I Am Depressed, What Shall I Do?

1 Kings

I Am Depressed, What Shall I Do?

May 9th, 1982 @ 7:30 PM

But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
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Dr. W. A.  Criswell

1 Kings 19:4

5-09-82     7:30 p.m.




And welcome to the great throngs of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio, on KCBI, the Sonshine station of our Center of Biblical Studies, and a program of which is in our Sunday Reminder today and tonight, and on KRLD, the great voice of the Southwest.  This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message entitled I Am Depressed, What Shall I Do?

We are going to turn to 1 Kings; and there in the home where you are, turn with us.  And we shall read the first four verses of the nineteenth chapter of 1 Kings; 1 Kings, chapter 19, back there, right in the first third of the Old Testament; 1 Kings, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 Kings, chapter 19.  And we shall read the first four verses out loud together.  Now all of us together, 1 Kings 19: 1-4; now let us read it:


And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 

Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. 

And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth 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 juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. 

[1 Kings 19:1-4]


“I am discouraged, I am blue, I am in despair. I am depressed,” and that is a universal experience.  All of us fall into those black holes.  We are sucked into it, and however we may seek to fight against it, there are times in our lives when we are down, when we are blue.  There has always been, so far as I know, blues songs: sing me a “somebody has done me wrong song,” blues, they’ve always been sung. 


When a man gets blue, when a man gets blue,

He hops the train and rides. 

When a man gets blue, when a man gets blue,

He hops the train and rides. 

When a man gets blue, when a man gets blue,

He hops the train and rides. 


When a woman gets blue, when a woman gets blue,

She sits right down and cries. 

When a woman gets blue, when a woman gets blue,

She sits right down and cries. 

When a woman gets blue, when a woman gets blue,

She sits right down and cries. 

[Author unknown]


Ain’t that so? All of us sense that, all of us.  That’s one of the reasons that young people seek a “high,” as they call it; they want to get up, and they’re down without it, so they experiment with drugs to get up.  That’s one reason also, the despondency and the despair and the disappointment and the blues of life, that more than 28,000 people every year take their lives in America.  They take poison or they jump out of an apartment house, a tall building, or they take a gun and take their lives; more than 28,000 every year commit suicide. 

I read one time where a man met Death on the way to the city, and the man said to Death, “What are you going to do?” 

And Death said, “I’m going into the city, and I’m going to kill 10,000 people.” 

And the man said to Death, “That’s terrible.” 

And Death shrugged his shoulder and said, “But that’s the way it is.” 

So he went into the city and killed 10,000 people—10,000 died.  And the next day, coming from the city, the man met Death returning.  And he said to Death, “You told me you were going to kill 10,000, but you killed 70,000.” 

And Death replied, “I killed 10,000, as I told you; the rest of them died of worry and of fear.” 

It is an universal experience—despondency and discouragement—an abysmal sense of being down.  Now, this is not peculiar to us who live in this generation, it is a characteristic of human life through all of the generations.  In the Bible, in the third chapter of the Book of Job, you listen to Job:


Job opened his mouth, and cursed his day . . . and said,

Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. 

Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it. 

Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. 

As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months.

[Job 3:1-6]


Did you ever hear a man talk like that?


Let that night be solitary; let no joyful noise come therein. 

Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up their mourning.

Let the stars of the twilight be dark; let it look for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day: 

Because it shut not up the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes. 

Why died I not from the womb? Why did not I give up the ghost when I came out of my mother’s body?

Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul;

Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures;

Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?

 [Job 3:7-11, 20-22]


Now, that is Job.  And you may think, “Well, he’s just by himself.” You listen to David in the forty-second Psalm:


Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me…

O my God, my soul is cast down . . .

Deep calleth unto deep. . .

All Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over me.

[Psalm 42:5-7]

And listen to him as he cries again:


Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. 

I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.

I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for God.

Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. 

Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.

Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, and there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.

 [Psalm 69:1-3, 14-15, 20]


Those are infinitely sad words.  I haven’t time to read the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities,” says Solomon, “everything is vanity” [Ecclesiastes 1:2].  It has no purpose or meaning.  Listen to Isaiah, as he mourns, as he cries; in Isaiah 59:


Judgment is far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. 

We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men… 

We mourn sore like doves.”

[Isaiah 59:9-11]


And when I hear the mournful cry of a dove, I think of that passage. 

“We look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us” [Isaiah 59:11].  Now that is in the Bible, these are men of God, and they are in bitterness of soul.  They are in despair.  Now, when we come out of the Bible and look at godly men through their generations, I haven’t time to recount the inward story of the great saints of God, who lived in bitterness of soul, who were despondent. 

Martin Luther, the leader of the great Reformation, was so oftentimes down in the depths.  William Cowper, who wrote, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” and many of the other great hymns of the church, lived on the verge of taking his own life most of the time that he was grown.  Charles Haddon Spurgeon was the greatest preacher—eloquent, moving, powerful—there has been none like him since the apostle Paul.  Charles Haddon Spurgeon fell into such tragic despondency until he became ill, sad of heart; deep down in the abyss.  When John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, he was writing of the Christian life and experience when Pilgrim came to the Slough of Despond and found himself sucked down and wallowing in the mire.  It’s been through all of the centuries; it’s a part of human life. 

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was born in 460 BC, 460 years before Christ.  And he studied this phenomenon in human life—despondency, despair—and he labeled it; he was the first one to label it, to give it a scientific name.  He called it “melancholia”—melas, the Greek word for “black,” and cholē, the Greek word for “bile” or “gall.”  Melancholia, the black gall, the black bile; melancholia, an affliction of all mankind, and all of us fall into it.  It is a universal experience.  We are blue sometimes, we are discouraged sometimes, we are down sometimes; we fall into hopelessness and helplessness.  We just do. 

Now, in the life of this great prophet Elijah, we’re going to see why it was he fell into despair, into despondency, into discouragement, and what God did, which would be what God would do for us.  First of all, as the Bible tells the story brilliantly, dramatically, in the nineteenth chapter of 1 Kings [1 Kings 19]; why did he fall into despondency and discouragement and despair?  First of all, because of his disappointment in his hour of success; I don’t know of any story in literature more dramatic than the triumph of Elijah on Mt. Carmel [1 Kings 18:19-40].  All Israel is gathered there, and Jezebel’s four hundred fifty prophets of Baal [1 Kings 18:19-20].  And he challenges them to pray fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice on the altar.  And the prophets of Baal cried all day long; they cut themselves, and no fire fell [1 Kings 18:22-29]. 

Then Elijah, at the time of the evening sacrifice, bowed down and prayed, “O God.”  And the Lord answered by fire from heaven, consumed the sacrifice, consumed the wood, consumed the stones, consumed the water in the ditch, poured around the altar.  It was a triumph, and in that triumph, this prophet Elijah slew the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal.  It was a day of enormous victory [1 Kings 18:36-40].  And then, in the strength of that triumph, he ran before the chariot of Ahab all the way from Mt. Carmel to Jezreel, something like twenty miles [1 Kings 18:46].  And the next day, the next day, when Ahab told Jezebel, his wife the queen, what Elijah had done [1 Kings 19:1], she sent word to Elijah and said, “May the gods do more to me than you have done to my prophets, if your life is not like one of them at this very moment tomorrow” [1 Kings 19:2]. 

The sign of God from heaven, the fire that fell [1 Kings 18:38], and the rain that came [1 Kings 18:45], meant nothing to Jezebel.  She was like a tigress robbed of her whelps.  Well, what would you have expected of Elijah?  Yesterday he stood before Ahab and those four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and he championed fearlessly the cause of God [1 Kings 18:19-40].  That’s what he’s going to do before Jezebel.  Yes?

Even Chrysostom, John Chrysostom, when the empress Eudoxia built a heathen temple right in front of his church in Constantinople and filled it with gods and all kinds of orgies, John Chrysostom stood up and denounced her—the queen and empress of the Roman Empire!  She finally encompassed his excommunication and his exile and his death, but he did it! 

Wouldn’t you have expected that of Elijah?  Wouldn’t you think he would stand there and lead out his seven thousand that had not bowed the knee to Baal? [1 Kings 19:18].  Many a revolution has over-toppled a government that had fewer terrorists in it than that.  No, when he found himself confronted by this heathen queen, Jezebel, it says here that he arose and went for his life [1 Kings 19:3].  And that’s the second reason why we fall into despair. 

The first reason; when we are disappointed in our success, when we’re disappointed in what we had dreamed for and hoped for, and things don’t come as we had supposed.  And second; and when he saw that, he arose and went for his life [1 Kings 19:3].  He took his eyes off of God and put them on Jezebel [1 Kings 19:2-3].  He took his eyes off of God and put them on himself.  “And I”—listen to this—“even I only, am left: and they seek my life, to take it away” [1 Kings 19:10].

Whenever we take our eyes off of God and begin to look around us, you are going to fall into abysmal discouragement.  You just are.  The down look is always black and drear, hopeless and helpless.  Do you remember the story of Simon Peter, when—in the storm at sea; Jesus came to the little band in the boat walking on the water?  They were affrighted.  They thought it must be a spirit; a man doesn’t walk on the water.  And Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.  It is I.”  And Simon Peter said, “Lord, if it be You, bid me come unto Thee” [Matthew 14:25-28].

And the Lord was complimented at the faith of His apostle.  He always is.  And He said to Simon Peter, “Come.”  And the apostle stepped out of the boat, on the water, and walked to Jesus.  Then on the way, he took his eyes off of the Lord and began to look at the winds and the waves, and he began to sink [Matthew 14:29-31].  All of us are that way.  As long as we have our eyes on the Lord, everything is bright.  It’s victorious.  Everything works for us, we’re victory; we are on the way to success however things turn out.  But when we take our eyes off of the Lord, we’re going to fall into discouragement and despair.  Things aren’t going to be as we had thought, as we had planned, as we had hoped for.  It’s just the turn of life.  Our only hope lies in God, not in ourselves or not in providence, or not in circumstance, but in the Lord. 

“When he saw that, he went for his life” [1 Kings 19:3].  A third reason why he was discouraged and despondent: you look at the tremendous, physical weariness to which he subjected himself.  He’s not the only one that runs before the chariot of Ahab.  We all at times in our lives try to do it.  We try to keep up with the Joneses.  We try to follow along with our peers.  We try to listen to those and try to outdo, or to go beyond, or to excel, or to exceed.  That’s just a part of the way we are in life.  And if we don’t have what they have and if we don’t excel what they do, then we fall into discouragement and into despair.  And that’s what Elijah did, running before the chariot of Ahab all the way to Jezreel [1 Kings 18:46].  And not only that, when he went for his life, he walked all the way, ran all the way to Beersheba.   That’s way down into Negev.  And then, leaving his servant there, he plodded on by himself [1 Kings 19:3].  And in weariness, worn out, he sat down under a juniper tree and requested that he might die [1 Kings 19:4].  Now physical exhaustion will have that repercussion in you.  When you get too tired over too long a period of time, you just write it down; you’re going to fall into discouragement and despondency.  The human body was just made to do so much, and when you go beyond that, you’re going to find yourself discouraged.  You just will. 

Then another thing, this man Elijah—when God asked him, “Elijah, what doest thou here?” he refused to answer [1 Kings 19:9-10].   He said, “Lord I am the only one that champions Thy name.” Why didn’t Elijah say to the Lord why it was that he was there?  What he had done was, he’d quit.  He had run away.  He lay his task aside and put down his tool of work.  He quit.  And when we turn aside from our God-given task and quit, you’re going to find yourself just like Elijah.  Life loses its meaning, its purpose.  We’re not doing what God called us to do.  And we finally fall into despair. 

Now, I want you to look for a moment at what God does with this despondent, despairing, discouraged prophet.  Verse 5: “And as he lay and slept under that juniper tree” [1 Kings 19:5], what does God do?  Does God upbraid him?  Does God curse him?  Does God dismiss him?  Does God say words of reproach?  No!  He is wonderfully tender with that discouraged and despondent prophet who is weary, who has quit, who is running away, who has been disillusioned, thinking that he was successful.  Now that he sees all that he has done turned to dust and ashes, how does God treat him?  “As he lay there, God sent an angel and touched him, and said, Arise and eat.  And he looked, and there was a cake baked on the coals, and a cruse of water.  And he did eat and drink.  And the angel came the second time, and said, Arise and eat” [1 Kings 19:5-7]; refreshment of body and of soul.  That’s the first thing God did for him—sleep, eat, rest, drink, and find strength and refreshment of spirit and body.  Do you see the attitude of the Lord toward this despondent prophet?  He is tender, and kind, and sympathetic, and understanding. 

I want to show that to you.  You cannot know the number of times in my pastoral work that I have been asked, “If a man commits suicide, is he saved?  Can a man commit suicide and go to heaven?”  Especially, is that poignantly asked when I hold a memorial service, a funeral service for somebody who has committed suicide, “Is this man who has committed suicide, is he saved?  By committing suicide, taking his own life, is he thereby damned in hell and shut out from God forever?”  Well, I’ve always answered in this one way, which is the truth of God.  Any man, any somebody—mostly it’s young people who do it; isn’t that a sad thing?  It isn’t old people that commit suicide.  It’s usually younger people.  When I am asked that, this is what I reply.  “Anybody that commits suicide is ill in their mind and heart.  You can be ill, you can be sick in your foot.  You can be sick in your stomach.  You can be sick in your lungs.  You can be sick in your eyes.  You can be sick in any organ of your body.  You can also be sick in your soul.  You can be sick in your heart.  You can be sick enough to die!  Well, “I ask,” if a man is sick in his physical frame, does God love him any less because he is sick?  If a man is sick in his soul, if he’s sick in his mind—sick unto death, to the extent that he took his life—is God any less kind to him or unsympathetic with him because he’s sick in his soul, sick in his mind?  No!  God is pitiful to me when I’m sick in my physical frame, and He is no less gracious and pitiful to me if I am sick in my mind or sick in my heart.”

And you have a marvelous, incomparable illustration of that in how God reacted to the despondency and the despair of Elijah. This man is running away.  And he sits down under a juniper tree and asks to die [1 Kings 19:4].  And the Lord was kind, and thoughtful, and gracious, and pitiful, and fed him that he might be refreshed in body, and sent an angel that he might be strengthened in his soul [1 Kings 19:5-7]. 

And then, look at this: God speaks to Elijah in a parable of nature, a marvelous, marvelous lesson.  Look at it just for a moment: he ran all the way down to Mt. Horeb, Mt. Sinai, in the Sinaitic Peninsula—just returned to Egypt, he went all the way down there, and while he was there staying in a cave [1 Kings 19:8-9], God said to him, “Go forth and stand on the mount.”  And he went forth,” verse 11, “and the Lord passed by, and there was a great and strong wind that rent the mountains” [1 Kings 19:11].  It’s like the Moriah that blew the stars around, it shook the very rocks—great, strong and mighty wind—but God was not in the wind.  Then, there was a mighty earthquake, and the very mountain heaved, God was not in the earthquake [1 Kings 19:11].  And then after the earthquake, there was a great burning fire: but the Lord was not in the fire and after the fire, a still, small voice [1 Kings 19:12].  Now, you listen to me: our idea of triumph is the same idea of success that Elijah had.  My brother, on top of Mt. Carmel, with God answering prayer, and the fire falls and the rain comes, man, that’s God! [1 Kings 18:37-45].  That’s what we think.  All of us think that.  When God shakes the earth and when the wind piles the rocks around, when the fire falls and burns, man, that’s God, that’s Mt. Carmel.  But God, in this nature parable, said to Elijah, “That is not God, the earthquake and the wind and the fire.”  God was in the still, small voice [1 Kings 19:11-12]. 

You know what you young people think?  You think, “Man, man!  These are the great of the earth, these cataclysmic, successful overcomers.”  Well, let’s look at them and just see.  Jay Gould, in his day, was the richest man in the world, and he said, “I am the most miserable man on this earth.”  Ivan Krueger was the head of the world’s largest monopoly, and he committed suicide!  Charles Lamb, one of the dearest, sweetest authors in English literature, he said, “I walk up and down thinking I’m happy, but I know I am not.”  Stephen Foster, who wrote those beautiful hymns of the South, died at the age of thirty-eight in a drunkard’s death.  Edgar Allan Poe, the famous poet, drank himself to death.  Napoleon died a lonely and miserable death when he was in his fifties in the South Atlantic.  Hannibal took his own life by poison. 

You all are too young, most of you, to remember Mussolini.  Mussolini: he epitomized, he was the very personification of a great, mighty, Fascist dictator!  Goodness, I remember reading about Mussolini, who headed Italy for the years and the years.  He was the great modern Caesar!  I could never forget the picture on the front page of the daily papers.  There he was, hung by his heels, naked and mutilated—and by his side, his mistress, naked and mutilated—both of them, hanging there by their heels.  You think, “Man, that’s success!”  This is cataclysmic!  This is the dictator of all Italy.

Some of your greatest poets teach us that.  Bobby Burns lived a desolate life and wrote those famous lines:


Pleasures are like poppies spread,

You seize the flow’r, the bloom is shed;

Or like the snow falls on the river,

A moment white-then gone for ever;

Or like the rainbow’s [lovely form]

 Vanishing in the storm…

Or like the Borealis race,

That flit ere you can point their place;

[“Tam o’Shanter,” Robert Burns]


Did you know that poem by Lord Byron, who was a desolate sinner?  He was the pampered, not only of England, but the entire world, Lord Byron.  Do you remember the poem that begins:


My days are in the yellow leaf; 

The flower and fruits of love are gone;

The worm, the canker, and the grief

are mine alone!

[“On My Thirty-Sixth Year,” Alfred, Lord Byron]


Do you remember that poem?  Do you remember the title of it?  “On My Thirty-sixth Birthday,” and he died. 

That’s your idea; it was Elijah’s idea; these cataclysmic successes!  Man, we shake the earth.  The mountains are in an upheaval before us.  That’s success, that’s triumph; that’s Mt. Carmel!  These men have experienced the very pinnacles of success and they drink themselves to death.  Don’t you read the papers?  Who are the people that commit suicide?  I’d pick out a Hollywood queen.  Who are these people that drink themselves to death?  I’d pick out a movie star.  Who are these people that they make drugs almost licit?  They’re out there in that big world, but they are so miserable they could die; that’s nature’s parable.

Look, my friend, look.  You never hear the roll of the planets, never.  You never hear the distillation of the dew, never.  You never hear the sun rise in the morning; even though the light plays on a baby’s cheek, the baby doesn’t awaken, so soft.  You don’t hear the budding of the trees in the spring.  You don’t hear the germinating of the seed in the field.  We live in the midst of mighty forces all around us.  You don’t hear them.  It’s in the still, small voice of God [1 Kings 19:12].  And listening to that inner speaking of our Lord, we find the purpose, and the meaning, and the successes of life. 

I close: what did the still small voice say to Elijah? [1 Kings 19:12].  This is what He said.  In the nineteenth chapter of this Book of 1 Kings, God said to him—in the fifteenth verse—the Lord said unto him, “Return.  Elijah, get up and go back,” go back to your task; go back to your work.  Go, return, “And when you come to Damascus, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: and anoint Jehu to be king over Israel: and anoint Elisha to be prophet in thy room.” [1 Kings 19:15-16]  There’s more in that than I have hours to speak of, but I take one little piece of it.  “Elijah, you go back.  You go back where you came from.  There is work to do, Elijah.  And, Elijah, in your returning, annoint Elisha to be a prophet in your place, in your room.”  My brother, what that means for us is, we have work to do.  These children must be brought up in the love of God.  We’ve got preachers to license and ordain.  We’ve got missionaries to send out.  We have young men and young woman to build Christian homes.  You’d have to have an iron heart not to be moved by those little children up here singing, “God, Give Us Christian Homes.” 

On the way to my prayer meeting in the minister’s room, Jodi Majors brought me her little girl, Molly.  And the little child hugged me and kissed me, and she speaks words of loving Jesus and loving the Lord.  That’s what life is all about, and these great cataclysmic earthquakes and wind and fire that we read about in the lives of others, it is nothing to God, nor is it to the world.  What changes the world are those humble ministries, “Elijah, you go back.  And you anoint Elisha to take your place as a prophet” [1 Kings 19:16], we’ve got our children to rear, we’ve got our Christian homes to build; we’ve got the kingdom of God to represent.  We’ve got the gospel to preach, we have the church to keep shining as a lighthouse—quiet, humble, precious ministries.  You won’t make a headline in the paper doing them, but in God’s sight they change the world. 

And may I add one concluding remark?  When I give myself to those humble ministries, my heart overflows with song.  God is with us, He helps us, His blessings are upon us, and I am not discouraged anymore.  Now may we stand together?

Our Lord, what a wonderful thing if we could remember the word of Jeremiah the prophet, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not” [Jeremiah 45:5].

When we aspire to stand on Mt. Carmel and command the fire to fall down from God out of heaven to burn up the altar, Lord, Lord, what a dramatic picture, what success! [1 Kings 18:24, 37-39].  But it was in that still small voice that God moved [1 Kings 19:12], and that dramatic experience on the top of Mt. Carmel but later plunged Elijah into the depths of despair [1 Kings 19:3-4].  We can’t stay up there all the time, and for us to seek after those mighty experiences, as though they were normal, is of all things abnormal.  But in listening to the still small voice, and in these quiet ministries of sowing seed, asking God to make it germinate and grow; in these quiet ministries of guiding the life of a little child; in these humble, humble, prayerful, earnest efforts to encourage our young people to build Christian homes, to love God; O Lord, in how many ways does the Holy Spirit teach us, if we will just listen to His voice.

And in this moment that we stand before our Lord in prayer, a family you coming to the Lord and to us, welcome.  A couple you giving your life to Jesus and to us, welcome.  A one somebody you accepting Christ as your Savior [Romans 10:9-10], following Him in baptism [Matthew 3:13-17], giving your whole life to our Savior, welcome.  And in a moment when we sing, if you are in the balcony, down one of those stairways, in the throng of this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, tonight I have decided for God, and here I come.”  Welcome.  God bless you.  Angels attend you in the way as you come.  And thank You Lord for the sweet harvest You give us tonight.  In Thy name, amen.  While we sing, come.