Ecclesiastes 3:4 – A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance.
Hebrews 4:16 – Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Psalm 130 – Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning – Yes, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and wit Him is abundant redemption, and He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
Sooner or later, we all feel sad, down, or blue. Life happens. Solomon wrote of this in Ecclesiastes and the writer of Hebrews assures us we will have times of need in our lives. However, occasionally, the sadness can become overwhelming and turn into a deeper level of emotional turmoil and can affect us in many different ways.
This deep level of sadness can be caused by a number of different things including stress, fear, loneliness, guilt, and anger. David wrote his sadness came from unconfessed sin, leading to a groaning in his soul and a loss of strength (Ps 38). God used sadness to get Nehemiah’s attention to do his work (Neh 1 and 2). Job experienced financial, personal, and relational losses that led him to curse the day he had been born (Job 1-3). Elijah was so sad after a great victory that he wanted to die ( 1 Kings 19:4).
How do we know when our sadness has moved from a simple sadness to a more concerning depth? Scripture tells us many symptoms to watch for. Psalm 102 describes David’s battle with this. “Let my cry come to You.” He write of feeling stricken physically and described losing meaning and purpose in his life: “My days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned like a hearth. My heart is stricken and withered like grass.” (102:3-4). He lost his appetite: “I forget to eat my bread.” (102:4). He felt isolated and rejected: “I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert. “ (102:6). He couldn’t sleep: “I lie awake.” (102:7). He had frequent crying spells: “I have eaten ashes for bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.” (102:9).
Elijah demonstrated both healthy and unhealthy responses to sadness (1 Kings 19). After the great victory on Mount Carmel, his life was threatened and he became afraid. He focused on the situation instead of focusing on God. His fear eventually became so intense, he ran away, isolated himself, and prayed he would die. A summary of his behavior can be described as the HALT syndrome – a very vulnerable place for anyone to be. At his most sad state, he was:
· Hungry – He stopped eating
· Angry – he was mad at God for not caring about him
· Lonely – He left his servant and traveled alone
· Tired – He collapsed into sleep
God counteracted this syndrome in Elijah’s life at every level. He responded by providing food for Elijah. An angel touched Elijah, reminding him he was not alone. Two times God encouraged Elijah to regain his strength by eating, drinking, and resting. God brought him out of the HALT syndrome, which enabled Elijah to listen and obey.
This story reminds me of the importance of having a real and personal relationship with God . When I’m sad, I can feel like running away just like Elijah. I have to avoid isolating myself, tempting as that may be at times. I have to remember that, no matter how hopeless I might feel at the moment, God is ready to help and all I have to do is accept that help. I need to remember to listen to God. That is where I find my strength and encouragement. That is where I find the ability to cope with life’s tribulations and that is where I find my hope.