• Matt Beaney

#518 (5/1/22). OVERCOMING SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION THROUGH REST


On Sunday, we saw how Elijah, a great man of God, got so spiritually depressed that he didn’t want to go on living! This is included in the Bible so as to encourage us as we, and most of us do to different degrees, go through such dark times.


Before Edison’s invention of the light bulb in 1879, the average person slept for 11 hours each night! Any research into sleep will reveal its importance. The vast majority of us need around 8 hours of sleep each night. You may be able to operate on less, but you will not be operating at your best and you will do harm to your wellbeing both spiritually and physically. Dr. Matthew Walker, in his book, Why We Sleep, warns us that,

‘Based on epidemiological studies of average sleep time, millions of individuals unwittingly spend years of their life in a sub-optimal state of psychological and physiological functioning, never maximising their potential of mind or body due to their blind persistence in sleeping too little. Sixty years of scientific research prevent me from accepting anyone who tells me that he or she can “get by on just four or five hours of sleep a night just fine.”’

He also writes,

‘Based on a rich, new scientific understanding of sleep, we no longer have to ask what sleep is good for. Instead, we are now forced to wonder whether there are any biological functions that do not benefit by a good night’s sleep.’

Elijah, at his point of hopelessness, was exhausted and needed rest. We read,

‘Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”’ (1 Kings 19:5-10)

His negative perspective was not completely wrong, however, it was being magnified by his exhaustion. After sufficient rest, the problems are still there, but they just look less overwhelming.


Unlike God, we need rest. Rest and sleep remind us that we are not God. When God created the world, He commanded us to set aside one day in seven in which to rest. The Christian’s relationship with the Sabbath is complex, however, we, surely, are to learn that we need at least one day each week in which we rest from our usual work. The Psalmist teaches us,

‘In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.’ (Psalm 127:2)

The Father gifts us with sleep. It is vain - useless and prideful - to burn the candle at both ends. Jordan Raynor, in his book Redeeming Your Time, encourages us,

‘In our “hustle” culture, this truth is easily overlooked. The world will often tell you that if you want to get more done, you must “work harder,” “burn the midnight oil,” or “sleep when you’re dead.” In this chapter, I’ll propose that the opposite is true. In order to do more, most of us need to do less and rest more.’

Jesus teaches us the same principle when after a busy period of ministry, Jesus was concerned that His disciples get sufficient rest.

‘The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.’ (Mark 6:30-32)

Jesus invites us, “Come with me, by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’. As with Elijah, as with the disciples, Jesus wants to refresh us.


Elijah needed rest. Spiritual depression is eased through sufficient rest. Spiritual vitality is enflamed by sufficient rest. How are you doing in your sleep and physical rest? I think that we would be on shaky ground to teach that Christians are to have a weekly ‘sabbath’. However, when do you take time off to renew yourself physically? Are your sleep habits healthy? Here are a couple of resources that you might like to explore:


Deep Sleep - a 12-day Exploration of Biblical Sleep:

https://thewholeheartedmd.com/deep-sleep-landing/


Jordan Raynor, The Call to Master Podcast where he interviews Dr. Benjamin Long (Sleep Medicine Physician).

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-call-to-mastery-with-jordan-raynor/id1481085636?i=1000536226516



OVER TO YOU - PRAY AND WORSHIP OUT OF THE BIBLE

I’ve made a few comments. However, it’s more important that you engage with the text yourself. Take a moment to pray and listen to God’s voice out of today’s text.

‘In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.’ (Psalm 127:2)

I find it helpful to use the following questions which are based upon The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13).


1. Praise - What does this text teach me about God? What can I praise Him for?

2. Petitions - What does this teach me about His will for me and others? What could I pray for from this text? This is a good time to pray for our non-believing. friends. It’s good to ask, Is the Holy Spirit leading me in any specific response?

3. Peace-making - Is the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin for which I need forgiveness? Do I need to forgive others?

4. Protection - Ask for God’s protection generally and for any specific areas of vulnerability. Am I believing lies regarding the truths in this text?

 

COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY

1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.

Important - this Sunday, our service is both live in the building and on Zoom from 10:30. Please go to the website for the Zoom link.

 

2. Icebreaker

What have been your high's and low's over the last few weeks?

Secondly, do you have anything encouraging to share on how God spoken to you from the Bible recently?

 

3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group


On Sunday, we saw how Elijah, a great man of God, got so spiritually depressed that he didn’t want to go on living! This is included in the Bible so as to encourage us as we, and most of us do to different degrees, go through such dark times.


Elijah had just had an amazing, miraculous victory. He had seen fire fall from heaven and had defeated the prophets of Baal. He should be on top of the world. Instead, Elijah was in despair. We read,

‘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.” 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.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.’ (1 Kings 19:1-5)

God wants to renew and revive us. Elijah is illustrative of this. We read,

‘Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.’ (1 Kings 19:5-8)

MEAN S OF SPIRITUAL RENEWAL

God keeps and renews us from spiritual depression in many ways. Here are some examples:

i) Eat and drink what is good - Do we eat and drink in ways that promote health?

ii) Eat and drink spiritually - Elijah's story of illustrative of how we need to feed on Jesus by the word and prayer. He tell us,

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35)

iii) Rest - Sleep and rest are God's gifts for our physical and spiritual health.

iv) Resting in Christ (resting in grace) - Knowing that our salvation (justification) is a gift through faith alone. Knowing that our fruitfulness rests on the Spirit rather than our overworking.

v) Friendship - We need friends who will strengthen us in God. Christopher Ash in his book, ‘Zeal Without Burnout’ wrote about this,

‘One of the best things I did during my year of nervous exhaustion was to restart a prayer triplet with two other men. I should have done this years before, but somehow it had been postponed until the crisis came.’

Discussion questions

i) Did you feel that God spoke to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?

ii) Out of 10 (0 being really bad) how spiritually excited are you and what are the reasons for your answer?

iii) Out of the 5 means of spiritual renewal that I've included above, what do you most need to work on and how could you do that?







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