My Story and Elijah's Story
by Carla Beiler
This month on the blog we will be featuring articles submitted by our readership. These personal testimonies are an extension of the print magazine's Spring issue theme of Story. Click here to order your copy.
I Kings 19 tells the incredible story of a man who did amazing things for God. Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal, proving to everyone watching who the True God is. As a result of that victory, Jezebel vowed to kill him. All of that part of the story is familiar to me, told to me often in my childhood. Look at the awesome power of God shown through a Godly man! But there is more to the story, a part often left out. After Jezebel threatened him, Elijah fled. He ran to mountains, and then he prayed to die. This holy man of God, used to show God’s power, was so full of despair he asked God to take his life. This is the part of the story I was so rarely told, but has become vitally important to me.
I am Elijah. I have not performed great wonders for God, but I have prayed to die. Repeatedly. Day after day the only prayer on my lips was a prayer for death. I was so full of darkness and depression that I could find no desire to live. I begged for relief from crushing pain. I felt I deserved death. I had suffered a head injury, and was forced to stop living my life as a result. I was the girl who loved to socialize, who loved her teaching job, who was optimistic and excited about life. My concussion changed everything. I could not socialize. I had to take a break from my job one week after school started. I could not be optimistic; I hated my life. God had allowed all that to be taken away, so I deserved this favor from Him.
I had been warned that depression is a major side effect of concussions. I was expecting to be depressed. But no warning could have ever prepared me for the darkness that was before me. I knew so little about depression, but I quickly learned. It is numbness and agonizing pain at the same time. It is paralyzing. It sucks the life out of everything it touches. I could not withstand the pain. I was weak. I prayed, but Jesus was silent. I prayed for healing, but when it did not come I prayed for death. The silence that answered all my prayers was deafening. Was He even there? I stopped praying at all and became consumed with death. I thought about how I could end my life. If Jesus would not take me to Him, then I would take myself to Him.
In all that darkness there were several pinpricks of light. My family. My friends. Picturing the devastation they would feel at my death helped keep me here. But it was barely enough. I could feel myself slipping farther into the abyss of depression with no way out. But in the darkness of that abyss, there was something I could not shake. A song that would not leave me. The chorus played over and over in my head. “I have this hope, in the depths of my soul, through the flood or the fire, You’re with me, and You won’t let go.” I hated it and loved it at the same time. I hated it because it did not seem true. God was not with me. But I loved it because I wanted it to be true. I wanted God to hold me and not let go.
There’s more to the story of Elijah. After he prayed that prayer, the prayer for death, an angel of the Lord gave him food and told him to travel. He traveled for forty days to Horeb. This is where the story becomes familiar again. God appeared and told Elijah His Presence was about to pass by. A wind, an earthquake, and a fire all passed by before Elijah heard the voice of God in a gentle whisper.
I am Elijah. Winds rocked my world. An earthquake shattered my foundation. A fire burned away all that I loved about myself. But then God spoke in a gentle whisper. I felt it. One particularly dark night, I begged God more passionately than ever before to take my life. I heard nothing. Again He was silent. As usual. I gave up. I lay in my bed, crying as I had never cried before, completely overwhelmed, filled with agonizing pain. Then I felt His gentle whisper. I physically felt Him holding me in that moment of pain and darkness. He held me, and He did not let go. My song had come true. He was with me through the flood and the fire. He had been there all along.
Elijah went on to do other great things for God, but this story will always be nearest to my heart. Even a man so filled with the power of God that he could defeat the powers of darkness could succumb to depression. That changes everything.
Part of my struggle was because I felt so alone. I was not alone; I had my family, and a few close friends, but I did not know anyone else who had experienced what I was experiencing. I did not hear depression talked very often, and if I did, it was often with the connotation that “if they’d just get their relationship with the Lord right they would not be depressed.” But Elijah’s story gave me the freedom to lose the bonds of fear and shame that surrounded me.
There was hope for me. I had not committed some great sin that caused God to punish me in this way. I was having a natural reaction to a physical problem. Jesus still cared about me!
I wish I could say that feeling God hold me instantly healed my depression. It did not. I wish I could say that I do not still struggle with depression today. I cannot. But even in the darkness of my current depression, I still have hope. My God is with me, and He won’t let go.
Carla Beiler is an Ohio teacher of ornery seventh and eighth graders, and she loves having Friday devotionals with her girls, talking about the hard things and the amazing God things of life. She has been recently developing the skill of hand lettering, and loving every minute of it, even when she just can't quite get it to look right. A few of her favorite things are having long after school conversations with her co-teachers about everything from Velveeta cheese to the purpose of pain, sewing dresses in as little time as possible, and devouring books that transport her to a whole other world.