things for which I’m thankful and blessed. In EVERY situation, present your requests to God…with thanksgiving! That’s a prescription for peace. It’s not a quick-fix, cure-all, but it is a timeless truth which we could probably all practice more. I know I could!!!!

God can use therapy, medication, exercise, prayer, and friendship to address emotional problems. As I said, it usually takes time and effort like most physical healing. But be encouraged.

God gives us hope.

Even while we struggle in this life, help is available. Healing is possible. Hope is real. And while I want to be careful not to be simplistic, this world is temporary, a mere speck on the timeline of eternity. Here’s what we have to look forward to:

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

And finally,

God is always with us.

Again, I’m not saying it always feels like it, and I realize the valid response, “If God is with us, why doesn’t He do something about my misery?”

I don’t know.
I don’t understand why.
I have many questions for God. Many involve mental illness.

Although I have never been diagnosed with a condition, members of my family have dealt with anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anorexia. When it first appeared, I was confused, troubled, and searching for answers. After years of loving family members and friends through mental illness, I’m still searching for answers. I’m still confused and troubled. But I know God is with us. That’s what Christmas is all about…Emmanuel, God with us. And since God dwells in each follower of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, that means Christians are to be Jesus with skin on, serving, listening, helping, and loving others, whether the struggle is financial, physical, relational, spiritual, or mental.

I want to share something written by someone I deeply love. I’ll protect their identity, but I was given permission to share this social media post.

I have OCD. Like, the real kind. Diagnosed at age 7. It has messed up my life more than anyone can imagine. I was diagnosed with depression at age 10. I’ve just come to accept the fact that that will always be part of my life. I’ve been hospitalized for psychiatric care. One of the worst experiences of my life. Other patients asked me what I was doing there because I seemed so “normal”.

That’s the thing about mental health. It’s the part of the iceberg you can’t see. Sometimes it’s really easy to hide. Other times, not so much. But I rarely talk about it because I’m so much more than my dysfunctional brain.

I’m a third grade teacher.
I’m a graduate student at Columbia University.
I’m a dog mom.
I’m a NYC resident.
I’m a theatre geek.

I am not my illnesses.


The struggle is real. Regardless of your present sufferings, there is help and wisdom and hope available.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalms 42:5)

Mental Illness Resources

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook
NAMI Toledo, National Alliance on Mental Illness
Christian Care Connection (counseling on our church campus)
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800.273.TALK
Celebrate Recovery, Wednesdays at 7 PM, 2214 Monroe Street, Toledo
Directory of Toledo area Christian counselors

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.