The Bible and Mental Health: Burnout

If you’ve ever worked out on a resistance machine, you’ll know the feeling of doing fine for a number of repeats before the weights seem to be getting heavier and heavier, until suddenly you can’t carry on.

The weight hasn’t changed; it’s just that repetition has sapped your energy. Similarly, in times of crisis we can soak up mental pressure for a period, but unless circumstances improve and some kind of normality returns, we end up emotionally exhausted. 

Elijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. ‘It's too much, Lord,’ he prayed. ‘Take away my life; I might as well be dead!’ He lay down under the tree and fell asleep. 
1 Kings 19.4–5 (GNB) 

Elijah, one of the Old Testament’s most iconic figures, knew all about burnout. He’d fought an intense spiritual battle and prevailed, until he received a death threat from the queen herself; the final straw. Elijah, the great prophet, ended up running away, losing hope, desiring death. People suffering from severe depression will tell you they just want the pain to end. 

At this point, God steps in. He gives Elijah sleep, nutritious food and even a 40-day exercise programme – all helpful things when you’re grappling with mental ill health. But the cure is elsewhere. In the silence of his burnout, Elijah begins to hear God’s voice again, and this is where healing and restoration can take place. 

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