Cure for de­pres­sion is in a still, small voice

The Covington News - - RELIGION - The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace Lutheran Church in Cov­ing­ton. Wor­ship ev­ery Sun­day is at 8 and 10:30 a.m. Full ser­mons and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at abid­ing­grace.com.

Last week, we started talk­ing about de­pres­sion by look­ing at the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19. If you missed that, you can find it un­der “ser­mons” at www.abid­ing­grace.com. We looked at notic­ing the signs of de­pres­sion and see­ing the dangers of those tell-tale signs, from fo­cus­ing on feel­ings in­stead of facts, to tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for things you’re not re­spon­si­ble for, to with­draw­ing to “be alone.” We fo­cused a lot on the prob­lem of de­pres­sion. This week, let’s see the so­lu­tion.

In 1 Kings 19, we find Elijah frus­trated, alone, tired and hun­gry. We find him de­pressed. And then we get to verse 5: “All at once an an­gel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’”

It is here we see God work­ing. To his tired, wornout, hun­gry ser­vant, God sends his an­gel to take care of the ba­sic needs that Elijah, in his stress and fear, was ig­nor­ing. He gave him food. He let him rest. And then he gave him food again. Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate this. When we get so stressed and worked up, we ne­glect the ba­sic bless­ings that God has right here for us. We don’t eat well. We don’t sleep well. But here we see God pro­vid­ing those things for Elijah.

But that’s not even the half of it. Look at verses 9 and 10. God gets his ser­vant to talk about his prob­lems, “What are you do­ing here Elijah?”

Sound fa­mil­iar? It should. The Bi­ble tells us in 1 Peter, “Cast all your anx­i­ety on him be­cause he cares for you.” In Psalm 50, the LORD in­vites us to, “Call upon me in the day of trou- ble; I will de­liver you.” God gets his ser­vant pray­ing, speak­ing out loud his prob­lems. In fact, he asks him twice to ex­plain him­self, to make Elijah ac­tu­ally ar­tic­u­late what is go­ing on in his head, just like he wants us to do. Don’t bot­tle up your prob­lems in­side. Talk it out, to God and maybe even to a brother or sis­ter in Christ.

And look at what hap­pens when Elijah does. Elijah puts it out there. Twice he says it out loud: “I’m all alone. My work is worth­less. I can’t han­dle it.”

The re­al­ity was some­thing quite dif­fer­ent, but first God just let him talk. He lis­tened. And then God showed him some­thing, and not the kind of thing Elijah was look­ing for. Look at verse 11. “Go out and stand on the moun­tain in the pres­ence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”

And re­mem­ber what Elijah had just been through. He he had seen a pow­er­ful mir­a­cle and a great vic­tory but now was frus­trated be­cause it didn’t have the ef­fects he thought it would.

So God shows him a pow­er­ful wind, but the LORD was not in the wind; that’s not where God’s real power of pres­ence is. He shows him a mighty earth­quake — but no, that’s not the LORD ei­ther. Then a blaz­ing fire — but no, still no God — even though God had just given Elijah that great vic­tory through fire on Mt. Carmel. That wasn’t re­ally how he did his real work. Then, verse 12: “Af­ter the fire came a gen­tle whis­per. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” There was God — in the gen­tle whis­per.

The big­gest feats of strength we can wish for and think that they will solve all the prob­lems? No. That’s not what we need. It’s the still, small voice, even the whis­per of God’s Word. There is strength, for Elijah and for you. The still, small voice — in the Word of ab­so­lu­tion, “You are for­given,” in the taste of bread and wine in com­mu­nion — the sim­ple, quiet, small-look­ing things. Think about it. God comes in the qui­etest ways: the baby born in a nowhere town sheep pen (the boy be­ing one of hun­dreds who trav­eled with his fam­ily to visit the tem­ple); the man who gen­tly touched the leper and made mud for the eyes of the blind man; the one who qui­etly blessed the food and dis­trib­uted it to thou­sands; and the one whose heart went out for the peo­ple. The one who said noth­ing when he was ac­cused and was led like a sheep to the slaugh­ter.

The power was not in our Sav­ior cut­ting off the heads of his cap­tors, but in touch­ing the sol­dier’s ear. The power was not to make Pon­tius Pi­late bow, but to will­ingly bow to the jus­tice for our sins. The cru­ci­fix­ion of a man did not look pow­er­ful — but think of what it ac­com­plished.

In his quiet blood, all con­straints hold­ing us are re­leased. In his hum­ble death, all pow­ers against us van­ish. And in his life, in his res­ur­rec­tion, we have strength. And God brings that Word to you at church, on the quiet melody of a hymn, not in the yelling and scream­ing or en­ter­tain­ing of the preacher, but in the power of the Word, even when it is whis­pered.

No spec­tac­u­lar dis­play of power could ever do more to cure de­pres­sion, be­cause, just like all those celebri­ties I listed last week have learned, de­pres­sion isn’t tied to our suc­cesses or fail­ures as we think. The so­lu­tion is in God’s still, small voice — the mes­sage that He is with us, whether or not any­one or any­thing else is. And once he has got­ten us to see that — he gives us pur­pose in life. The rest of our text is God giv­ing Elijah a job to do. God will use him. And you, reader, God will use you. Friends, God has a job for you, too. Share this still, small voice. Be the an­gel to your broth­ers and sis­ters who need you. In Christ Amen.

JONATHAN SCHARF COLUM­NIST

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