Why did Elijah get depressed? Because he played four mental games that all of us play when we get depressed. The first one is found in 1 Kings 19:3–4: “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life…. He came to a broom tree [a kind of desert shrub], sat down under it and prayed that he might die.” Then he said, in effect, “Lord, I’ve had enough! I don’t want to put up with it anymore. I’m just wasting my life. I’m trying to be your servant, but nobody’s doing what’s right. I’m fed up! It’s no use trying; I’m giving up.”
What was his first mistake? The same mistake we make when we get depressed: we focus on our feelings rather than on the facts. That always happens when we’re depressed. We focus on how we feel rather than on reality. Elijah felt like a failure because of one incident that frightened him. He thought to himself, “I’m such a coward—what am I doing running?” So because he felt like a failure, he assumed he was a failure.
This is called emotional reasoning, and it is destructive. It is the “I feel it, so it must be true” idea. Musicians, athletes, and TV stars—to name a few—know that often after a performance they feel as though they’ve flopped. Yet they also know that they must learn to ignore those feelings because feelings aren’t always true. Feelings are not facts; they can be highly unreliable.
For instance, a few weeks after I had been married to Kay, I woke up one morning and said, “You know, honey, I just don’t feel married.”
She replied, “It doesn’t matter, buddy. You are!”
I don’t always feel close to God either, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m far away from him. I don’t always feel like a Christian, but I am one. Feelings often lie, so when we focus on our feelings rather than on the facts, we are going to get into trouble. For instance, after we have made a mistake in one area, we tend to feel as if we are total failures in life. That’s a misconception. Everyone is entitled to make mistakes, and we can fail in some areas without being a failure as a person.
Most psychologists believe that one key to health is to get your feelings out in the open. Become aware. Vent your feelings. Get them out. But that’s not the complete answer, because feelings are unreliable. The Bible doesn’t tell us to get in touch with our feelings but to get in touch with the truth, because it’s the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).
Rick Warren, God’s Answers to Life’s Difficult Questions (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
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How to Cope with Stress
How Can I Rebound from Failure?
How Can I Defeat Depression?
How Can I Live Above Average?
How Can I Have Peace of Mind?
How Can I Handle Discouragement?
How Can I Overcome My Problems?
How Can I Be Confident In a Crisis?
How Can I Ever Change?
How Did I Get Myself in To This Mess?
How Can I Overcome Loneliness?
Why Is This Happening to Me?